Friday, November 23, 2012

French Fry Diary 440: Houlihan's

The original plan was for my buddy Ray and I to go to the new pub attached to Aloft up in Mount Laurel, called Miller's N.J. Ale House. Once we arrived and saw the ridiculous amount of people outside the restaurant carrying those fancy table-waiting beepers, we decided to look elsewhere. I drove around and around, almost driving Ray to madness (no restaurants there, unfortunately), until finally we settled on Houlihan's in Cherry Hill, in the Wegman's shopping center where the Garden State Racetrack used to be.

I really didn't know what to expect. The first and last time I had ever been to Houlihan's, was when it was at the Cherry Hill Mall, on a very bad double date from well over two decades previous. I'm going to guess that things had changed. If nothing else, Ray was a better dining companion.

This new Houlihan's was a bit of a maze once inside, and it was very dark. Restaurants that are dark always make me nervous. Is there something they don't want me to see, or worse than that, see clearly? I shouldn't have worried. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the menu however. It was as big as a Sears catalog. Seriously, sixteen pages. It not only could stop a frigging bullet, but it also would've made Chef Gordon Ramsey crazy, as he is always an advocate of a short, concise one page menu.

However on one of those sixteen pages was a wonder in itself - a frites bar - six different types of fries. Oh boy, says the fry guy. They had Disco Fries, more or less a Jersey specialty, but these sounded more like Canadian poutine. Also Parmesan Frites, Truckstop Fries, Pickle Fries (made from pickles, ick), American Fries, and Sweet Potato Fries, topped with cinnamon sugar. Hmmm… cinnamon sugar. I'll have to try that next time I make sweet potato fries at home.

The waitress was very nice, and said everything was made from scratch. So after I ordered my usual, the burger and fries, I asked for onion rings, not on the menu. I know, I was being a pain in the butt by doing that, but I was in the mood for onion rings. She said they didn't do onion rings, but offered up onion straws. That was cool, but… Is it just me, but if you make everything from scratch, why would onion rings be a problem?

After a relatively short wait (although it was kinda long considering how few people were in the restaurant, but they do make everything from scratch, so…), our food arrived. The burger was fairly good, and served on an egg washed challah soft roll, which made for an interesting contrast to your average burger.

The French fries were natural cut shoestrings, deep fried but not too greasy. The problem with them was the same thing I contended with at The TapRoom & Grill - pickle juice fries. There were two big pickles on the plate next to the fries. Just not my thing. The onion strings were really just very thin deep fried onion rings and strings for the most part. Tasty.

After a two decade hiatus, I would definitely come back to Houlihan's, if only to try the rest of their frites bar, but seriously, all kidding aside, it was a good dining experience.

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