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 November 01, 2007
Disco Fries (American version of “Poutine")

"Disco fries” are first cited in 1996 and are believed to have started at New Jersey diners. Some think that “disco fries” means “diner fries,” while others insist that “disco” means “late night food.” Crisco is often used in making french fries, and perhaps that product also influenced the “disco fries” name. Disco fries soon found their way to diners in New York City.

“Disco fries” are french fries with cheese and gravy, somewhat more than the cheese fries that were popularly served in the 1980s.

“Poutine” is a dish from Quebec, Canada of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy, supposedly invented in 1957 but first cited in print in 1982. Some people claim that “disco fries” are nothing more than Americanized “poutine,” but the cheese used is not similar.


The Language of Food and Nutrition
Disco fries
Disco fries is a dish made up of french fries covered in brown gravy, on top of which cheese is melted. Although American cheese is most prevalent, cheddar and mozzarella are sometimes used.
Keywords and Synonyms
Disco fries, Cheese fries

Urban Dictionary
disco fries
Cheese fries with gravy (french fries with cheese melted on top, covered with chicken gravy.Mmmm.), generally served at diners in Northeast New Jersey.
I’ma have some disco fries, please.
by Jeremiah Dec 3, 2003

Urban Dictionary
poutine
Canadian dish that has spread in popularity to the Northeastern states. Traditionally it was fried potatoes covered in turkey gravy and sprinkled with the skimmed cheese curds. Modern interpretations are: 

Beef gravy and mozzarella cheese, called Hobo Fries in the MD/DC/NOVA region.

Chicken gravy and mozzarella cheese, called Disco Fries in the NJ/NY/PA region - often considered the true new form considering NJ has more diners that any other state and this is where the dish is normally available.
(...)
by Cass Mar 16, 2005

Wikipedia: Poutine
Poutine (pronunciation in IPA as heard in Quebec French [puʦɪn] — listen to it in .wav format) is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered with hot gravy (usually brown gravy) and sometimes other additional ingredients. The curds’ freshness is important as it makes them soft in the warm fries, without completely melting. It is a quintessential Canadian comfort food, especially but not exclusively among Québécois.
(...)
Variations
(...)
In the United States, mostly in the state of Maine, poutine is referred to as “mixed fries”, “mix fry”, or simply “mix” [citation needed], although the term “poutine” has been gaining in popularity in recent years, especially in Aroostook County. It is very similar, but shredded mozzarella cheese is the most popular topping, along with beef or brown gravy (although turkey gravy is also used in some places). It is a popular item among small, privately-owned restaurants. Mostly part of the culture of The County, a mixed fry can also come with cooked ground beef on top, and is referred to as a hamburger mix. The latter is less popular than a regular mix. In diners in New Jersey and New York City, a similar dish is available, except it is called disco fries. Slices of American, Mozzarella or Swiss can be used instead of curds.
(...)
Related dishes
While at first glance the dish may seem similar to American ‘disco fries’, poutine with melted cheese, shredded cheese, or cheese slices is not regarded as “genuine” poutine, which is served with curd cheese.

Montréal Poutine
The first poutines were invented in Quebec, and there are many, unconfirmed claims to have invented the poutine which date from the late 50s through the 1970s in the Victoriaville area, about 1 hour out of Montreal.

The earliest date associated with its invention is 1957, which is when restaurantuer Fernand LaChance of Warwick claims that a take-out customer at his restaurant Lutin Qui Rit, requested french fries, cheese in a bag, to which the restaurantuer responded: “ça va faire une maudite poutine” (That’s going to make a damn mess"). In his 2005 obituary, CTV.ca quoted Eddy Lanaisse as that original customer: “I wanted fries, but I saw cheese curds on the counter. I asked Fernand to mix them together.”. LaChance’s restaurant eventually closed, and so there exists no present day monument to this earliest claim.

Adding sauce to the cheese to curds/fries mixture was a later innovation. The owner of restaurant Roy le Jucep (1050 boul. St. Joseph, Drummondville Quebec; website ), Jean-Paul Roy, also claims the title of “The Inventor of Poutine”, dating his claim in 1964. Jucep’s claim stems from having made a potato sauce, which he was slathering on fries sold in his restaurant. He also sold bags of cheddar cheese curds - which are sold widely in the region, bought as a handy, portable snack - which he noticed customers were adding to his fries and sauce. Soon after, he made the combination a regular menu item. (See Reviews for a review of Roy le Jucep poutine).

By the late 1970s, poutine had made its way to New York and New Jersey, where it is often sold as an “off menu” item in a modified form—‘disco fries’. This concoction is french fries, a beef gravy, and shredded, usually cheddar, cheese. The cheese melts completely, mixes in with the gravy, and the dish is a mess, and a delicious one enjoyed by late-night partiers of the disco crowds in the days before low-fat, Atkins and smart drinks. 

Welcome to the Crisco Kitchen
French Fries
6 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes per batch

CRISCO® Peanut Oil for frying
6 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled, rinsed and dried
Salt

Heat 2 or 3 inches Crisco Peanut Oil to 375ºF in deep fryer or deep saucepan.
Cut potatoes lengthwise into strips about 1/2 x 1/2 inch or 1/4 x 1/4 inch. Pat dry with paper towels.
Fry, a few at a time, about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately. 

(Oxford English Dictionary)
poutine, n.
Canad.
[< Canadian French poutine (1978 or earlier in this sense (cf. note below)), spec. sense of poutine, denoting various kinds of cooked pudding (1810), further etymology uncertain and disputed; app. either a variant of French pouding (see PUDDING n.), or directly < English PUDDING n. (although in this case the change of d to t would be difficult to account for), or perh. < a French regional form with subsequent semantic influence from French pouding or English PUDDING n. (although an exact match has not been identified among dialects of
French).
The dish is said to have been first sold in the ‘Lutin Qui Rit’ restaurant in Warwick, Quebec, in 1957-2004, although the version with gravy was not sold until 1964-2004, and documentary evidence is not
found until later. The restaurant’s owner, Fernand Lachance (1918-2004), is generally credited with naming the dish.]

A dish of chips (French fried potatoes), topped traditionally with cheese curds and gravy.
1982 Toronto Star 24 Mar. C6/2 Two types of poutine can be found in Quebec—regular and Italian-style, made with spaghetti sauce.
1993 Homemaker’s Mag. Mar. 62/2 One school board might be serving poutine, while another might be offering fusilli with tomato sauce.
2000 S. HEIGHTON Shadow Boxer I. vii. 63 Bryon had smashed the bake-dish of poutine against the mural, the pulpy, viscid remains inching down the wall. 

29 May 1957, Toronto Star, pg. 21, col. 6:
Myra (Myra Waldo’s Round the World Cookbook—ed.) has written also about the dandy pork pies we Canadians dearly love (the habitants down east call them “poutine rapee” and they’re absolutely frightful) and the venison of the West, to say nothing of bear, beaver tails, seal flipper pies (Newfoundland) and Oka cheese.  No self-respecting Canadian city table would be without them any more than it would fail to serve crusty, warm, full-bodied country-style bread.

11 April 1981, Toronto Star, “Travel: New Brunswick’s Acadian Village,” pg. G9, col. 5:
When your feet give out you can hop a passing cariolle, pulled by horses or oxen, and when lunch-time rolls around, sample traditional Acadian dishes such as chicken fricot (stew) or poutine rape (a ball of grated cooked potatoes wrapped around a core of meat and gravy).

24 March 1982, Toronto Star, pg. C6 (Food), col. 1:
Fast-food snack combines
cheese, sauce, french fries
MONTREAL (CP)—Although nutritionists may shudder at its starch, fat and salt content, a new fast-food snack is gaining on hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza in Quebec snack bars.

It’s called poutine and it combines french fried potatoes with curds of cheese and hot barbecue sauce.

The recipe is simple.  It starts with freshly-made french fries ladled steaming hot into a large paper cup.  Then a generous spoonful of cheese curds is added and finally a lashing of the hot barbecue sauce.

If correctly made, the best of the (Col. 2—ed.) potatoes and sauce causes the cheese to melt and form sticky tendrils around each french fry.

Poutine, which has been popular for at least five years in southeastern Quebec, is responsible for almost doubling sales of fresh curd over the past two years, says Robert Briscoe, president of Les Fromages Gemme, a Marieville cheese company.

Recently as much as 50 per cent of Briscoe’s curd production has been sold to small snack bars and roadside stands to make into poutine.

Two types of poutine can be found in Quebec—regular and Italian-style,made with spaghetti sauce.

22 March 1996, The Record (Northern New Jersey):
As a biker who rides about 150 miles a week from April to October, I worry about what I put in my body. I fret about fat content of food. I avoid alcohol. I hold my breath when I’m behind a soot-producing diesel truck. If I break down and have a plate of disco fries, I can feel it the next morning. My average time slips. My legs cramp. My head hurts. 

Google Groups: alt.sakte-board
Newsgroups: alt.skate-board
From: (Nancy Whang)
Date: 1996/05/30
Subject: Re: cheese fries (was danielle moves fast)

Max () wrote:
: the best food in the world is cheese fries with gravy.  I know it sounds
: nasty, but if you try it once you will get hooked....
:
: -max

They’re called Disco Fries.  I swear. 

Google Groups: alt.music.hardcore
Newsgroups: alt.music.hardcore
From: (Jnani xnjx)
Date: 1997/03/29
Subject: we saw this boy and his dog kissing

so i invited him to go to the diner, for disco fries. 

Google Groups: rec.toys.action-figures.discuss
Newsgroups: rec.toys.action-figures.discuss
From: don’tspampi...@cloud9.net (Joan Pixie)
Date: 1998/07/27
Subject: Re: RTAFD Made me Toy Crazy!!

Poutine is known as Disco Fries here!  I’m not afraid of your fries! no way!

Google Groups: alt.music.moxy-fruvous
Newsgroups: alt.music.moxy-fruvous
From:
Date: 1998/11/16
Subject: Fruvous junque, Pisco fries, curling Murrmaids etc (sort of a Katonah review)

But the utter highlight of the meal was Jen’s discovery on the menu of a concoction of french fries, gravy, and shredded cheese. (sound familiar??) Well, I had been off at the facility while she
ordered it, but as I returned the waitress placed it in front of her with the comment (I thought) of “here’s your Pisco fries.” To which Bruce said “I guess you’ll have to dance for those.” At which I lost the remainder of my voice laughing, and Jen, discerning why, joined me in yet another Pisco dance.  (yeah, I’ll have fries with that!)

Finally it came clear that the dish was in fact known, for reasons best left unexplored, as Disco Fries. 

Google Groups: rec.toys.action-figures.discuss
Newsgroups: rec.toys.action-figures.discuss
From: don’tspampi...@cloud9.net (Joan Pixie)
Date: 1998/12/25
Subject: Re: rot’n squishy pig

of course, I will play with this while eating poutine.  As i tell everyone, they sell that here, and in the diner on 7th and Ave A, they call it “disco fries” for whatever reason. 

Google Groups: alt.movies
Newsgroups: alt.movies, rec.arts.movies.current-films
From: (Steve Erickson)
Date: 2000/07/05
Subject: Re: Where are popular Canadian movies? 

And several New York restaurants serve poutine under the name “disco fries.”

Google Groups: alt.fan.tom-servo
Newsgroups: alt.fan.tom-servo, alt.religion.kibology, alt.tv.real-world
From: Glenn Knickerbocker
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 16:44:48 GMT
Local: Tues, Apr 17 2001 12:44 pm
Subject: Re: THERE’S INDIAN FOOD IN MY MACARONI & CHEESE!!!!111!!

The Acropolis Diner in Poughkeepsie has a poutine on the menu, but under the most amazing name:
“Disco Fries.”

Google Groups: alt.music.mike-keneally
Newsgroups: alt.music.mike-keneally
From: Mike Puterbaugh
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 07:18:31 GMT
Local: Thurs, Dec 13 2001 3:18 am
Subject: Re: OT: Peanut Butter & Jelly

Even in the year 2001, many diners in New Jersey have a menu item called “disco fries”, which is french fries with brown gravy and melted processed cheese.

Canadophiles will recognize this as a slightly Americanized version of ‘poutine’. 

brooklyndiners
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Disco Fries
In response to a question from reader capurrs: “disco fries” = fries with brown gravy and cheese.
I have seen disco fries defined as fries with cheese only. Alas, no. Fries with cheese only = cheese fries.
The word “fries” looks really weird now that I’ve just typed it a bunch of times.
posted by Sars @ 6:34 PM
(...)
22 Comments:
Jenn said…
The diner I used to go to in Maryland called those hobo fries...and they were amazing.
6:48 PM
Jagosaurus said…
Any idea how “disco” and “hobo” made their ways into these names for the same food item? I can honestly tell you that I almost never associate discos and hobos with each other.
6:57 PM

NorthJersey.com
Wednesday, December 3, 2003
By JASON NOTTE
HERALD NEWS
(...)
I dare you to find decent Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwiches, Italian hot dogs, disco fries or hot Texas wieners anywhere beyond Jersey’s borders.

NorthJersey.com
Food Network show to feature Tick Tock
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
By JEAN STEVENS
HERALD NEWS

CLIFTON—Jolanta Londene of Wanaque hid behind her sport utility vehicle parked in the Tick Tock Diner parking lot Monday night, too nervous to approach a small film crew from the Food Network’s television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,”
(...)
“Why are these called disco fries if they’re in a New Jersey diner?” Fieri asked them.

“Because they’re late-night food,” Nicoles said.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (3) Comments • Thursday, November 01, 2007 • Permalink


NJ just rocks
I remember going to some italian restaurants in NJ where a relative is living and tasting excellent pasta delights there

Posted by Pisco  on  02/20  at  12:13 AM

French fries with cheese melted on top, covered with chicken gravy.Mmmm

Posted by Maria  on  09/20  at  03:17 PM

French fries dipped in garlic sauce, now that’s yum

Posted by James  on  01/03  at  12:52 PM

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