North County, named for the San Diego region famous for fish tacos and other Baja-style beach eats, opened at the end of 2014 in Lowry, where it offers fresh and satisfying seafood and deeply flavored slow-cooked meats, along with an impressive tequila list and bottled boozy sodas made in-house. But one Southern California specialty stands out on the menu: the comfort-food splurge known as carne asada fries. Typically a late-night indulgence, carne asada fries must be built on a foundation of fabulous fries. North County gets these just right, giving the spuds a crisp golden-brown exterior to hold up against a deluge of toppings: a creamy four-cheese queso; a mound of tender, flame-kissed steak grilled over Japanese charcoal; a simple guacamole that hasn't been overly messed with; and a generous coating of crema and cotija. It's a slurry of bold flavors beyond boring old nachos, and if you're in the know, the kitchen will wrap the whole pile up in a flour tortilla for a secret, off-menu California burrito.
Readers' choice: Park Burger