All across the country, plain french fries are morphing into tasty creations laden with an assortment of toppings and seasonings and accompanied by flavorful dipping sauces. Usually found at fast-food restaurants, diners, bars, and pubs, fries are shifting to center stage at other eateries.

The variations are unique to each restaurant. Some have added the healthier option of sweet potato fries to their menus. Others have created global cuisine options such as carne asada fries, an American Southwestern dish that includes marinated steak with guacamole, sour cream, and cheese. No matter how you slice them, fries are reaching new levels of refinement thanks to creative chefs around the country.

Fries come in all shapes and sizes: chips, steak, wedges, shoestring, waffle, spiral cut, straight, curly, and even crinkle cut. And whether they’re fried or baked, loaded with toppings, simply seasoned, or served plain and crispy, french fries are the perfect complement to any sandwich or entree.

So whether you crave the simplicity of classic, crisply cooked fries or a more elaborate creation, here are several noteworthy places to find new fry favorites around Missouri.

Black Sheep employee Taylor Johnston serves up the You Are Smokin’ fries, which are apple and hickory smoked, served with pulled pork and sautéed fresh jalapeños, and drizzled with chipotle barbecue and organic Baba cheese sauces.

Black Sheep • Springfield

HOURS: 11 AM –10 PM Monday through Thursday, 11 AM –11 PM Friday and Saturday, 11 AM –9 PM Sunday • 209 East Walnut Street • 417-319-5905 2160 • West Chesterfield Boulevard • 417-368-0227 2420 • East Sunshine Street • 417-351-3595 • BlaaackSheep.com

Family-owned Black Sheep restaurant is a popular choice for Springfieldians. In fact, it’s become so popular that there are now three locations in the city.

Co-owner Mike Jalili opened the first Black Sheep in November 2015, and the restaurant has been satisfying customers with amazing hand-cut french fries ever since. “Our fries are nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and have great flavors,” he says. A lot of love and work goes into the fries, from blanching and freezing to cooking them and coating them to give them a crispy texture, Mike says. There are even special refrigerators designed for fry preparation and storage. That’s how serious Black Sheep is about its fries.

Hungry customers at Black Sheep enjoy many french fry options: salt and vinegar; sea salt and pepper; apple and hickory smoked fries with pulled pork, sautéed fresh jalapeños, chipotle barbecue sauce, and organic Baba cheese sauce; and garlic tru’ffle fries with freshly grated Parmesan and smoky garlic mayonnaise. A crowd favorite is the smoked fries, which are prepared in a smoker for almost two hours. Black Sheep serves its fries with a variety of house-made sauces: sriracha mayo, ranch, chipotle ketchup, honey mustard, truffl’e mayo, and the restaurant’s special “baaahd sauce.” There is even a dessert option made from french fries: sweet potato fries with marshmallow cream and pecans.

Mojo Burger Co. • Joplin

HOURS: 10:30 AM–9 PM daily • 702 South Maiden Lane • 417-624-4232 • Facebook: Mojo Burger Co.

The brightly colored letters and mustache aren’t the only things that stand out at Joplin’s Mojo Burger Co. The made-to-order, hand-cut fries are a huge hit with customers and can be ordered plain or with one of six dry seasonings: Cajun, lemon pepper, salt and vinegar, salt, or customer favorites ranch or sweet and salty.

Owner Eric Gilbert says the “attention to detail as far as preparing the fries—and the gigantic portions” are what sets his product apart from competitors. Customers can purchase a regular-size order, which is enough to feed two people, or the large size.

Mojo Burger Co. opened in April 2013.

Beer Kitchen • Kansas City

HOURS: 11 AM–Midnight‡ˆ‰‡Š‹Œ Monday and Tuesday, 11 AM–1 AM Wednesday and Thursday, 11 AM–3 AM Friday, 9 AM–3 AM Saturday, and 9 AM–Midnight‡ˆ‰‡Š‹Œ Sunday 435 Westport Road • 816-389-4180 • BeerKC.com

In 2010, Mark Kelpe opened Beer Kitchen in Kansas City with a list of carefully curated beers and a menu of locally ground gourmet burgers, crispy hand-cut fries, and comfort food. While conducting research for the concept, he discovered the people of Belgium have a fondness for dipping Belgian frites into mayonnaise, so Mark and sta• developed a variety of flavored aioli dipping sauces.

The hand-cut fries are Belgian-style, tru—ffle-Parmesan, and sweet potato. Mini, small, and jumbo sizes please customers who want an individual order and those who want to share. Seven aioli dipping sauces complement the fries: roasted garlic, smoked chipotle, sweet Thai chili, malt vinegar, horseradish, smoked bacon, and basil veganese.

In a nod to the French Canadian appetizer “poutine,” Beer Kitchen serves three types of smothered cheese fries: Gorgonzola Fries with smoked bacon and bleu cheese fondue; Stockyard Fries with smoked brisket burnt ends, pickle relish, and gouda fondue; and vegetarian New Jersey Disco Fries with melted provolone and mushroom gravy.

Fries are made fresh every day. “We dry-age our Idaho potatoes for four weeks and then employ a triple-process fry technique,” Mark says, noting the preparation is what sets his fries apart from others.

Dogs N Frys • Florissant

HOURS: 11 AM–8 PM daily 503 Paul Avenue • 314-274-2000 • DogsNFrys.com

At Dogs N Frys, everything is homemade. Patrick “Woody” Woodling and Mo Mangal met at the hockey rink and thought up the restaurant idea after Woody sold his popular hot dog creations in downtown St. Louis. High-end hot dogs and french fries make up this St. Louis-area restaurant’s menu, where the focus is a fusion of flavors. The fry process begins with Idaho potatoes, hand-cut and prepared fresh. “There is a small secret process that makes our fries so delicious,” Mo says.

The restaurant frequently has a line of hungry customers waiting to order weekly fry specials. Menu staples include Philly Frys, with cheddar cheese, sweet caramelized onions, sautéed green peppers, and hickory-smoked turkey bacon; and Mexicano Frys with queso, jalapeños, tomatoes, and green onions. Two customer favorites are the Hangover Frys, with shredded steak, fried egg, hickory-smoked turkey bacon, cheddar cheese, and seared pico de gallo; and the Truffl‘e Frys with garlic truffl‘e aioli, Parmesan cheese, and green onions.

If there’s any room left, customers can try the Ice Cream Frys, which are seasoned fries with scoops of strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate ice cream. “It’s like dipping your fries in a milkshake,” Mo says.

Edibles & Essentials • St. Louis

HOURS: 11 AM–9 PM Monday through Thursday, 11 AM–10 PM Friday, 9 AM–10 PM Saturday 5815 Hampton Avenue • 314-328-2300 • EdiblesAndEssentials.com

Chef Matt Borchardt has owned this St. Louis Hills restaurant since 2015. Customers experience food from around the world with the global cuisine-themed menu some refer to as New American.

One of the restaurant’s most popular items is the Belgian-style fries, which are hand-cut, crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside. The fries are finished with fresh garlic, sea salt, and Grana Padano, a cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, and served with house-made smoked ketchup and truffl‘e aioli. “We do fries the right way,” Matt says. “That’s why our customers keep coming back.”

The restaurant’s selections change monthly, but fry favorites are a menu staple. In fact, the popularity of the Belgian-style fries was the inspiration for Matt’s food truck, Essentially Fries, which opened Labor Day 2017. The food truck rolls in to scheduled events such as weddings, parties, and festivals as well as trips to corporate o—ffices and more.

Dog House • De Soto

HOURS: 11 AM–8 PM Tuesday through Thursday, 11 AM–9 PM Friday and Saturday, 11 AM–6 PM Sunday 605 South 2nd Street • 636-337-6363 Facebook: Dog House DeSoto

Customers know a restaurant is doing something right with french fries when the business goes through 2,000 pounds of fries in a week.

Owner Troy DeRousse recently expanded the Dog House to seat 70 people. “We are very blessed that our business has had the success it has,” he says.

The downtown De Soto eatery serves up fresh food in towering proportions—delivered in dog bowls. Patrons can order the thick, crispy crinkle-cut fries plain or choose one of several house specialties. Customer favorites are the pulled-pork fries topped with bacon, green peppers, onion, cheese, jalapeños, smoked pork, and barbecue sauce and the Buffalo chicken fries with house-made hot sauce, cheese, grilled or crispy chicken, bacon, and jalapeños. The Dog House fries, another crowd pleaser, are loaded with cheeses, crispy bacon, and sour cream. The Ghost fries might quickly disappear around a crowd; they’re topped with ham, bacon, cheese, and garlic sauce.

Big E’s BBQ • Kennett

HOURS: 11 AM–7 PM Tuesday through Friday, 11 AM–3 PM Saturday • 714 1st Street • 573-888-8988 • Facebook: Big E’s BBQ

Eric and Lisa Story opened their crowd-favorite Big E’s BBQ four years ago. Besides mouth-watering barbecue, the restaurant offers plenty of side dishes, including the popular hand-cut straight or curly fries. Big E’s prepares more than 300 pounds of hand-cut fries each week.

Eric credits the potato preparation process for the fantastic fries. “We cut them, and then they’re double washed, chilled, and deep-fried,” he says. “You have to use the right potatoes.” He says he perfected the process by cooking for his buddies years ago. Eric emphasizes that customers won’t ever find frozen, or store-bought, fries in his restaurant. “What we cut today, we will use,” he says. Eric and his staff usually cut fries twice a day to keep up with demand.

Customers rave about the French Fry Plate, freshly cooked fries piled high with barbecue meat and sauce and nacho cheese.

Word-of-mouth recommendations have helped Big E’s business. Eric says, “I’m seeing new customers every week who say, ‘We hear your barbecue is the best, but your french fries are excellent.’”

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Top photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash