Sweet potato fries aren't exactly the newest culinary trend to sweep across the nation, but they still deserve their time in the heat lamp spotlight.
Slightly healthier than their starchy distant cousin, the potato, sweet potatoes boast high levels of fiber, beta carotene, complex carbohydrates and vitamin C. But who are we kidding, they are still fried in oil and usually dipped in some sort of deliciously evil sauce.
On our wishlist for the perfect sweet potato fries? Let's see, they must be crispy, but not too hard. Have a somewhat smooth and creamy texture on the inside and they must be seasoned with the perfect amounts of salt and spices to compliment, but not overpower the sweetness of the potato. And they can't be too greasy, of course.
With our bellies empty, we set out on a mission to find the best sweet potato fries, and their accompanying sauce, in town.
4041 N. 40th Street, Phoenix
"Is that the door?" my companion asked as we walked up to the understated entrance.
"Yep, that's it," I said as I opened the oversized, yet unmarked door. We walked in and it took a second for our eyes to adjust. It is dimly lit and quite cozy in The Vig. There is a stylish bar on the right with a couple of flat-screen TVs and on the left a number of booths. We chose a table just past the bar. There is also a large outdoor area with patio furniture, tables and a fireplace.
The clientele was a good mix of hipsters, friends, couples and families, despite its somewhat upscale, swanky design. Which was good, because we wanted to be comfortable getting our sweet potato fry on.
We ordered salads, a Cobb for me, a steak salad for my companion. You know it's all about balance and of course the sweet potato fries. The fries arrived out first. Nice and hot, on a plain plate served with ketchup and The Vig's own curry mayonnaise.
The freshly cut, shoestring fries were crispy and light. They had a perfect blend of sea salt and coarse pepper throughout the entire order of fries. When you bit into one of these little fried masterpieces you were instantly hit with the sweetness of the potato and the creamy texture of the perfectly fried fry with no sense of greasiness.
The sauce was a different story. It was a little runny and there was just so much going on that it drowned out the taste of the sweet potato fries. We were told that the sauce included curry, mayo, sour cream, brown sugar and a blend of other spices. Let's just say that we used way more ketchup, but really the fries were so good alone that no sauce was needed.
In the other corner: Delux
3146 E. Cambelback Road, Phoenix
Delux is located in a Safeway shopping center on 32nd Street and Camelback Road. It has a little bit of a big city hipster vibe, but you'll find families dining here, too. It's bright inside and has a chic long narrow community table that's lit with blue lights underneath it in the center of the tiny indoor dining space.
On one wall there's a handful of tiny booth, table combos and on the other a bar. It would be a safe bet to say that the two main things that keep Delux's loyal fans coming back is their draft beer selection and their oversized, delectable burgers.
This night, though we kept it simple: beer and sweet potato fries. One of the best features of Delux is the opportunity to try a small sampling of their many beers on tap. They offer a flight of beer, which is three small pours of either a preset mix, we went with the Irish Road Trip (Guinness, Harp's lager and Smithwick's ale) or a mix of your choosing. My companion picked a beer that's hard to find on tap, Rogue's Hazelnut Brown.
With beers in hand, we dove into the sweet potato fries. The presentation was cute. They are served in a pint-sized grocery cart with the Delux logo on the end of the basket. These fries were cut a little thicker than those at The Vig and seemed to have a dusting of some sort of coating on them.
They were a bit denser and greasier than their challenger's entry and while bits chopped parsley could be seen all the way throughout our order, there was seemingly no other seasoning to be seen or tasted. Upon a close, second inspection, we did find tiny bits of course salt, but we had to add salt and pepper on our own for added flavor.
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The sauce, on the other hand, was a different story. Delux's take on aioli sauce was beyond good. It helped to add everything that the sweet potato fries were lacking. The aioli sauce was smooth and creamy and had a mild kick of heat thanks to the bit of cayenne pepper added to the mix of roasted garlic, mayo and other seasonings. We didn't even touch the ketchup.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, we have a bit of a toss-up.
The sweet potato fries winner: The Vig
The sauce winner: Delux