Sea gulls, it seems, will not eat French fries out of the bucket. Not even if you set it on the ground and walk away. Not even if you sit still and balance the bucket on the top of your head.
I know this because I tried.
As part of my exploration of which fries are Rehoboth’s best, I wondered if the sea gulls had a favorite. After all, the winged scavengers hang around every fry shop on or near the boardwalk. Certainly they would know.
The largest group of gulls gathers around Gus and Gus, the little brick establishment on the Boardwalk at Wilmington Avenue where a red and white sign advertises boardwalk fries since 1955, cooked in peanut oil. They perch on every lamp post. They line up on the roof of the building.
And you know what? Although Gus and Gus might be best known for its fried chicken and cheesesteaks, the fries are pretty darn good too. Cooked to order, you can even get them for breakfast. Plus, the 1950’s ambience is the best of all the fry joints in Rehoboth.
Ambience is something the over-lit, over-plasticized Grottoes Pizza does not have. Whether this had anything to do with how I felt about their fries, I can’t say. But, the potatoes I tested were dry and tasteless. Coincidentally, there weren’t too many seagulls loitering around outside.
There were plenty of gulls hanging around the three Thrasher’s French Fries establishments in town, all within two blocks of each other. I prefer the shop just off the boardwalk on the north side of Rehoboth Avenue. It’s small and cramped and looks like a fry stand ought to. It stays open year round, or very close to it. Even when hurricanes and Nor’Easters pass offshore, the fry boys stand their ground, battling wind and rain and serving up fries to the extreme weather enthusiasts.
Thrasher’s was founded in Ocean City, Maryland, back in 1929, and subsequently expanded to Rehoboth. Its fries are sublime, the standard against which all others are compared. The secret? Some say it’s the peanut oil. Others claim it’s the salt and vinegar or the way the fries are cut with the skins left on. I think it might have something to do with Thrasher’s focus on one single product. Whatever the reason, the fry boys tell me they serve up approximately 1,600 pounds per day.
I’m no mathematician, but I do know that a small cup of fries holds 16 ounces. That translates to 1,600 small cups per day. However, given the supersize of some of the tourists stampeding for the fries, I prefer to think about Thrasher’s fries in terms of big tubs. Each tub holds about 53 ounces, or close to three and a half pounds. Assuming Thrasher’s is open 14 hours a day, that means they’re selling approximately 40 tubs an hour!
Five Guys, the hamburger franchise that started in the Washington suburbs in 1986, is just west of Thrasher’s in the first block of Rehoboth Avenue. It’s the only shop to tout its potato varietals. When I was there the featured potatoes were from Sugar City, Idaho. I found the fries good, but a tad dry.
Five Guys doesn’t give you cups or buckets. They put them in a paper tray and then into a paper bag and scoop on some extras. It’s easier to eat out of the bag and the paper also sucks up some grease. Unlike Thrasher’s, Five Guys offers ketchup. I’d expect that in a hamburger joint, wouldn’t you? Though most people probably go to Five Guys for the burgers, the joint, I learned, sells between 300-800 pounds of French fries per night.
The bottom line is that Americans love their French fries. Even Thomas Jefferson served pommes de terre frites at Monticello. I enjoy mine with a dash of salt, a splash of vinegar, and a cold French chardonnay — not a New World chardonnay, which tends towards oakiness. If only Thrasher’s served béarnaise sauce…
Without a doubt, Rehoboth has some great options for any French fry aficionados. Just follow your nose. Or, the gulls.