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What I 8: Best Fries in New York and New Jersey by Rev Ciancio (@revciancio) of @funwithfries
Former NYC bar owner-turned-hospitality marketing consultant David ‘Rev” Ciancio has worked with hundreds of restaurants from local mom-and-pop shops to large multinational chains in awareness acquisition marketing.
This former Foursquare Mayor of New York City who’s now busy working as a Hospitality Marketing Consultant shares with BestPlaceFor.com all about the Burger’s loyal sidekick — crispy hot golden Fries. His affair with it runs for decades, exploring the addictive varieties of all 21 types from cafeteria staple Tater Tots to lightly seasoned Halloumi Fries.
We’ve recently caught up with Rev to discuss what made his very successful IG accounts so beloved by many, especially the die-hard Fries aficionados and to take us to the Best Fried French Fries .
We love the idea of being deeply obsessed with finding the Best in just one dish, how did@funwithfries come about?
How did it come about? It’s a funny story.
I used to co-host a podcast calledLike, Bite & Share where we spoke to Ryan Hinkson, founder of Eat Famous. I sort of joked with him that I can get more likes on pictures of French Fries than he could, so we did a challenge I actually won despite having a significantly smaller account (like one tenth the size). That made me realize that people actually do really, really love French fries, and that’s how @funwithfries started.
I have about 347,000 followers on that account now, and it’s the largest French Fries-themed account on Instagram.
What are the Best local contenders for you on your ‘home turf’?
I don’t like to play favorites with French Fries because I believe in a universe where all French Fries are wonderful. But I will tell you my favorite types of fries.
For sure, I want them crispy and cooked fresh. I usually find frozen French Fries perform better in the delivery scenario but my three favorite types of French Fries or what I call the ‘Triumvirate of Awesome’ would be Waffle Fries, Curly Fries and Tater Tots. You’ll never go wrong in serving those.
And what I love is just regular hot Fries with maybe some salt, pepper and garlic, which is known as the Sea Shore Fries and absolutely topped and loaded with Cheese, Bacon and Sour Cream and all kinds of other fun stuff like Pulled Pork.
And there are lots of great places to get French Fries near me. One of my favorite Fresh Cut Fries is from a place called Tito’s Burritos & Wings located in north Jersey (Summit, Morristown, South Orange, Boonton and Ridgewood). They have Hand-cut Fries and you eat them with Burritos and Chicken Wings because that’s a great way to get your French Fries intake!
Then there’s a pizza place called Ferazzoli’s Italian Kitchen in Rutherford, New Jersey. They serve the crispiest, most awesome Fries, and they always deliver fantastic!
But if you’re in New York City, check out Jackson Hole Burgers on 3rd Avenue. They’ve got five kinds of French Fries on the menu, which includes Sweet Potato Fries, Curly Fries, Chili Waffle Cheese Fries, and their Steak Fries, which is the best I’ve ever had.
But point being, I just like French Fries. Like I said, I don’t play favorites because there’s great French Fries literally everywhere!
You also have had Fries from all over the world. Where are the 5 Best Fries from elsewhere?
Again, I don’t play favorites but I will tell you some things that I really like that are hard to find here in America. I absolutely love Belgian Frites.
I love getting that giant cone of fresh-cut French Fries with all the fun sauces and dipping stuff. That’s a classic! There’s a place in New York City called Bel-Fries where you can get that exact type of French Fries, and they’re fantastic!
When I went to college in Australia, I got to try Gravy Chips. They’re made with British Style Chips (Steak Fries) but covered in this wonderful brown gravy. And I can eat piles and piles of them!
I also did a lot of touring around the world with rock bands, and what I always loved was late at night after a few pints, we’d find a local kebab shop in England. Although most people would want to get a falafel or kebab at this time, I would have meat and chips instead. It has delicious kebab meat on top of those same types of French Fries with mayo and sweet chili.
Fries come in different formats. What are your top contenders for the classic Fries?
I just like them hot and crispy and just the standard old French Fries. Some people hate McDonald’s, but I don’t. They own what is a classic French Fry that’s just a great skinny Fry.
And I’m not necessarily a fan of Crinkle Cuts because so many people do them badly, but when people do them great, then I absolutely love it.
Where was the most unexpected place you found an amazing Fries?
This is a crazy story, so in New Brunswick, New Jersey there used to be this place called The Grease Pit, which was a parking lot filled with grease trucks or food trucks. And they had these crazy sandwiches where they would put piles of things such as Chicken Fingers, Pizza Sauce and Pork Roll and all these crazy things on all the Sandwiches. There were dozens and dozens of varieties, and everybody had their favorite truck and sandwich.
The original was what they called a Fat Cat, which is made of two hamburgers, cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and then what they did to all of them was to put French Fries right across the top like an extra layer.
And I got introduced to that when I first moved to New Jersey in 1996. I never expected to fall in love with French Fries-topped sandwiches from rundown, beatdown grease trucks in a parking lot in New Brunswick.
Now, that parking lot is gone as well as those trucks. But some of those vendors moved into stores that you can still find the really crazy French Fries sandwiches.
You eat a lot of Fries, have there been other dishes or drinks along your food journey that were incredible and come to mind for a shout out?
I started writing a food blog in 1999, which was called Cheesesteaks.com, which was followed by a blog about Hot Wings followed by a blog about Steak.
And then I launched a blog calledBurgerConquest.com and in 2008, it absolutely exploded. It put me on the map as a food influencer, food blogger whatever you wanna call it. The site became one of the top 3 Hamburger websites in the world.
Now, I don’t really update the blog anymore but I do have several single item-focused Instagram accounts. The first one is called Fun with Fries (@funwithfries), which is just about French Fries.
I have another called The Burgeratti (@theburgeratti), which is essentially about elite Hamburger eaters. So it has some of my content but also content from other influencers who post about burgers.
The Steak blog turned into an Instagram account called SteakClub7 (@steakclub7). There’s about 11 members who dine out at different steak restaurants around the New York and New Jersey areas about once a month. And then I repost all of our Steak content in the IG account.
And then at the beginning of last year 2020, me and a couple other influencers had become just absolutely obsessed with Nashville Hot Chicken so we launched @hotchickenlife.
We wanted it every day but we just couldn’t find that many people around New York and New Jersey that were serving it. So we started an Instagram account that was there to support vendors who were making Nashville Hot Chicken specifically in New York and New Jersey to try to help them get the word out about it.
That one has exploded. We’ve added about 15,000 to 16,000 people to that account last year.
Do you make your own Fries at home?
You know I don’t do it that often, but when I do I will actually cut an entire potato, brine it, add a lot of cool spices on it like NFA Seasoning, and then bake it.
So, I do it only because I can’t seem to find French Fries like that near me.
What are some tips on how to take a good food pic?
It starts with having the right camera and for sure, smartphones are really good these days. The newer your phone, the better your photos are going to look. So, start with the right camera and device.
Make sure that you have good light too. Oftentimes, daylight is pretty good but we don’t want direct sunlight that makes everything in the picture bright, yellow and shiny. In addition, if it’s cloudy, then it’s a perfect day to get great white balance when you go outside and take photos.
If you can’t do that, you know you want to do it near a window or you don’t want it to be too backlit but frontlit or sidelit by light instead. I also recommend buying a light for about 40 bucks such as a Viltrox LED, to help you light your food.
Sometimes you’d want to put people in the photos too because it gives scale and makes it exciting.
So there you go, good light, good camera, good content.
Is there anything else you want to shout out or let people know about?
If you own a restaurant and you need help acquiring and retaining more customers and more guests, reach out to me and ask questions. I offer online courses, free webinars, and downloadable ebooks.
And it pains me to watch third-party delivery companies such as GrubHub, Uber Eats and Doordash charging you ridiculously high fees. I put together training material courses, marketing tips and strategies to help you convert those guests to order from you directly.