A fast-moving San Francisco Bay Area chain of ghost kitchens dedicated to french fry-focused dishes has just surfaced in Montreal. Man vs. Fries is now open for takeout and delivery, operating out of Ville St-Laurent, but founder William Bonhorst tells Eater it’ll soon expand to downtown, too.
Man vs. Fries’s headlining dish is a pile of curly or straight-cut fries, carne or pollo asada, and either Northern Californian-style toppings (cheese, sour cream, guacamole), or Southern Californian ones (the same, plus grilled onions, cilantro, and jalapeño). Otherwise, the virtual restaurant is serving up California-style fry-stuffed burritos and quesadillas, like the “Flamin’ Cali Crunch,” where carne or pollo asada, a tostada, lettuce, tomato, cheese, cilantro, onions, guacamole, ranch dressing, and either Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Doritos, are all wrapped inside a flour tortilla. For dessert, Man vs. Fries batters and deep-fries cheesecake, Oreos, and chocolate chip cookie dough.
Bonhorst launched Man vs. Fries in Oakland three years ago, and has since extended its reach across the U.S. and into Canada. Since February 2021, its location roster includes four spots in Toronto, three in Edmonton, and two in Calgary. Bonhorst says having grown up on the East Coast, in Connecticut, he’d regularly drive up to Montreal in the summer with friends, and “fell in love with the city.” Though billed as a pop-up, Bonhorst says he hopes Man vs. Fries will become a permanent fixture in the city.
It’s operating out of Q-ZN, a new facility housing a number of ghost kitchens, including those of semolina cake shop Nosh Box and Lebanese cuisine purveyor Mezzmiz, plus supplementary outposts for chicken rotisserie Côte St Luc BBQ and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve pan-Asian eatery Maneki.
Bonhorst says the idea to launch a business dedicated to dishes spotlighting french fries was inspired by a weekly ritual from his childhood. On Thursday nights, after getting paid, Bonhorst’s parents would treat him to a fast food dinner. All he wanted were some fried spuds, but his mother would implore him to eat something heftier, like a burger or sandwich. He’d comply but only after slipping some fries inside. After tasting the fry-filled burritos of Southern California, Bonhorst became convinced that french fries shouldn’t be considered “the side piece in every culinary relationship.”
Of course, Montrealers don’t need much convincing on that front — one of the city’s most iconic meals is, after all, a delicious plating of gravy-soaked fries and squeaky cheese curds. International spins on poutine have multiplied the toppings to include everything from Portuguese chicken to Haitian griot and brought on spicy tweaks to the gravy, but the French fries remain its indispensable base.
(Worth noting: When it comes to the french fry and tortilla pairing, Montrealers are also already somewhat acquainted. Tacos Victor in St-Henri tops most of its creations with fries, recently closed Southern Californian restaurant Le Mairachi served up a vegan take on the California burrito, and then there’s the recent influx of joints serving French tacos, a Lyon-hailing concoction of meat, fries, and cheese encased in a tortilla.)
Asked whether his french fry-celebrating menu will give a nod to local traditions, Bonhorst hints that a poutine-stuffed burrito may be in the pipeline.