The Country’s Top Tater Tots Slideshow
Up on the 12th floor of the Marines' Memorial Club is an unassuming steakhouse that happens to serve some of the country's best tater tots. The Leatherneck Steakhouses truffle tater tots more closely resemble mini-churro bites than tots, but one bite of this truffle-infused goodness and youre bound to forget all about that $31 prime rib. Might as well just get two orders of tots.
Yelp/ Heather G
This tiki bar is known for its wide assortment of tropical-inspired drinks, gut-busting appetizers, and pizzas, but there's one item lurking on the menu that piqued our interest: the Astro Tots. These bad boys are topped with a mound of sharp Cheddar and a nice helping of Southern-style sausage gravy. The menu claims that they're calorie-free, but that remains unverified.
Flickr/ Pretty Daisies
This dark, divey bar opened in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood in 2003, and quickly earned a reputation as one of the city's top destinations for fried food. Their fried chicken breast sandwich is stellar, as is their fried cod sandwich, and ask anyone who's ever been there and they'll tell you that the menu's real standout is the tots. These arent house-made or smothered in macaroni and cheese or pulled pork; theyre simply the Platonic ideal of what a tot should be, and cost only $3.50. Perfectly crispy, not too greasy, piled high, and served alongside honey mustard, ranch, and barbecue sauce, these tots are groan-inducingly good, even when eaten "naked."
Chef Dale Talde is a creative wizard in the kitchen, as anyone who's seen him on Top Chef or eaten at his eponymous Brooklyn restaurant will know. But he decided to go lowbrow with his second restaurant endeavor, to great effect. The tots at his Park Slope "roadhouse," Pork Slope, are fried to perfection and topped with smoky pulled pork, brisket, chili, brisket, an egg, cheese, bacon, or any combination of the above. Bacon, egg, and cheese tots for breakfast? Why not!
Once you get into fine-dining, house-made territory, the tot game changes. No more gimmicks, just epicurean artwork. And if it's listed on the menu in French, then more power to it. The Croquettes de Porc et Pommes de Terre at chef Daniel Boulud's famed Bar Boulud are little bites of porky, potato-y goodness. Whereas most tots are held together by flour or potato starch, these ones use gelatin from rendered-down pigs' ears, lending the tot a sublimely porky intensity. Served with caramelized onions and spicy ketchup, these tots hit all the right notes, and are well-worth the $14 price tag.
This ancient Midtown Manhattan bar spawned five other locations across the country and even down into Brazil, and their burgers and fries helped to put them on the map. A lesser-known star menu item, though, is their tater tots, made in-house. These aren't just gussied-up croquettes, either; they're the real deal. Some Parmesan cheese is added to the mix, and they're given a dusting of Parm and parsley before being brought to the table alongside smoky tomato ketchup. Who needs fries when these are an option?
If you know Grant Achatz, of Alinea fame, you know that he's nothing short of a food genius. At his cocktail bar, called The Aviary, he gives cocktails and bar food the Alinea treatment, and the results are nothing short of mind-blowing. The simple Moscow Mule, for example, becomes an extravaganza of ginger lime snow, pickled lime zest, thinly sliced chiles, and a sidecar of shiso vodka, and chips and guacamole become tubes of pressed cornmeal, topped with a dollop of sour cream and chile and filled with avocado cream. So what does Achatz have up his sleeve for tater tots? Listed on the menu as simply "Potato," these are square morsels of potato utopia, infused with malt vinegar and topped with chopped chives. The science behind this tot is still a mystery (and believe us, theres some real science at work here) but the result is creamy, super-crunchy, fried potato heaven.
Flickr/ Renee S
The Nook's claim to fame is its Bloody Best, a 32-ounce Bloody Mary loaded with pepperoncini, jalapeos, a hard-boiled egg, toast, steak, and, yes, tater tots. This meal in a glass isnt the only place that tots make an appearance, though; there are five individual varieties of "Totchos" on their menu, including Mac Daddy Totchos (mac and cheese and beef chili), Buffalo Chicken Totchos (chicken, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and scallions), and Redneck Totchos (smoked pork, Coke barbecue sauce, jalapeos, and cheese sauce). And these aren't just skimpy toppings; the tots are completely smothered, and the results are far from gimmicky; these creations are undoubtedly delicious.
If you're feeling particularly insane, you can order any of these "Macho"-style, meaning that your order will weigh about 5 pounds. Finish the whole thing and your photo goes up on their Wall of Fame, but if youd prefer to eat your 5 pounds of Loaded PoTotchos in the privacy of your own home, they'll also deliver it anywhere in the country. This place is certifiably nuts.
This duo of hot dog shops in Manhattan's East Village and Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood is best known for their insane array of hot dog toppings (bacon-wrapped, deep-fried, and topped with baked beans, pineapple, and cheese? Go for it), but their perfectly fried tater tots, served in a foil-lined paper boat, are quite possibly a better vessel for the toppings than even the hot dogs. Egg, bacon, Taylor ham, cheese sauce, chili, pineapple, avocado; the possibilities are endless. And if you happen to be in the East Village location, pick up the phone in the phone booth and see what happens.
Roaming the campus of Temple University is The Tot Cart, possibly the most awesome thing that can appear after a night of heavy drinking. A proprietary cheese sauce (called, what else, Drunk Cheese) is the preferred topping, but wing sauce and blue cheese, Old Bay, and garlic and Parmesan are also offered, along with a rotating list of specials.
The Tot Cart
Named after a movie with one of history's greatest car chases, San Francisco's Bullitt is a small, dark, stylish bar thats seemingly perpetually packed. Snag a place to sit, though, because you'll want to work your way through their Tater Tot Bar. Thats right: their menu boasts an entire tot section. Sweet potato tots, garlic tots, truffle tots, bacon-blue cheese tots, mac and cheese tots, even the famous Tot-Chos, topped with nachos fixings, are all available here. Save the Mac and Cheese Bar for another day.