Atlanta Orders In: Puncho’s loaded fries are inspired by Atlanta’s culture

This order of Old Atlanta fries from Puncho’s Late-Nite Fry Trap are topped by seasoned buffalo chicken, with lemon-pepper sprinkles and ranch dressing. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This order of Old Atlanta fries from Puncho’s Late-Nite Fry Trap are topped by seasoned buffalo chicken, with lemon-pepper sprinkles and ranch dressing. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

When Brandon “Puncho” Williams and Ebony Blanding aren’t working on their latest film — about a Black tween adventurer who discovers a mermaid while on a fishing trip with her father — they sell boxes of loaded french fries out of their home in southwest Atlanta.

Puncho’s Late-Nite Fry Trap — featuring hand-cut fries extravagantly topped with buffalo chicken, shrimp and crab, sprinkled with lemon pepper and Old Bay, and squirted with ranch dressing or Cajun aioli, among other flavors — was born in 2019 out of frustration and ingenuity.

Williams, who grew up in East Point and attended Tri-Cities High School, was weary of chasing film gigs. Summoning the business skills he’d honed over the years, he hatched a french-fry venture inspired by Atlanta culture. When local rapper Real Recognize Rio raved about Puncho’s fries on social media, the fledgling Fry Trap took off.

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The Seafood Shawty from Puncho’s Late-Nite Fry Trap features wild-caught shrimp and crab, sautéed with fresh garlic and herbs, piled on hand-cut fries, and drizzled with Cajun aioli. This serving contains shrimp only. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Seafood Shawty from Puncho’s Late-Nite Fry Trap features wild-caught shrimp and crab, sautéed with fresh garlic and herbs, piled on hand-cut fries, and drizzled with Cajun aioli. This serving contains shrimp only. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

While the partners have hawked their fries at bars in East Atlanta and the Old Fourth Ward, and catered various film and TV productions, they mainly stay anchored at their home on Delevan Street in the Pittsburgh neighborhood.

On Thursdays through Sundays, customers may order online; pay via an app such as Venmo, PayPal or CashApp; send a screenshot as proof of payment; then pull up in front to pick up supper. The owners call this their french-fry speakeasy.

And, they say Puncho’s Old Atlanta, Seafood Shawty and 96 Olympics recipes have been influenced by iconic local institutions, such as Paschal’s, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market and the Varsity, as well as “your corner wing spot” and “the lady down the street” who serves plates of fried fish out of her kitchen.

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“I’d like to think of us as a conserver of history, while being the face of the future,” Williams said.

Added Blanding: “For Black folks from Atlanta, having a sense of ownership of where your home is is really important, particularly in a city that is gentrifying so much.”

Brandon “Puncho” Williams is the co-owner of Puncho’s Late-Nite Fry Trap. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Brandon “Puncho” Williams is the co-owner of Puncho’s Late-Nite Fry Trap. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Even the name of the business is a Black culture reference. As Williams explained it, “trap” is a slang word, meaning “your place of business, or your hustle, so to speak.”

“The idea of trap in music has a whole lot of connotations,” he said. “But, for us, it’s where we sell fries. It’s where we speak fries. It’s where we speak Atlanta. It’s just where we do us.”

Williams, 37, caught the entrepreneurial bug at 15, while working at a McDonald’s near Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. When he got his first paycheck, he noticed it wasn’t from McDonalds, but from a successful Black entrepreneur who had built a portfolio of local McDonald’s franchises. “I realized that was something I wanted,” Williams said. “Since then, I have been on an entrepreneurial path.”

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Blanding, 35, co-founder of the art film company House of June, said running a small business did not come naturally to her.

“I came kicking and screaming on the entrepreneurial side, because I’m such an artist. But, honestly, fries have been a paramount reason of why I’m still able to pursue filmmaking full time,” she said. Her short films include “Levitate Levitate Levitate” and “Ten Leaves Dilated.” Blanding’s latest project is “Jordan,” which her website describes as “a short but epic tale about a curious adventurer and tween girl making a big discovery in a place where fantastical happenings are least expected to everyone but her.”

On the Friday night I ordered my fries, I arrived a bit early, and was greeted by a couple of neighborhood kids who offered to give my car a wash. They had the seal of approval from Puncho’s, which has plugged them on Instagram.

I texted Puncho’s that I had arrived, and, soon, Williams appeared outside with my fries. When I told him I’m a fry addict, he responded: “Well, you’ve come to the right place!”

He suggested that, if I couldn’t wait until I made it home, I should trot across the street, to Pittman Park, and dig in.

PUNCHO’S LATE-NITE FRY TRAP

Menu: loaded fries

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: The Old Atlanta, Seafood Shawty. The fries were good, and quite filling. The Shawty usually includes crab and shrimp, but Puncho’s was out of crab. “Blame it on the food shortage,” co-owner Brandon “Puncho” Williams said. “It’s a real thing.”

Service options: order online for pickup; no dine in; no delivery

Outdoor dining: no

Address, phone: 291 Delevan St. SW, Atlanta; 678-962-7848

Hours: 5:30-10:30 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays; also open Wednesday, June 7; hours are subject to change; check Instagram for updates

Website: eatpunchos.com

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