My Choice for Top Fry

Emilie Cole

I wouldn't normally associate French fries with baseball, or at least enough to give them too much thought seeing as how the staple food of much critique (and sometimes lament) would obviously be the hot dog. But with so many options at Nats Park, I decided to give them all a whirl and came to a surprising conclusion for Top Fry: Cantina Marina.

Although Boardwalk Fries in the main pavilion would seem to take the blue ribbon -- I mean, the whole reason for its existence is the fry itself. Or maybe it's boardwalks, I dunno -- I was amazed when I ordered from Cantina!

Now, before I go further, I realize that folks like their fries all sorts of different ways: thick-cut/less-fried, skinny/crispy, etc. So I'm not going to try to speak for every fan here, and please feel free to share your opinion.

But the way they do them at Cantina was, in my opinion, perfect: medium-cut fresh potatoes fried to a textured/crispier outside and then sprinkled with seasoned salt that has just the right amount of kick to it. What's more is that they stayed hot and crispy for almost 20 minutes. (I kept having to interrupt my munch-fest due to things such as the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other honoree-type moments where I felt stuffing my face was not so appropriate.) I almost got a second order and did without my usual all-the-way half smoke, and that's saying a lot!

Before I ordered these palatial pommes, I chatted with the gents behind the counter about their business, which, as it turns out, has been going rather slowly so far. I guess the appetite for Cajun crab cakes doesn't really compare with the other Nats Park fare. Additionally, there's a lot of menu crossover, and people are entering the park smack dab in Chili-and-Fry Land. Trekking all the way to the Center Field concourse -- and getting past the Red Porch without getting distracted -- might be adding to Cantina's sales woes. But in this humble fan's opinion, the CM is where it's at for fries, and I hope everyone gets a taste before the principles of supply-and-demand jeopardize the D.C. waterfront stalwart's sister location.

By Emilie Cole  |  May 22, 2008; 12:23 PM ET  | Category:  Emilie Cole , Food
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It ain't just their fries. Cantina is not far from our seats in Sec 223, and they NEVER seem to have a line, even when the line at Five Guys (right next door!) is 20 minutes long. So I've gotten food there the last three games I've been to.

They make their own jumbo-lump crabcakes on site (I saw them doing so the last time I ordered something there; guess they had time to make more, since there was nobody else ordering anything) and also have pretty darn good fish and shrimp tacos, served with pico de gallo and slaw. The crabcakes come with an order of the Cajun fries, but the tacos don't.

My only complaint about the place is that hey don't seem to have a tortilla steamer -- the soft flour tortillas the tacos come in are, well, not quite as soft as I'd like them to be. In fact, they're kind of brittle. Fortunately, the tacos aren't terribly messy.

But it sure beats a Nats Dog -- or a 20-minute wait for a 15,000-calorie burer at Five Guys.

And you pay less for a good-sized, good-tasting crabcake sandwich and an appropriately sized order of near-perfect fries than you would for a burger and a massively outsized order of inferior fries next door.

Haven't tried their gumbo yet, but I've heard it's blander than those of us with Lousiana blood would prefer.

However, that same blood would probably applaud Cantina for offering margaritas alongside their beer options.

Hoping business picks up for Cantina Marina so they don't give up and shut down.

Posted by: Rob | May 22, 2008 12:47 PM

That place is the best! I would never have called myself a corn dog fan, but the cajun ones from Cantina Maria are excellent.

Posted by: Sec314 | May 22, 2008 1:21 PM

Go ahead...enjoy that second order of fries...maybe put a little gravy on top. That'll get the guys chasing you in no time.

Posted by: Mike Sorce | May 22, 2008 1:50 PM

Dude, there's no need to be rude, really. *insert WaPO unfriendly insult here*

Wow, betetr than Five Guys? Humm, I may have to investigate this on Friday.

Posted by: EricS | May 22, 2008 1:56 PM

I have trouble believing there are better fries than Five Guys' in the park. But I'll investigate as well.

Double diss on Mike Sorce's comment. Emilie seems to be the target of a lot of haters, for some reason.

Posted by: Lindemann | May 22, 2008 4:04 PM

Maybe it's because she comes across as a drunk pig.

Posted by: The View from 222 | May 23, 2008 8:15 PM

Does the "Taste of the Majors" concession actually have the garlic fries that they are supposed to have?

Posted by: Natsfan23 | May 24, 2008 11:26 AM

I'll concur on the Cantina Marina fries -- top notch. Good crab cakes too, though a little bland, gonna' have to hit 'em with some hot sauce.

Posted by: OutsideTheLaw | May 27, 2008 11:35 AM

I will admit to not having sampled the other fries in the park, but I think Cantina Marina is terrific too. I'm sorry to hear that its longevity is in doubt because it's my favorite dining spot at the park so far. The gumbo is great by the way. Served in a decent sized cup, reasonably spicy, tasty sausage, with a dollop of rice on top to be mixed in.

Cheers for the good post Emilie. I hope you'll ignore the crass losers who for some reason feel the need to express their immaturity here.

Posted by: Section 222, not the view | May 31, 2008 5:11 PM

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