Nikki is hungry - her text urges me to "...hurry, I'm in the little shop above Hugo's and I'm starving..." I park, traverse the wintry street scene, and enter the shop, stomping and shaking off the cold just in time to hear the store owner compliment my fiend's long, shaggy, fabulous coat. Great - impromptu fashion flattery means only one thing. Fifteen minutes later we exit with hands full of bags.
We descend the stairs - the screen door slams behind us - the restaurant is crowded - there's a wait list, so we decide to pony up to the bar - I have every intention of ordering a drink even though it's 12:25pm on a Tuesday - seems rude not to. I order an Ozark APA as we shed our coats, scarves, and hats and adhere them to our stools and under bar hooks. Hugo's is a godsend, chock full of cramped locals - it's loud, warm, and familiar. The bartender is slightly aloof and tired, perfect - she orders a horrible, watery domestic beer.
I order a basket of their iconic fries - with malt vinegar. Don't forget the fucking malt vinegar, hipster, slightly aloof, yawning bartender. We chat and sip our beers as the local, huddled masses clap us on the back, wink, and inadvertently bump into us - my Russian fur cap stays atop my head - with furrowed brow she tells me I look "..homeless with that hat..."
The fries arrive - piled high and steaming on parchment - it's her first time so she watches as I cover our basket with salty malt vinegar, then position a small, white ceramic plate with a large pool of ketchup - the first fry is not only sans ketchup, and dripping with vinegar, but also the deepest - hot, salty, crispy skin with creamy interior that releases more steamy heat - I spend the next ten seconds simultaneously exhaling and speaking because the top of my mouth is a millisecond from being blistered - but I don't care - it's part of the process, the ritual, the algorithm for attaining culinary nirvana in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My friend with the pink hair and shaggy white coat painlessly contends "...my God, these are incredible..." No shit - these are Hugo's Fries!