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Food: Best French Fries

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French fries are the only food that improves with standardization and mass production. At your average diner, they're limp or burned. At most chains, the fryer temperature is regulated, and the process is so automated that your slivered spuds are at least crispy and respectable-tasting. The Belgian-frites shops that have opened in the past years have upped the ante, too, despite their revolting Continental condiment choices. (We know, we know, some of you like fries with mayonnaise, but to our palate it's oil on oil.) Plenty of steak-frites joints do both, but we recommend the 119-year-old Grand Saloon (158 East 23rd Street; 477-6161), a perfectly fine tap room with perfectly fine burgers and grilled-chicken salads and draft Guinness and basketball-watching Gramercy Parkers. Something more than perfectly fine happens in Grand Saloon's deep fryer, however. The fries are crisp as dry leaves on the outside, supernally tender inside, and, for a change, properly salted. (Served hot enough to burn your mouth, too.)


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