To be clear, this review is based on a visit to Ma’ono‘s location in University Village inside of the Rachel’s Ginger Beer. Their other location is in West Seattle, but given my experience here I’m tempted to make a trip.
Due to budget restraints and limited stomach capacity, this review is solely focused on Ma’ono’s fries…with a small detour to discuss their fried chicken sandwich. The Rachel’s Ginger Beer on Capitol Hill hosts Sunset Fried Chicken (entirely different restaurant) so I was anxious to compare the two chicken sandwich concepts. I didn’t realize that their take on fries would be dramatically different as well.
My order for the day was the Fried Chicken Sandwich, French Fries, and a side of Cheese Sauce. I saw an older menu where they called the cheese sauce “kimcheese” but I think that might have been trademarked. Regardless of the name it’s a nacho cheese dipping sauce with kimchi flair. I loved it.
I could talk about this cheese sauce for hours. Whether it’s made from scratch or is just be a can of Que Bueno with kimchi doesn’t matter to me. It was delicious and I stand by my recommendation. The cheese is smooth, tangy, and carries a bit of a kick. The fries were a great vehicle to get the cheese sauce into my face.
Jojos are a traditional side with southern fried chicken. They’re potato wedges fried in the same oil as fried chicken and are typically cut like an apple. That leaves a lot of skin on the outside of the wedge giving a color contrast and bit of bitterness to the starch. These wedges were made using small fingerling potatoes which have a more concentrated flavor than most traditional large Russets.
Ma’ono achieves a nicely crisped exterior, a fluffy and flavorful interior, and seasons the fries generously with a coarse salt. They were pretty good on their own, better with ketchup, and bonkers with the cheese sauce. That’s why my rating of 8.2 out of 10 has an asterisk. It’s an 8.2, but only with the cheese. Without the cheese I’d only give a 7.5 on my rating scale. The cheese sauce is sold separately, but I can’t imagine the fries without it.
BONUS MATERIAL: I also ordered the fried chicken sandwich. While placing my order I needed to make a quick decision on the spice level. My instinct was “Hot” despite the employee’s warning that it was “pretty hot”. I stuck to my guns and spent the duration of my sandwich eating sweating from my eyelids. It was definitely warm.
Other observations. The sandwich was spicy, but it was also delicious. That giant yellow and white thing is a daikon pickle. There were three on the sandwich, and this one comically larger than the other two. Seriously, it was a good half an inch tall. Combined with a large fried chicken breast I had to unhinge my jaw to do my work. That’s not a problem for me because my jaw actually does pop out of a bit when I bite large things. Oh wait…that is a problem.
The middle of teh sandwich measured about 3 inches tall, so eat at your own maximum height. It’s also a lot of food. I couldn’t finish everything, and at $18.50 for the sandwich, fries, and cheese sauce I was feeling sting of the meal. Speaking of the sting of the meal…
I’m not a spice wimp, but I’d like to offer the following anecdote. It took roughly 5 hours for the collective spices from the sandwich and the cheese to work their way through my digestive system and wage holy hell on my body’s lower evacuation route. I don’t remember the last time this has happened to me, but I wished that I had brought an ice cube into the bathroom. I regret nothing, but I worry about the comfort of my readers. You’ve been warned.
Sampled on 9/28/2017
To see reviews of Rachel’s Ginger Beer flavors, click here.