A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 28, 2007
Cheese Fries (Chili Cheese Fries; Jalapeño Cheese Fries)

The origin of “cheese fries” (cheese added to french fries) is in dispute. The dish is claimed by both Philadelphia and Chicago, dating from the early 1980s. Hostess distributed frozen “cheese fries” as early as 1975.

Texas-style ingredients were soon added, making “chili cheese fries” and “jalapeño cheese fries.” Texas food author Robb Walsh calls jalapeño cheese fries a “quintessential Texas side dish.”


Wikipedia: French Fries
French fries (North America; sometimes also uncapitalized as “french fries” or simply “fries"), or chips (United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and most Commonwealth nations), are pieces of potato that have been cut into batons and deep-fried.
(...)
United States
In the United States, the most popular condiment for fries is ketchup. Mustard is another common condiment, with malt vinegar mainly available at retaurants which serve fish and chips. Fries are sometimes coated with melted cheese, called cheese fries. This can be in combination with chili, making chili cheese fries.

Variations of cheese fries include fries covered with Cheez Whiz, mozzarella, Swiss cheese, or garlic and cheese fries (cheese with garlic mayonnaise).

Lone Star Steakhouse
Amarillo Cheese Fries
Crunchy fries smothered in gooey Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, topped with bacon, and served with ranch dressing.

14 May 1975, Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) Free Press, pg. 39 ad:
150 GR. PKG. HOSTESS
CHEESE FRIES 38c

4 December 1975, Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) Free Press, pg. 55 ad:
HOSTESS SNACKS 300 GRAM PKG.
Cheese Fries of Cheese Sticks .68

17 September 1975, Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, “Football Strategy at Home” by Lillian Mackesy, pg. C1, col. 1: 
CHEESE FRIES
1 cups fried potato snack sticks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon parsley flakes

Place potato snacks in center of 18-inch square of aluminum foil. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle snacks with oil and toss gently to cover. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well-coated. Fold edges of foil loosely around fries. Place on rack in preheated oven (or on rack over hot coals on outdoor grill) and heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, until heated through. Toss once or twice during heating. Recipe makes about 4 servings to go with hamburgers or other meats.

9 July 1980, Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram, pg. C6 ad:
Suncrisp - Butter, Onion, Cheese
FRIES
20-oz. Pack 79c

14 July 1981, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, section 3A, pg. 8:
Tube Steak Palace, 2643 Hirshoff, Rolling Meadows. (...) ...onion rings, desserts and cheese fries.

9 May 1983, Doylestown (PA) Daily Intelligencer, pg. 10A, col. 5:
Crafts, a video arcade and a variety of foods from hot dogs and cheese fries to cotton candy will be available. 

12 March 1984, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. A1:
...night to get some cheese fries at the Dip Stix restaurant on the Boardwalk.
(Atlantic City—ed.)

30 August 1984, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Junk Food of the ‘80s: CHeese edges out salt and sugar as top flavoring” by Polly Hurst and Steven Fried (Philadelphia Magazine): 
In the past, junk food was flavored with one of two things: salt or sugar, and lots of it. The junk food of the ‘80s, however, is made with (or covered by) cheese. Nachos and cheese fries are among the latest entries in the cheese-junk list, which already included Cheetos, Snack Mate Cheese Spreads (those canned things that make flowers if applied correctly), cheese-filled Combos, nacho-cheese Doritos, Tostitos, Burritos—where will it all end?

5 September 1984, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “The Cornucopia of New Eats on the Streets” by Dick Polman, pg. E1:
Those ex-loyalists who once bought his hot dogs are Now gorging themselves ON everything imaginable - shrimp, flounder, cheese fries, souvlaki, spinach pie, ... 

7 October 1984, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “The Maligned Cafeteria” by Marilynn Marter, pg. M1:
The foods that got highest marks from the teens included cheese fries,...

7 March 1985, Atlanta (GA) Journal and Constitution, “Chili’s could become a second home for burger fanatics,” pg. A7: 
There are plenty of appetizers: Super nachos ($4.95); cheese fries ($2.95);...

15 August 1986, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, section 6, pg. 9, col. 3:
For 20 cents extra, you can have cheese fries. For these, the fries are squirted with a processed cheese sauce that just makes them soggy.

16 August 1985, Doylestown (PA) Daily Intelligencer, “Pat’s Steaks” by Glenn N. Kaup, pg. 42, col. 5:
Along with sandwiches, the restaurants offer criss-cross fries and cheese fries.

10 December 1986, Los Angeles (CA) Daily News:
Everyone you know goes,” said Crismon, a Granada Hills resident who usually orders chili cheese fries at the shop.
(Primo’s Specialty Sandwich Shop—ed.)

8 March 1987, New York (NY) Times, “A Road Not Often Taken” (Jane & Michael Stern of “Road Food") by Marian Burros, pg. 312:
THOSE WHO ASPIRE TO THE American version of beurre blanc and puff pastry don’t want to hear about cheese fries and Coca-Cola cake.

8 September 1988, Miami (FL) Herald, “Joe BelAir’s transports you to happier days; vinyl booths and chili dogs put you back in the ‘50s” by Alison Oresman, pg. 2E:
...cheese fries and chili fries are also available.

21 November 1988, Dallas (TX) Morning News:
Fuddrucker’s has introduced nachos and guacamole and prototype outlets are testing “chili cheese fries” and tacos.

31 August 1989, Atlanta (GA) Journal and Constitution, “Atlanta Couple’s Dreams Light Up at Flamers Eatery” by Henrietta Spearman, pg. E6:
Side orders range from regular french fries, Cajun fries, chili cheese fries, cheese fries, or fried mushrooms and onion rings priced from 99 cents to $1.29

1 September 1989, Sacramento (CA) , “Burgers so good they could kill you,” pg. TK13:
Murder Burger also offers something called “"cheese fries.’’ (...) I would have liked to have tackled the chili cheese fries,...

Google Groups: rec.food.restaurants
Newsgroups: rec.food.restaurants
From: (William Tsun-Yuk Hsu)
Date: 11 Mar 91 22:41:31 GMT
Local: Mon, Mar 11 1991 6:41 pm
Subject: Re: Chicago restaurants

There’s a good burger place on the corner of Belmont and Sheffield. Try the guacamole and cheese fries.

15 March 1991, Chicago (IL) Sun-Times, “In thick or thin, they always stick together” by Pat Bruno, pg. 59:
Ed Debevic’s Short Orders Deluxe, 640 N. Wells (312-664-1707). White Castle Systems, numerous locations in the Chicago area (312-582-7373).
While trying to separate three fries that were welded to each other by melted cheese, my wife announced: “Cheese fries were invented by Ed Debevic.” “You do know that there is no such person as…

12 April 1991, Chicago (IL) Sun-Times, “Hearts melt for cheese fries” by Pat Bruno, pg. 53:
Cheez! My column of March 15 on cheese fries must have been a whiz, as readers really took to writing about their favorites. My favorites: Gold Coast Dogs on North State, Ed Debevic’s Short Orders Deluxe on North Wells and White Castle all around town.

Google Groups: soc.sulture.canada
Newsgroups: soc.culture.canada
From: (Paul D. Shan)
Date: 18 Jul 91 12:29:25 GMT
Local: Thurs, Jul 18 1991 8:29 am
Subject: Re: Canadianisms? 

Gravy on fries is a semi-common question where I live (Central and/or Western Pennsylvania). What usually gets strange looks except in the place where I was introduced to it is Chili-Cheese Fries.  When I get these looks it’s usually that they’ve heard of Chili fries and Cheese fries, but not both. 

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: (Will Martin)
Date: 24 Jul 91 15:31:12 GMT
Local: Wed, Jul 24 1991 11:31 am
Subject: Regional foods: Horseshoe Sandwich

Cheese fries (French fries with cheese sauce on them) are fairly common, I believe. This is pretty much in the same line except it puts the sandwich itself under the cheese fries. As I recall, the horseshoe sandwich came in hamburger, ham, and other versions (maybe roast beef? not sure...).

Google Groups: ne.food
Newsgroups: ne.food
From: (David Filippi)
Date: 27 Feb 92 18:13:35 GMT
Local: Thurs, Feb 27 1992 2:13 pm
Subject: Chili cheese fries.

In my homeland of Southern California, it was my frequent habit to stop at Top’s for their transcendent chili-doused boxes of french fries with lots of yellow and white cheese on top.

Alas!  Stranded in Boston, my cholesterol level is slowly decreasing to normal levels… does anyone know where I could get some chili cheese fries? 

24 April 1992, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Jons Grille” review by Lanette Causey:
Chili cheese fries were freshly sizzled and smothered in good quality Chili, grated Cheddar, chopped onions and fierce jalapeno slices. 

Google Books
The Low-Fat Fast Food Guide
by Jamie Pope and Martin Katahn
New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company
1993 (revised edition, 2000)
Pg. 43:
chili cheese fries
(Del Taco—ed.)

16 January 1993, (Baton Rouge, LA):
“I can’t get anybody up here who can do jalapeno cheese fries like George’s restaurant. They try, but It’s just not the same.”

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: “Kris”
Date: 20 Jan 2007 09:42:24 -0800
Local: Sat, Jan 20 2007 1:42 pm
Subject: Re: anyone know when/where chili cheese fries originated?

Well, I have no actual proof on this, but at the time I always heard that a hot dog place by Michigan State University started the phenomenon. I think they were referring to Top Dog, which isn’t around
anymore. But during my college years, it was great to go there at 2 a.m. after a party…

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: “Doc Martian”
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2007 05:34:24 GMT
Local: Sun, Jan 21 2007 1:34 am
Subject: Re: anyone know when/where chili cheese fries originated?

From:
To:
Sent: Saturday, January 20, 2007 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: chili cheese fries

Doc,

The earliest print reference we find for “chili cheese fries” is from 1988. Although the restaurant was based in Chicago, the founders were from Cincinnati and very much taken with their city’s chili tradition.

“The Near North eatery is named Coney Dog, but has nothing to do with New York. It serves Cincinnati-style chili, but it doesn’t call it that on the menu. Confused? No, problem. The selections are very simple. They’ve got chili and they’ve got chili dogs.Craig McCoy and Randy Reynolds, a pair of out-of-towners who graduated from Northwestern University in 1984, returned to open a tiny, fast-food place in a storefront in April. With a fondness for Cincinnati-style chili, but the smarts not to call it that for fear of offending Chicagoans, the dish is billed as “chili spaghetti,” served 2-way ($2.35), 3-way ($2.60), 4-way ($2.85) or 5-way ($2.95)...McCoy and Reynolds make their own french fries from Idaho potatoes. They are plump and not greasy. But don’t stop. Coney Dog has cheese fries ($1.50) to beat all others. The fries are covered with melted Cheddar cheese-the real kind-sour cream, onions and jalapeno peppers. The cheapeaters’ favorite, however, was the order of chili cheese fries ($1.80), everything that can come with the cheese fries plus a smothering of chili.”

--- CONEY DOG ‘CHILI SPAGHETTI’ STILL TASTY BY ANY OTHER NAME; [NORTH SPORTS FINAL, CN Edition] Manuel Galvan. Chicago Tribune (pre-1997 Fulltext).
Chicago, Ill.: Nov 25, 1988. pg. 36

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark database (http://www.uspto.gov) “Chili cheese fries” are not a registered trademark. We sent a note to Skyline asking when they introduced this item to their menu. Hopefully, they will respond.

North American fast-food dishes combining cheese, fries & other toppings dates back at least to 1957. About French Canadian Poutine (c. 1957): http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-69-1371-8372/life_society/canadian_food/cli

We will be in touch when we hear back from Skyline.
-----------------------------------
Lynne Olver (IACP), editor
The Food Timeline
http://www.foodtimeline.org

Serious Eats
Cook the Book: Jalapeño Cheese Fries
Posted by Ed Levine, May 10, 2007 at 5:00 PM

Here’s the penultimate recipe of the week from Robb Walsh’s Texas Cowboy Cookbook. This is a “quintessential Texas side dish,” Robb says, “that combines classic American fries with Tex-Mex chile con queso and jalapeños.” Make sure to bookmark this recipe so you have it handy; you can serve it alongside tomorrow’s tenderloin.

And, remember, if you’d like to lasso yourself a copy of the book that these fries come from, throw your hat into our cookbook giveaway contest.

Jalapeño Cheese Fries
- serves 4 -

Ingredients
2 pounds russet potatoes
2 1/2 cups peanut oil
2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt
1 cup Chile con Queso (recipe follows), or sub in one 15-ounce jar of Cheez Whiz
1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices
(...)
Chile con Queso
- makes about 2 cups -

Ingredients
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Sunday, October 28, 2007 • Permalink


Barry,

I have some information I would like to share with you regarding the origin of the Cheese Fries (with Cheese Whiz). In the early 80’s in Philadephia, my Father and Grandmother stared a business named “Philly Fries”. I recenty found (and scanned) copies of newspaper articles from the Philadelphia Daily News about Philly Fries. I would like to email you the article. Would you update your references in your post to include this?

Thank you,

Chad Collins
chad.collins@gmail.com

Posted by Chad Collins  on  04/05  at  11:22 PM

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