For months, passersby on Union Street kept an eye affixed to number 33 with a casual curiosity at the renovation happening behind closed doors. These doors were flung open on March 1, and Bostonians were delighted to see something new—a gourmet fry shop that seeks to restore the reputation of a much-maligned Euro treat.
Perhaps you’re aware that french fries are not actually French, but Belgian. When the Doughboys encountered them in the First World War, they inexplicably labeled the “frites” according to the language of the people they saw eat them, not their country of origin. Belgian fries differ from the typical fast food variety in way they are cooked: double fried in such a way to make them crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They’re also cut thicker, freshly made and never frozen. Finally, as John Travolta kvetched about in Pulp Fiction, they like the mayo.
But, back to Saus. The décor of the Government Center space does the best it can to convey a Belgian sensibility, mixing modern, clean-lined elements with colorful, framed cartoon strips and a collage of black-and-white photos of Boston and Belgium. Overall, the modernity stands in pleasant contrast to the red bricks and dark woods of the surrounding businesses.
To order, just step up to the counter at the back and choose one of three sizes: petite ($4), regular ($5.50) or Belgian ($7). The last will easily fill two people, or three if you’re pursuing modest portions. Next, choose your dipping sauces. You get one for free, but let’s be honest—you’ll probably need more. That’s half the fun of Saus. We chose four off the list of staples and specials ($0.75 each): the Cheddar and Duvel Ale, Truffle Ketchup, Red Pepper and Ranch I‘d Like to Frite (or RILF). The fries themselves are definitely a breed apart—a delicate yet firm blend of potato that’s more than you might expect.
As for the sauces, portions may seem small at first, but the richness of ingredients makes them difficult to finish. First place goes the truffle ketchup—loaded with that succulence of the world’s most admired fungus. The Cheddar/Duvel takes the silver—pungent with its actual cheese curds; then the Ranch—a find for butter lovers; and finally, red pepper—ambitious, but not as “acropolicious” as advertised.
The restaurant’s other dish is that other famous Belgian favorite—the waffle ($3.50). We ordered ours slathered in Nutella and powdered sugar. Despite the extreme sweetness, it was nonetheless refreshing to taste the attention and care put into the handmade iteration that no machine can replicate. And that’s part of which makes Saus endearing; it’s real people trying to promote real food to a real hungry community.
Drink This: To temper the richness, a beverage is a must. If you’re a fan of old-timey sodas, you’ll love a bottle of Virgil’s root beer ($2.25). All-natural and micro-brewed, this is the Ben and Jerry’s of soda.
Eat This: Your best bet is the truffle ketchup, hands down. It’s hard to beat a good truffle-shuffle.
Sit Here: With a relatively small interior, the best seat is clearly the high table near the front window. You might have to share, but you’ll take in plenty of sun and people to watch.
Conversation piece: The framed comics feature Belgian boy hero Tintin, and are great fun to read even if you don’t speak the language. You get ‘em, Snowy.