I’m seeing a weird French fry trend at Mexican restaurants.
The dish is something like nachos, but with fries. You might see them listed as carne asada fries.
“You mean San Diego poutine?” That was the response from San Diego food writer Michael Gardiner. I emailed him a few years ago asking about the fries when I saw them on the happy hour menus here at Moctezuma’s, El Toro and a few taquerias. The Southern California nickname is a play on the Canadian dish, which is fries loaded with gravy and cheese curds.
They’re an everyday dish in California and, via Gardiner, are said to have been created in San Diego. The dish is more American than Mexican, Gardiner told me.
Two restaurants opened last week and both serve up this funky fry mashup.
Where: 5720 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. SW, Lakewood; 253-588-8226; chronictacos.com.
This is the first Washington state location for the California-based chain that’s something like a Qdoba Grill or Chipotle. Staffers build tacos, burritos and nachos to order with as much, or as little, as a diner wants stuffed into tortillas or ladled over chips. The restaurant opened last week.
Chronic fries start with skinny fries and many layers of ingredients ($8), much like nachos. There’s rice, beans, cheese and meat, plus veggies and salsas.
I ordered mine with Spanish rice (there’s also lime-flavored white rice) and whole pinto beans (or refried or black) and a layer of Oaxaca cheese (jack is the other choice). For meat, the natural choice in San Diego is carne asada, but I opted for my local favorite: carnitas. (There’s also chicken or al pastor pork.)
Fries take a few minutes because they’re built to order with fries fresh from the fryer followed by a trip to the oven to melt the cheese. I appreciate both steps because who wants asada fries, or even nachos, with cold cheese?
Next were the extras: A squeeze of fresh lime, chopped onions, pico de gallo and guacamole on the side (no extra charge). The bottom was a gooey tangle of fries and cheese, with plenty of carnitas for every scoop.
Eating with hands, like nachos, was impossible, so I dug into the layers with a fork.
Big tip: A half dozen kinds of Mexican beer in the cooler.
PICAZO’S TACO ZONE
Where: 16116 Meridian E., Puyallup; 253-848-8226; picazostacozone.com.
Picazo’s Taco Zone opened May 20 in South Hill. The casual restaurant with table service has a dining room that looks like it would fit right in on a Mexico beach. The small restaurant is tucked into a strip mall near The Original Pancake House.
The menu is a collection of burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, grilled steaks and casual dishes labeled as street cart favorites: street tacos, torta sandwiches, huarache, sopes and tostadas (one of those was given at the start of the meal, in lieu of chips and salsa).
Look to that street cart menu for the asada fries, which were portioned and priced as an entree ($12.95). Waffle fries stood in for typical French fries, with a coating of cheddar heat blasted and crunchy at the edges of the dish. Diced carne asada liberally coated the cheesy fries, along with a smear of guacamole, pico de gallo and a squiggle of sour cream.
Dig in with fork and knife. It’s way too messy to eat with your hands. Mexican beer also served here.