For a long time, I tried my hardest to avoid fried foods. It’s not that I don’t like fried foods. It’s just that fried foods have a way of sticking around.
On the hips. On the waist. On every inch of my body.
But then, I married Meat Boy. Yes, with a nickname like that, he made me realize just how many big hunks of meat are naturally accompanied by something crisp, golden, and irresistibly fried. And well, faced with that onslaught, you succumb. You can’t help it.
So I do indulge now and then. But I make sure it’s worth it. In no particular order, here’s my personal list of Top 10 fried foods worth every dang calorie. If there are any other fried temptresses out there that can’t be denied, do let me know.
1. Glazed donut at Stan’s Donut Shop in Santa Clara. The puffiest, yeastiest, most pillowy donuts ever. Even people who have sworn off donuts make an exception for a glazed one here. Because the shop sells so many of them that the supply constantly needs to be replenished, the donuts almost always can be snagged warm, just out of the fryer. These donuts have been an institution since the shop opened in 1959. Seventy cents will buy you one donut and a whole lotta happiness.
2. Calamari with romesco sauce ($11) at Bocadillos in San Francisco. There is fried calamari. And then there is fried calamari. It’s the latter you’ll find at this lively, small-plates, Basque restaurant by renowned Chef Gerald Hirigoyen. With the lightest, crispest coating imaginable, the bite-size tentacles and ring pieces arrive at the table at once tender, crunchy, and ethereal. It will spoil you for any other fried calamari ever again.
3. Sweet potato fries at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in St. Helena, Napa, and San Francisco ($3.99). Thin and crispy, it’s everything you want in a fry, and then some. The dusting of chili powder adds a nice contrast to the subtle sweetness of the fries. I order these every time I go to Taylor’s. You can’t eat just one. And you simply can’t not order them.
4. Regular or “spicy sauce” fried chicken at 99 Chicken in Santa Clara. This is fried chicken, Korean-style, served in a barest of bare-bones establishments in a strip mall off bustling El Camino Real. It’s fried to order, and arrives almost too hot to handle, in a gossamer breading. Purists will go for the traditional, unadorned chicken. Those who like heat can opt for the spicy sauce version _ the same fried chicken, but coated with a neon-red spicy-sweet, sticky sauce that is unabashedly finger-licking-good. Waitresses provide you with pop-up sponges to clean your hands afterwards. Help yourself to all the pickled daikon, and iceberg-lettuce salad fixings you want. Five pieces of chicken are $6.99 for the regular; $7.99 for the spicy.