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Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

REVIEW: Fry Fixes: The Best Go-To’s in Downtown Lawrence

Top restaurants and cafes for French fries downtown
Keat Hockenbury
With tatsy sauces and thin cut fries Dempsey’s deliveres a unique taste and texture. Dempsey’s fries were awarded 2nd place for 2023 best of lawrence.

Fresh cut golden fries are a staple at Dempsey’s, and are the perfect addition to any meal.

A timeless side or a stand alone snack amongst all age groups, the french fry is a popular addition to most any meal or outing. However, with many restaurants, diners and even bakeries offering this classic, deciding where to get your side of fries is a necessary decision for your pallet and the dining experience as a whole. Whether seeking out a timeless diner, the neon light of a bar booth or a cute cafe, downtown Lawrence has its own variety of dining vibes and fry styles to choose from. 

The first locale taste I tested was Ladybird Diner, a lively retro diner environment featuring a distinctly midwestern vibe and a ‘70s playlist to boot. With superior interior design and an equally enjoyable set of alcove seats that provide wonderful natural light and people watching galore, on the environment alone the diner receives full stars. The restaurant, specializing in all the good comfort foods, is also home to some competitively good fries as well. When taste testing the fries, one can note a good crunch on the outside followed by a softer inside, and a good amount of salt and flavor that accompanies the texture. Overall the fries and the experience were excellent, but make sure you get your fries before they close at 3. Overall this restaurant gets a solid 8.5/10. 

The next restaurant I visited was Dempsey’s Pub, the 2nd place winner for Best of Lawrence Local Fries in 2021, and the Irish-themed pub definitely lives up to their reputation. The restaurant, situated off Massachusetts St. on Vermont St. is home to your classic bar-restaurant environment, a good place to watch the current sports game sitting inside in their comfy interior or outside on their side patio. The fries arrive in a big bowl, and are cut with the natural potato skin left on. They have a decent crunch and are rather thin and consistently salty, however the crunch was not super consistent and the fries were also clumped together at times as well. Any discrepancies in the fries were made up for with their selection of sauces, and after tasting the fries with the addition of their garlic aioli, truffle cream and sriracha sauces this place gets a definite 7.5/10. 

The third restaurant I tried was Free State Brewery, and while the environment is quite enjoyable, with great natural light including several skylights and an overall nice vibe, the fries were somewhat disappointing. They were very thick cut lacking crunch or good texture. However, they were very nicely seasoned with thyme, which made the flavor of the fries quite enjoyable. Overall only a 4/10, but they definitely get points for the good flavor. 

Restaurant number four was the Casbah Burger Stand, which is an aesthetic bar-restaurant environment with nice upstairs and indoor seating as well as pleasant outdoor seating adjacent to Massachusetts St. The classic fries here are very thin cut with some minimal crunch, however they lack any substantial flavor aside from being borderline too salty. This restaurant is also somewhat known for their selection of sauces, featuring unique flavors such as chocolate barbeque, marshmallow and a variety of other more traditional sauces. While this is definitely a pro for the restaurant as a whole, the sauce pairing with the fries was somewhat disappointing. Overall, the fries were decent if basic, and this fry stop can be ranked a 6/10.  

Approaching the last stop of the Free State fry connoisseur was a switch up in environments, opting out of the restaurant experience for a cafe vibe instead. Barker Bakery and Cafe on Massachusetts St. serves some of the best sandwiches and cafe beverages downtown, and can also offer you a nice side of fries as well. Exceptionally crisp and crunchy, baked to a golden brown and featuring a very thin cut, this cafe has to be one of the top spots for fries downtown. The only downfall of the fries is the cafe’s lack of sauce selection, however if you’re in the mood for the classic fry and a nice bright cafe experience you cannot go wrong here. A solid 9/10. 

The last stop, but far from the least delicious, was Terrebonne. Lawrences go-to New Orleans cuisine featuring a quaint and bright casual restaurant environment serves up a good side of Cajun fries in addition to their classic dishes such as gumbo. A must go if you’re seeking a less traditional fry, with spices and flavor galore. Limited on crunch but high on texture and flavor this cafe receives a  9/10. 

Ultimately, there are many delicious places to get your fry fix in downtown Lawrence, with a plethora of different styles and dining experiences available as well. However, with all things considered, some of my top recommendations for your fry fix would definitely be Terrebonne for a casual vibe and delicious food, Barker on Mass for a cute cafe setting as well as wonderful fries, and Ladybird if you’re seeking a more traditional dining experience. 

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