French fries. A staple American food made of staple American ingredients: carbohydrates and oil.

These slender, streamlined, savory, simple, salty, symbolic slices of starch embody the essence of what America stands for: branding, media, obesity, lucre, fast food, and sinful temptation.

With an approaching election, and the revisiting of America’s Founding Fathers, the Electoral College, and stars and stripes that happen every four years, what other American-esque food is there to review after hamburgers, hot dogs, and boxed mac and cheese? Obviously it’s (the very American) French fry.

I take this opportunity to run a —please note, science teachers — controlled comparison and review of these highly addictive, golden snacks. I have rated the various fries on an elaborate scale from one to five, five being the best, in the following categories:crispiness, size, starchiness, volume, overall flavor, greasiness, natural saltiness, and the best outer surface-to-inner texture relationship.

You better appreciate this, Paly, because in one day I ate approximately one-fifth of the 30 pounds of fries the average American consumes in one year (give or take a few). I’m considering making a sequel to Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” about my unhealthy, organ-destroying high school journalism escapades called “French Fry Me” — so watch out world.

McDonald’s (33/40)

Method: sliced and fried in vegetable oil


Crispness: 3

Size: 5

Starchiness: 4

Flavor: 4

Freshness: 3

Greasiness: 4

Saltiness: 5

Outer to inner texture: 5

Weighing in at 230 calories, the Golden Arches takes the cake for the most delicious, balanced, reliable French fry in town — artificial coloring and all. Each fry is short and relatively thin, allowing for multiple fries to be eaten at once with complete ease. Out of all the fries, McDonald’s has the best light flavor — the diner can really taste the potato and the oil without feeling weighed down (obviously the source of America’s obesity problem). Although they may lack the handcrafted look and the homemade touches of love that smaller places have, the lightly salted, slightly crunchy, soft insides, and bite sized snacks were so addicting I couldn’t stop reaching my hand into the bag.  Mickey D’s has got it right.

The Counter (26/40)

(369 California Ave., Palo Alto)

Method: sliced and fried in canola oil, seasoned with paprika

Crispiness: 3

Size: 3

Starchiness: 4

Flavor: 3

Freshness: 4

Greasiness: 4

Saltiness: 3

Outer to inner texture: 2

The Counter produces flavorful, rich French fries with more stylized touches. They are golden brown, but very long and thin, which hindered my ability to stick the entire fry in my mouth. Although thin fries are crispier, the slenderness also gives the fry a uniformly tough texture, making the inside potato undetectable. The seasoning The Counter uses on fries is a bit heavy and salty, and the oil is stronger than that on other fries, which makes it difficult to eat mass amounts of them.

Kirk’s Steakburgers 25/40

(Town and Country Village, Palo Alto)
Method: sliced with skin on, flour battered, fried in soy oil

Crispness: 4

Size: 3

Starchiness: 2

Flavor: 2

Freshness: 4

Greasiness: 4

Saltiness: 2

Outer to inner texture: 4

Steak fries tend to not suit my fancy as the inside is too dry and they taste like a plain, relatively less cooked potato. On the plus side, Kirk’s are very crispy due to a flour batter, making the outer crust much thicker and crunchier, and the size is more practical so I wasn’t taking big mouthfuls of starch. However, the soy oil has hardly any flavor and the fries are not heavily salted. As a result, the fries are boring to eat, and heavy. These crispy, large fries are best served with a topping.

Note: Kirk’s also makes a mean garlic fry

Palo Alto Creamery  (22/40)

Fountain and Grill

(566 Emerson St., Palo Alto)

Method: sliced with skin on, fried in soybean oil

Crispness: 2

Size: 2

Starchiness: 2

Flavor: 2

Freshness: 5

Greasiness: 2

Saltiness: 4

Outer to inner texture: 3

The most distinct characteristic of the Creamery’s fries, which some may like, is that they are large, thick, hunks of potato. But, the Creamery’s fries are too greasy and bland and take the “fry” from the French. Despite having to wait significantly longer for the fries, they were incredibly fresh. Overall, the Creamery’s fries are not very salty or flavorful, and are dry on the inside and too oily on the outside. The potato skin has a nice burnt taste and added crunch, but there isn’t enough on each fry.

In-N-Out Burger  (19/40)

Method: sliced and fried in vegetable oil

Crispness: 2

Size: 4

Starchiness: 3

Flavor: 1

Freshness: 4

Greasiness: 2

Saltiness: 1

Outer to inner texture: 2

Though these are a popular choice, I am underwhelmed with this soggy, pallid, chlorine-tasting and bland product. I think the fries went in and out of the oil a bit too quickly. If you prefer a plain fry with more crispnes, order the well-done fries, which are fried multiple times to ensure a very crispy outside.