How Disco Fries Became A New Jersey Late-Night Staple

New Jersey is the diner capital of the world, and based on the legendary culinary offerings, it's easy to see why. Among the most popular diner fare is a late-night staple that was named after the club parties of the 1970s, disco fries. Disco fries are a delightful mound of crispy fries covered in gooey mozzarella cheese and topped with brown gravy, making them the ultimate party snack at 2 a.m. after dancing away the night. The gravy melts the cheese and blends the flavors together, similar to a French dip.

Disco fries were popular throughout the early 1980s but had a resurgence in the 1990s, and they have grown to new heights recently, thanks to TikTok. There may be fancy new ingredients like Gruyere cheese, beef stock, and tahini yogurt, but this humble concoction owes its roots to the Garden State. Ironically, in a state known for its diner fare, these fries are served everywhere, but no one knows exactly where they come from or what era. While disco fries have become well known over the last few decades, local lore says that they were actually invented in the late 1940s.

Disco fries history

Many attribute the roots of this late-night party snack to the Tick Tock Diner, an all-night diner near the club scene in Clifton, New Jersey (ironic considering the new TikTok resurgence), which opened in 1948. Also known as gravy or diner fries, the traditional recipe calls for crinkle-cut fries, though some diners substitute the fries with steak or waffle fries. American cheese can also be substituted, but nothing compares to the original.

This irresistible mashup of fried goodness is sometimes confused with poutine, but the Garden State has put its own signature on the fries, and no one is complaining. While the Canadian diner fare is similar, they use cheese curds instead of melted cheese. Disco fries have deservedly earned their place among New Jersey's most famous creations, like saltwater taffy and the Italian hot dog. They are served by themselves or as a side dish to the Reuben. And, no surprise, many late-night revelers enjoy them with an ice-cold beer.