Scott Nelowet spent 20 years as an educator but decided that he wanted to branch out into the food business. While on a trip to Europe with his wife, Nelowet saw that Belgian fry stands and herring stands were everywhere.
“I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel but bring something back to the States that was working well over there,” Nelowet says.
He launched his Belgian-style loaded fry business at a vegan festival, where he concocted a vegan cheese sauce that festival goers loved. Nelowet outsold all of the other food booths at the festival and did a few others to get experience under his belt.
He launched French Fry Heaven
as a snack brand in Jacksonville, Fla. in Fall 2011. It featured frozen fries and a variety of toppings and succeeded as such in shopping malls. But he wanted to think bigger.
“I got together a group of consultants who suggested that we get out of malls and do everything fresh,” Nelowet says. “So that’s what we did.”
French Fry Heaven’s menu now features fresh hand-cut fries, potato chips and baked potatoes that are topped with a slew of toppings, sauces and salts, all of which are sourced from local produce and made fresh in-house.
The restaurant at U-Square adjacent to the University of Cincinnati is about 2,600 square feet and features an expansive dining room as well as a to-go and delivery option. Menu highlights include the Buffalo Chicken, Garlic Chicken Parmesan and Pulled Pork, which is smoked in-house and topped with jalapenos and French Fry Heaven’s homemade cheese sauce. And it’s not all French fries — they’re also known for chicken tenders and smoothies.
You can customize any dish with any of French Fry Heaven’s 20 different dips and sea salt add-ons, including the spiciest option: a ghost pepper salt.
There’s a separate vegetarian menu that replaces the meat with cheese curds, which Nelowet says has the same flavor profile as the meat but within their dietary restrictions.
“Cincinnati will be the birthplace of the new French Fry Heaven,” Nelowet says.
From here, he hopes to franchise locations all across the country and revamp the existing snack stand locations to include this new menu. Many of the restaurants will feature a local craft beer list, but because Ohio's beer license and liquor license are one and the same Nelowet chose not to offer alcohol at the Cincinnati location.
French Fry Heaven is open 11 a.m.-3 a.m. daily at 206 Calhoun St.