US Fries in Tempe: Excellent Poutine and Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at 2 a.m.

Traditional poutine and a burger from US Fries in Tempe
Traditional poutine and a burger from US Fries in Tempe
Lauren Saria

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: US Fries
Location: 414 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
Open: About a week
Eats: Poutine, fries, burgers
Price: $10/person

It’s been just about a year since we Phoenicians ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the opening of US Fries, Arizona’s first “poutinerie,” in Tuscon. “Why can’t we have one of those,” we cried, dreaming of a magical place with a never-ending supply of Canada’s most famous fry-based dish.

Last week, our poutine dreams came true. A second location of US Fries popped up seemingly overnight on Tempe’s Mill Avenue, bringing with it a menu of poutine, burgers, and a Tucson favorite, Eegee’s frozen treats. The intersection of Tucson and Canada landed right in our backyard.

The restaurant's sleek design may feel corporate, but the friendly service feels genuine.
The restaurant's sleek design may feel corporate, but the friendly service feels genuine.
Lauren Saria

The fast-casual restaurant took over the space most recently occupied by Fatburger. And although the star of the show might be a distinctly Canadian dish, the décor of the restaurant (as well as the name) is definitely all-American. You’ll find a highway map of the United States on one wall and old school jams blaring.

On the menu: traditional poutine and a slew of what we can only call poutine-inspired dishes, since they’re really just fries with various ingredients piled on top, as opposed to the traditional brown gravy/cheese curd dish. The creations range from a Cheeseburger poutine loaded with ground beef, cheese sauce, and pickles, to a vegetarian option in which fries get piled with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and mushroom gravy.

We decided to try a combo that included a third-pound Tommy Burger (named after one of the owner’s barber’s son, not the Southern California burger chain or the David Spade movie) and a side of traditional poutine.

The burger came cooked medium-well (we weren’t given a choice on that front) and was topped with lettuce, red onion, tomato, and pickles. We chose American cheese. All in all, it made for a solid burger. It didn’t impress us all that much — although the ciabatta-style bun was a refreshing change.

The beef and crispy onions fell to the strong flavors of a horseradish sauce.
The beef and crispy onions fell to the strong flavors of a horseradish sauce.
Lauren Saria

As for the poutine, we have no complaints. The generous side portion featured a fistful of thick-cut fries topped with a thick brown gravy and cheese curds. With one bite into one of the little hunks of cheese we could tell we were dealing with the real deal: as our teeth hit the curd it let out the tiniest of squeaks.

We also tried one of the restaurant’s poutine-inspired offerings, a combination of fries, sliced roast beef, and crispy French onions. The roast beef, sliced thin, was a nice meaty touch but a nose-clearing horseradish sauce pretty much overpowered all the other flavors.

It should be mentioned that you can also order deep-fried cheese curds at US Fries — and with the restaurant staying open until 4 a.m., we imagine a lot of people will. These deep-fried pieces of squeaking cheese come covered in a lightly herbed batter with a side of creamy ranch. They’re nearly impossible to resist when you’re sober; we have a feeling they’ll be a big success come 2 a.m. 

During our visit, every employee at US Fries was friendly and smiling, making this sleek soon-to-be chain restaurant (the owners plan to open 15 locations around the country eventually) feel almost like a neighborhood spot. Between the cheese curds and the late hours, we'll definitely be back. 

Tempe bar-goers, meet your new best friend.
Tempe bar-goers, meet your new best friend.
Lauren Saria

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