Tornado Fries serves up an F5 of goodness

July 12, 2011

Parts of the American Midwest are sometimes called “Tornado Alley” but for French fry connoisseurs, a little shop on Rehoboth Avenue in Rehoboth Beach might be the Cape Region’s answer in the form of Tornado Fries.

Tornado Fries came about after businessmen Tom Minio and his son, Tom Jr., saw the original Tornado Fries in Wildwood, N.J. on the Food Network show “Unwrapped.” Inspired, the father-son duo decided to bring Tornado Fries to Rehoboth.

“We saw Tornado Fries the first time on the Food Network. My son Tom brought it to our attention, we ended up doing some research. Actually we ended up taking the ferry over and meeting the owners. We tried to do something a little bit different,” Minio said.

Different is an understatement when it comes to Tornado Fries. The namesake menu item is a combination of the French fry and a veggie skewer. A Russert Idaho potato is put on a skewer and fed into a motorized slicer that cuts the potato into a spiral that is then threaded along the stick. The potato is deep-fried in canola oil and comes out as the Tornado Fry. The fries can be eaten off the skewer like a shish kabob or peeled off one by one.

Customers can flavor their Tornado Fries with 10 seasonings including salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, nacho cheese and movie butter.

Tom Jr. said, “It’s not like a traditional fry.”

Minio said, “The kids love it. It’s just nice and easy to eat and the quality is good”

The other attraction at Tornado Fries is the water ice, a flavored concoction somewhat similar to a snow cone. Flavors include mango, lemon, blueberry and cherry.

Besides reinventing the French fry, Tornado Fries also puts a new spin on the soft pretzel and the hot dog with the fried pretzel and the fried hot dog.

The fried hot dog originated in Clifton, N.J. and was called the “Clifton Splitter, ”Minio said. Unlike a corn dog, the fried hot dog is not battered, but is simply dropped into the canola oil fryer. The result is a hot dog that has the look of a grilled dog but retains the juices that come out on the grill.

“You cook them for about three minutes, the casing gets just a little bit crispy and the inside is just as tender as can be and not greasy at all. It’s really different,” he said.

“It’s totally different than a regular old hot dog,” Tom Jr. said. “It’s fatter, has a little tougher casing but that’s also what makes it split. When you cook it, it kind of cooks inside and then it splits open.”

Tom Jr. said he and his father stumbled across the idea of the fried soft pretzel. He said Tornado Fries hopes to offer the pretzel with nacho cheese and the same seasonings as the tornado fry.

The Minios said they will be gradually adding more menu items as time goes on, such as fried meatballs and deep-fried bananas.

“We’re pretty particular, we don’t have a whole lot of things on our menu, but we want to make sure that what goes out is right. Everything you see is stuff that we were passionate about,” Tom Jr. said.

Tornado Fries is located at 62A Rehoboth Ave. next to First Street Station and is open seven days a week. Click on the video below to watch the “Unwrapped” segment where the Minios first got the idea for Tornado Fries.