Investigating a N.J. Staple: Disco Fries

February 22, 2019

I’ll be honest, until I came to Drew as a freshman this year, I had no idea what disco fries were. How did disco and fries go together? What made them so special that they were featured in the Commons for a whole week? Since the New Jersey staple is being featured at the Commons all of this week, Feb. 18 – 22, it was the perfect time to investigate the origins of the popular dish.

 

As it turns out, disco fries are actually New Jersey’s take on classic Canadian poutine from Quebec, French fries covered in gravy and cheese. While poutine typically features aged cheese curds, its American counterpart differs in that it is covered with melted mozzarella. Originally, both dishes were served at diners, pubs, taverns and bars during the 1940s and 50s and they quickly became staples. The term “disco fries,” referring to the New Jersey version of the plate, gained popularity during the 1970s when late-night restaurant patrons would often order the dish after a long night of disco dancing to satisfy their growling bellies.

 COURTESY OF PARSNIPSANDPASTRIES.COM

 

Today, disco fries remain a fan favorite and, depending on where you get them, have various iterations that include different cheese, gravies and toppings. The Drew University Commons is taking advantage of its versatility to provide students and staff with a week full of disco fries on campus.

 

Despite my initial dubiousness at covering French fries in copious quantities of gravy and cheese, I decided to take the plunge and try out some disco fries at Madison’s Bottle Hill Tavern the other night. When the dish came out nice and warm in all of its cheesy, gravy laden waffle fry splendor, any doubts I had about the dish’s toppings were immediately erased. The disco fries were delicious and the only way I can think to describe the flavor to those who haven’t had the dish is like French onion soup, but on French fries; which makes perfect sense given the plate’s French-Canadian origin.


Disco fries are a new favorite dish of mine and should definitely be one of yours, if they are not already! Enjoy a take on buffet-style disco fries with choose-your-own toppings at the Commons this week or visit a local spot to try some. A few nearby places to get a version of the dish are Bottle Hill Tavern (where I went), Weenies and Florham Park Diner.

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