Rants & Raves
March 1, 2023
Disco Fries. C'est Chic.

In the glitzy, high-octane world of 70's disco, late-night revelers looking to refuel after a long night of dancing found the perfect dish - Disco Fries. After nearly 50 years, this dish, and variations on the theme, are as popular as ever.


The history of Disco Fries is not altogether clear. They are most frequently attributed to the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, New Jersey. Their recipe, a favorite among the polyester-clad disco crowd after a long night of drinking and dancing, consisted of crispy fries smothered with mozzarella cheese and drowned in brown gravy. While Disco Fries have enjoyed lasting popularity and can still be found on the Tick Tock menu today, Canadians will tell you the concept of fries smothered with cheese and sauce is nothing new.

In Canada, the dish is called Poutine. Consisting of fries and cheese curds covered with gravy, the similarity is undeniable. The history of Poutine pre-dates Disco Fries by more than 20 years, originating in rural Quebec sometime in the 50s. While Poutine has its advocates, some would say the recipe created by the Tick Tock Diner took a good idea and made it even better.

Having spent my disco years in Los Angeles, a place where burger stands and taquerias are the favorite after-hours destinations, I was introduced to the concept of Chili Fries. In the wee hours, nothing took the edge off a long night of heavy drinking and carousing better than a mountain of fries smothered in chili with a generous sprinkling of cheese and onions. In most cases, the chili was more of an indecipherable glop made with who-knows-what. At that hour, nobody asked questions. It was hot and satisfying and that's all that mattered.

While Disco Fries, Poutine and Chili Fries are still in demand today, innovative chefs around the country are making their mark on these time-honored recipes - finding new and delicious ways to smother and adorn a plate of perfectly prepared fries.

At the Thai Diner in New York's Nolita neighborhood, Chef Ann Redding has created her own version of Disco Fries. Starting with a foundation of crispy fries, she smothers them in a spicy massaman curry followed by a sprinkling of chopped red onions, peanuts and drizzled with coconut cream.

In Los Angeles, traditionally prepared Chili Fries can still be found at Original Tommy's and Pink's, both places I enjoyed on countless late-night adventures. While more creative and globally inspired versions such as Dirty Chili Fries (Chorizo Chili, Cheddar Sauce, Onion, Cilantro, Bacon Bits) at Dirt Dog, Carne Asada Fries (fries, melted cheese, house salsa, guacamole, chipotle aioli, cilantro avocado aioli, sour cream) at Brick and Flour and Spicy Joint Fries (Korean beef, kimchi, onions, cheese w/spicy aioli) at Far East Joint are becoming increasingly prevalent, I doubt they're available in the wee hours.

Right here in Jacksonville, Mojo BBQ offers their version of Disco Fries (hand-cut fries topped with jack and cheddar cheese and brisket debris gravy) while Epik Burger makes Big Fatty Fries (fries layered with bleu cheese and cheese sauce, more fries, gravy, 'nduja americana, sriracha aioli, sunny egg, chopped bacon, scallions and Howler Monkey hot sauce).

While there are naysayers who view these sorts of dishes as "a heart attack waiting to happen," Disco Fries, along with all of their more modern incarnations, remain my all-time favorites. If they're on the menu, that's what I'll be having.

Jeffrey Spear has been writing about food, creating culinary brands, developing recipes and producing cookbooks for more than 40 years. If you're looking to enhance the impact of your culinary brand, or simply need someone to tell your story in ways that are visually and emotionally appealing, give Jeff a call: 866 787 8761 - or shoot him an email: jeff@studiospear.com