Ask a New Jerseyan: What Are "Disco Fries"?

Disco Fries
••• Disco Fries at TOPS Diner in East Newark. Danielle Berman

One of the many things New Jersey is famous for is its plethora of diners. On the menu at most of these diners is something very special (and extremely tasty): Disco Fries. Just what is this groovy-sounding concoction? This New Jerseyan is here to enlighten your tastebuds.

Plain and simply, a plate of Disco Fries consists of a heaping pile of thick cut steak fries (or "diner fries" as some may call them), layered with brown gravy and mozzarella cheese.

If done right, the whole plate is tossed into the broiler for a few minutes, allowing the cheese to crisp up in just the right places and remain gooey in the others. Oh, you know what I'm talking about: when you shovel whatever has been smothered in melted cheese to your mouth in all it's stringy glory.

Who came up with this delicious culinary combination? The origin seems to stem from a very popular Canadian dish called "poutine" (French-Canadian for "mess", "messy", and/or "pudding") invented in the late 1950s in Quebec. There are varying stories on the exact point of invention, but they all seem to revolve around restaurant patrons deciding to add cheese curds (a grab-and-go snack at the time) to their fries on their own.

Restaurateur Jean-Paul Roy of Roy le Jucep in Quebec was the smart chef to begin adding sauce to his french fries. Once this became a hit and he saw that the customers were adding the curds (also on sale at the restaurant) to the dish, he made it a menu staple.

However, the sauce in this case was a sweet, tomato-based one, and to this day there are multiple variations of poutine sauce around Quebec, including "instant" sauce at the grocery store, chicken velouté (stock based sauce rather than cream or a roux based "gravy"), and even straight-up Italian marinara sauce.

This "poutine" idea had traveled its way south to New York and New Jersey by the 1970s, coinciding with the popularity of disco music and the rise of staying out late to enjoy it. Where better to soak up the alcohol and satisfy cravings than a 24-hour New Jersey diner?

Let's make one thing clear, though: Disco Fries are NOT poutine. See, here in New Jersey, we don't do cheese curds. It's mozzarella, people! Thanks, Canadians, for the idea, but we like our own spin we put on it.

Where to Eat the Best Disco Fries in North Jersey

Tick Tock Diner, according to Thrillist and TripAdvisor, serves up the best gravy and cheese fries in the state. We'd have to agree: they've simply perfected the ratio. The gravy is thick, the plate scalding due to being placed in the broiler, and the fries are thick, like they should be. Shoestring, schmoostring. 281 Allwood Rd., Clifton

If you're looking to keep it light, don't go to TOPS Diner. (Who actually wants small portions when they go out to eat though, right?) We recently ordered Disco Fries (pictured above), thinking they'd be a nice complement to our meal. Well, they are a meal in itself. 500 Passaic Ave., East Newark

They may not be listed on the menu as Disco Fries, and they may not even technically be Disco Fries, but Hot Grill's fries with gravy and cheese are an absolute North Jersey food bucket list item.

The gravy is on the pink side and definitely has cinnamon and/or nutmeg in it. It's drizzled on hot, immediately melting the slices of white American (you read that right, not mozzarella). It's sweet, sweet slop on a plate, and boy, is it delicious. 669 Lexington Ave., Clifton