Who doesn’t like fried bread? Indians have puri. Bulgarians have mekitsi. Neapolitans have montanara pizza dough deep-fried then finished in the oven, while their carbivore countrymen up north in Emilia-Romagna are partial to puffy gnocco fritto, served with salumi. And fry bread is such an iconic Native American foodstuff, it was declared the official state bread of South Dakota. Lately, though, the fried bread that has most captured the imaginations of starchy-food aficionados is lángos, the popular Hungarian street food consisting of a ball of dough usually spiked with potato, roughly shaped and flattened out like a lumpy Frisbee, then fried to a crisp and topped like a pizza. Perhaps the most pedigreed version of this substantial snack was introduced at San Francisco’s Bar Tartine a few years ago, where chef Nick Balla gets his potato dough from Chad Robertson’s nearby Tartine Bakery.
In New York, there’s the roaming Langos Truck run by Zsolt Prepuk, a Budapest native and former La Goulue waiter, and Brooklyn’s Korzo lays claim to a novelty burger served not on a Martin’s potato bun but rather sealed in lángos dough and tossed in the deep-fryer. Hot new Manhattan restaurants aren’t immune to fry bread’s universal appeal, either. Inspired by Bar Tartine, Covina chef Tim Cushman devised his own lángos, which he embellishes with smoked salmon, “ranch” kefir, and fennel fronds. At Nix in Greenwich Village, John Fraser gives his Yukon Gold-larded version the full baked-potato treatment with Cabot Cheddar, grated broccoli, scallion, sour cream, and radish. (Ninety percent of the tables order it, he says.) There will even be a potato bread with smoked buttermilk on the menu at Agern, the Nordic-inspired spot opening soon at Grand Central Terminal. There, Icelandic chef Gunnar Gíslason will combine mashed potato and sourdough in a 50/50 ratio, proof it, scoop it, and fry it — a sturdy bite for hardy climates and weary commuters girding themselves for the ride home.
*A version of this article appears in the April 18, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.