Eat This

Snuffer's Cheddar Fries: Examining a Dallas Institution

I knew it wasn't a good idea. Passionate decisions almost always bear a cost. I'd just watched scores of tweets extol the virtues of Snuffer's cheddar fries with such enthusiasm I was incensed. Surely, there is no way something worthy of such praise can come from a dingy Greenville Avenue restaurant whose back dining room smells a bit like a wet bathroom mop. Snuffer's needed a take-down, and I was prepared to dish it out. And so I found myself sitting in traffic with my camera slung around my neck headed to a long-time Dallas institution.

Snuffers was dead when I walked in and asked if I could sit at the bar. This bar is for servers only, though, and I was relegated to a booth with a small, sticky table while I waited for my waitress, then ordered a Budweiser, then received a Bud Light. I would have protested, but I thought the error was in my favor. Snuffer's cheddar fries come in three sizes; I was about to go whole hog.

The waitress tried to warn me as she showed me each size with her hands. A small was the largest circle the could make with her digits still touching, and a medium drew them apart and lengthened the shape a bit. To show me a large, she made a shape with her hands about the size of a pie plate. "That's what I want," I told her. "It's deep," she warned. I told her I was ready.

Nursing that Bud Light, I pondered the significance of Snuffer's and their cheddar fries. The fries were listed as a City of Ate Favorite two years ago. D Magazine called the dish a rite of passage according to Snuffer's website. The reference neglects to complete the sentence as printed, which ends "for all SMU students." It's an important clarification. Nick Rallo told me he ate there all the time in college, even though he thought the food was terrible.

While I waited, a medium order was dropped off to a table of three. The young blonde clapped gleefully as the plate arrived, accompanied by the enthusiastic eyes of what I guessed were her parents. Maybe she's enrolled at SMU? I watched the three of them share a medium-sized order of cheddar fries: a plate they failed to finish. I became nervous.

Then my plate came, topped with massive pickled jalapeño slices, fresh green onion slivers and bacon as crisp as bacon can be. It was as large as a pie plate and quite deep, as my waitress described: not as tall as my beer bottle (which was now a Bud heavy), but close. I want to tell you I left victorious. That I conquered that plate on my own and went home to spend some quality time on the treadmill. I was not victorious, however, I was defeated. I barely made it halfway through.

And the cheddar fries take down? I'm afraid it's not coming. Who am I to dethrone an institution that's been slathering college kids with calories since 1978? The fries are cut on-site, fried reasonably well and topped with a mountain of cheese. I asked how they get the cheese to melt so smoothly. How does it string and pool, but not clump or weep oil? My waitress didn't know. A manager said it was the "high-quality" 90-day aged cheddar, but good cheddar is notorious for breaking under heat.

My guess is it's a highly processed shredded cheese that melts down a lot like Monterey Jack or provolone you get at the grocery store. Either way, I can see the appeal. And at the same time, I'm very very glad I'm not in college anymore.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz