Now the self-made restaurateur wants to introduce Miami to his next-level fry game. A foodie at heart, Bonhorst decided to take his background in technology and consulting for startups to build and scale a concept the same way he would a tech company. The challenge: Take his favorite food, remove the brick-and-mortar aspect, and build a brand based on a 100 percent digital platform.
"As a kid, my fondest memories revolved around food as a child," Bonhorst tells New Times. "Fries were the main attraction. I often ate just French fries and my mother would force me to eat burgers or chicken nuggets or chicken sandwiches, so I obliged but I really only wanted the fries. It was that innate desire of: Why not? Why not fries in a burger? Why not fries in a sandwich? Why not fries as the main course?"
It wasn't until Bonhorst moved to Southern California that he realized his culinary fantasy: French fries served in a burrito, AKA the California burrito.
"From that moment on, I made a promise to myself that one day I would fulfill that dream of letting the world experience everyone's most overlooked and often underappreciated menu item: the French fry," Bonhorst says.
Man vs Fries began as a pop-up out of local restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2018. After successfully selling out dozens of times, Bonhorst opened a ghost kitchen pop-up in East Oakland. Today, the ghost kitchen-based chain makes all manner of fried potatoes, be they seasoned or battered before being topped with carne asada or stuffed into burritos or quesadillas along with Cheetos or Doritos.
Right now, the founder's favorite menu item is the "Flamin' Cali Crunch." As a kid, he says, he loved Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme, so he set out to top it.
"As an adult, I thought I can make a crazier version — bigger, spicier, with no regrets added," he explains. "So that's what I did, and the Cheetos are my cherry — or flame — on top."
At its core, the fast-casual brand is all about elevating French fries to their maximum potential.
"For too long, fries have been the side piece in every culinary relationship," say Bonhorst. "It’s always burgers and fries, or wings and fries. It's never the main course. I want to elevate and evolve it. Man vs Fries is the maximum version of the French fry."
At Man vs Fries, customers can order their fries curly or straight, then decide on toppings. Bonhorst offers a choice of carne asada or pollo asada, with extras like shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, grilled onions, jalapeños, and the house “secret" sauce. Dishes, which are available until they sell out for the day, are priced between $11.95 and $15.50. Desserts cost $6 to $8.95 and include "OMG cookies" (four double-stuffed Oreos battered in Krusteaz Sweet Cream pancake batter and topped with powdered sugar) and fried cheesecake — an NYC-style slice fried in the same batter and served with a side of chocolate.
Looking forward, expect vegan and vegetarian-friendly takes on the restaurant's favorite items. "Fans across the country have been requesting vegan options," Bonhorst says. "So I built them an entire brand — 'Vegan vs Fries' — which will be available in select cities very soon."
"For too long, fries have been the side piece in every culinary relationship. Man vs Fries is the maximum version of the French fry."
Beginning next week, the restaurant will be available to the Miami market for onsite pickup and local delivery via apps including Postmates, UberEats, and DoorDash. Additional cities tapped for expansion include Portland, Seattle, Houston, Austin, and Atlanta.
When it launches in Miami on February 3, Man vs Fries will be the second location Bonhorst has opened in the past several months. The fast-tracked expansion owes its alacrity to the CEO's decision to operate with Miami-based Reef Technology, a company that provides ghost kitchens to virtual brands using modular units sited in parking lots in urban areas.
"From day one, I built Man vs Fries as a delivery-first brand, as a pop-up, and as a ghost kitchen," Bonhorst explains. "I truly believe this is the model of the future. I am blessed to have partners like Reef that allow my creativity to reach neighborhoods far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. Miami has always been a dream city for me. It's arguably one of the best nightlife cities in America, and I hope to add some flavor to the late-night food scene with Man vs Fries."
Man vs Fries. 1420 SW First Court, Miami; manvsfries.com. Open February 3 for delivery and pick-up only.