I Have Complicated Feelings About Chickie’s & Pete’s Crabfries Chips
Yesterday afternoon, Herr’s officially unveiled their latest flavor, Chickie’s & Pete’s Famous Crabfries, at the restaurant’s South Philly location. This came a few weeks after rumors swirled about the chip’s existence, and days after they started popping up at Oregon Avenue’s finer Sunoco stations.
So, are they any good? That’s a seemingly simple question with a seemingly simple answer: Yes. Yes they are.
The first handful tastes like a half-hearted cross between Herr’s Barbecue and Hot Sauce varieties, while advanced palettes may detect subtle hints of the more exotic Buffalo Wing (although not, oddly, Herr’s Old Bay chips). Nothing to see here. But then it kicks in — a familiar aftertaste of American cheese, or what the bag calls “white creamy cheese sauce flavoring.” Is it a little weird how this white creamy cheese sauce flavoring coats the tongue like an actual cheese sauce? Perhaps, but you’ve got a lot of nerve asking questions while eating a French fry-flavored potato chip. Would I have gone with a ruffle? Not necessarily, but I can appreciate the nod to Crabfries’ signature crinkle cut, a genius seasoning-snuggling design.
This is a good potato chip. Depending on how comfortable you are with the phrase “cheese sauce flavoring,” maybe even a great potato chip.
And yet, we can’t ignore the obvious: Crabfries, in a noble effort to share their power and glory with the masses, have been compromised. And Crabfries are important.
I first met Crabfries as a child at the original Chickie’s & Pete’s, an old-school corner bar in Mayfair complete with a ladies’ entrance, if not many ladies, per se. Perfectly crisped with a dusting of Old Bay and a generous bowl of American cheese dipping sauce, it was the start of a decades-long love affair. Plenty of bars would eventually follow suit and dress up their fries with everything from truffle oil to duck fat, but for me at least, nothing could touch that simple, beautiful combination of spicy and creamy, of Jersey Shore and Northeast Philly (you either get it or you don’t).
To be fair, Herr’s or no Herr’s, Crabfries have been endangered for some time. They suffered as soon as Chickie’s expanded outside the Northeast, and if you’ve only had them in a stadium, I’d argue you never really had them at all. Regardless, I have licked the bottom of the Crabfries basket at a dodgy airport outpost, and I have waited in line for a half hour for Citizens Bank Park’s limp, under-seasoned rendition. I regret nothing.
With Herr’s, however, Crabfries have crossed a clear line. Their demotion from fries — the anointed darling of potato products — to chips, no matter how good the chip, feels significant. Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe we could have done something. Maybe I have too many feelings about French fries. It’s complicated.
But, as they say, if you love something, you have to let it go. (Or was it cling desperately in the face of reason and dignity? Anyone?) And so good luck out there, Herr’s Chickie’s & Pete’s Famous Crabfries Seasoned Potato Chips. I hope you find what you’re looking for.
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