What Are Steak Fries?

I’m originally from northern Massachusetts, so if my family ever traveled anywhere, we usually took a flight from out of Boston. To get there, we would have to take a highway known as Route 1. There’s a stretch of this highway that used to be kind of famous, actually, for having a whole bunch of over-the-top roadside attractions. There was a mini golf course with a huge orange T-rex peering over everything. There was a Christmas Tree Shop (a local discount store) in a building shaped like a lighthouse. There was a pizza place called the “Leaning Tower Of Pizza,” with a Pisa-inspired facade. But my favorite display was Hilltop Steak House, which had a giant neon cactus as well as half a dozen plastic cows hanging out outside the restaurant. 

Sadly, most of these buzzy neon landmarks on Route 1 have been shuttered (although the orange dinosaur was saved and placed by another random stretch of road on the highway). Most of the restaurants and businesses that they advertised have gone under. This includes Hilltop. But I’ll always have memories of going there because it was absolutely the first steak house I ever set foot in. As such, it was also the first time I ever tasted steak fries. But what are steak fries? Why are they called that? How do they differ from french fries or potato wedges? Let’s throw some answers in the fryer, shall we? 

What are steak fries?

Don’t get confused by the similar-sounding French dish, steak frites—that’s steak served with french fries. It is not what we’re talking about today.

Today, we’re talking about steak fries. You may have had them at a steakhouse, as I once did, or at a buffet, a diner, a cafe—really, anywhere fried potatoes might be served. Steak fries are a form of fried potato, but they are typically thicker and longer than your average fry. I tend to like steak fries because they are hearty and can take on a lot of ketchup or other condiments easily. But they can be controversial. Some people detest them and consider them to be by far the weakest of fry options. 

Why are steak fries called steak fries?

Steak fries do not contain any steak, they’re really just thick-cut fried potatoes. So, why the name steak fries? I have been unable to find a definitive etymology online, but it seems like the name comes from the potato’s association with a piece of steak. While shoestring fries might be appropriate for a burger, when you supersize your meat you might want your potato side to get beefed up as well. The thicker, more potato-y toothsomeness of steak fries is a more satisfying complement to a slab of beef than a crinkle fry, at least to some. 

Of course, you don’t have to be in a steakhouse to get steak fries, but this is where the association comes from.

Steak fries vs french fries

As with the square/rectangle situation, all steak fries are french fries, but not all french fries are steak fries. In other words, french fries is the overarching term for anything in this category, whereas steak fries are more specific. 

Steak fries typically have a width of half an inch or more, while traditional french fries are thinner. Steak fries are also often longer than other fries, and they are not curly or waffle-cut. They’re just thick slabs of fried potato.

Steak fries vs potato wedges

As one of the bigger boys in the french fry family, steak fries are closer to potato wedges than, say, shoestring fries. However, they are still not quite the same thing. Potato wedges are usually even thicker than steak fries, and they are cut into a wedge-shape rather than an elongated fry-shape. To my mind, potato wedges are still very much potatoes that have been cut up but not transformed. Steak fries, by contrast, are clearly in the french fry family, they’re just longer and wider.

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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