Loaded fries are great. But can you make a healthy, balanced meal out of them? To find out, I asked a group of nutrition experts.
Just kidding. I wouldn’t dare. Instead, a couple of weeks ago I went to Baboushi in the Exchange Hall downtown and got a basket of shawarma-loaded fries with a Mediterranean salad. The salad comes on the fries, too. On the tangled nest of potatoes, your fork picks through grilled meat, red onions, olives, fresh and pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, and feta cheese. I counted three sauces, too: a tahini-based sauce, a creamier green sauce, and spicy red.
Now, since there are lots of fresh veggies on top of the fries, it seems like a balanced meal to me. But I had to taste it to be sure. You, skeptical reader, might be concerned about the prospect of one of the world’s ultimate bar foods being sullied by healthy things like cucumbers. But Baboushi calibrates their recipe in subtle ways to make everything work. For one thing, the potatoes themselves aren’t too greasy or salty. You can watch them drop into the fryer after you’ve ordered, which is always a good thing.
Other little things help tie the dish together, too. A flurry of sumac adds citrusy brightness. The creamy sauces and feta feel lighter than a blanket of molten cheese. Instead of the bold flavors of bacon or hot peppers, we get the salty pop of olives. Baboushi has nicely seasoned beef, too (always my shawarma protein of choice, unless lamb is available).
In fact, when you get down to it, this is all of the elements of a good sandwich, served on potatoes instead of pita bread. And it is quite tasty.
But a balanced meal? Well, that depends. I felt pretty full and walked the meal off with a nice long loop around downtown Dallas (this was on the first day that the temperature dipped below 85). The salt of fries, olives, and feta together led me to down quite a lot of water over the course of the afternoon.
But, hey: it was an order of loaded fries that also had a salad on top. And the flavors held together beautifully. The verdict is in. Balanced meal. Loaded fries: they’re good for you now.