I’m going to cut to the chase. I love Quality Athletics like no man has loved an upscale sports bar before. My adoration knows no bounds. If my love for their fries were paint the entire greater stadium area would look like a giant freaking Thomas Kinkade print. Or a Bob Ross. Happy little fries…
Back in October I stopped by Quality Athletics and tried their Carne Asada Fries. They were incredible (see my review here). A couple days before National French Fry Day I noticed a Facebook post introducing a new item based around a bed of waffle fries. Truly it was meant to be. Loaded Waffle Fries are my new everything.
The name undersells the dish. The description undersells the dish. The slow cooked pork is a high quality pork shoulder slow roasted with a ssamjang rub. Truth bomb, I had never heard of ssamjang. It’s a Korean spice paste made with fermented soy beans and red chili paste. It brings some of that umami depth typically associated with kimchi. Paired with the natural sweetness of the pork it worked incredibly well and has inspired me to play with it at home. Maybe.
To further drive home the deepness of the pork flavor, Quality Athletics layers on some kimchi kethup and ssamjang aioli. That adds quite a bit more brightness and aromatics to an already bold dish. It’s the kind of savoriness that makes your mouth immediately water the instant your fork hits your lips. The pickles from the description are actually pickled white onions, red cabbage, and jalapeños. They serve as both a beautiful garnish as well as a tangy compliment to the deep fermented flavors of the pork and sauces. Here’s a top view:
The pork was juicy, the pickles were bright, the sauces were sweet and creamy and rich, and I wanted this to be my new forever food. Daniel Cox, head chef at Quality Athletics, is a genius with fried potatoes. He also has an IMDB credit for his appearance on “Beat Bobby Flay.” He didn’t beat Bobby Flay, but I’m sure it was out of respect to Mr. Flay’s reputation.
I’ve talked a lot about the toppings but not a lot about the fries. I don’t know if the waffle fries were cut in house, and I honestly don’t really care. For those wondering at home, you achieve the waffle design by cutting a potato with a corrugated blade, rotating the potato 90 degrees after each cut. These waffle fries were well seasoned, but given the vertical plating in the cast iron dish they steamed a bit and lost the crunch I had hoped for. They were still firm, and that’s about all I could hope for under that giant mound of meat and sauce.
The whole dish together was divine, but the waffle fries were one area that could have seen improvement. My suggestion is to change from a vertical plating to something a bit more horizontal. Ditch the cast iron skillet and find something with a larger foot print. The nice thing about waffle fries is that you can lay them out a bit more orderly than other fries and create a prettier and more manageable dish. Not only will that help keep the waffle fries crispy, it’ll make the entire dish a bit easier to share. Eating this for lunch was a commitment that required my full attention. And a fork. The picture at the top of this post of one solitary waffle fry was my own creation and would be extremely pretentious to serve at the restaurant, but I could a platter of these going over really well with a group of friends before a game.
Chef Cox knows what he’s doing, and even if he changes nothing it’ll still be a great dish. The Huxley Wallace Collective is lucky to have him running this joint. These waffle fries are an easy 9.3 out of 10 which is one of the absolute highest ratings I’ve ever given on my rating scale! Keep an eye on Daniel Cox, he’s going to go far (but always come back).
For your information, I ate the whole damn thing myself.
Catalog: Sampled on Thursday July 13, 2017 (National French Fry Day)