When hash browns are great, they’re really great. When hash browns are bad, they’re really, really bad. We tracked down the 10 best restaurant hash browns in America, and the results will have you dreaming about them for days to come.
Hash browns are harder to perfect than you may think. To make a proper plate of hash browns, shred potatoes (preferably russet), rinse them several times to remove excess starch, then dry them of any excess moisture — squeezing them firmly to wring them out if necessary. (Some cooks boil the potatoes whole first and then firm them up in ice water or in the refrigerator before shredding.) They then need to be seasoned and fried in a pan or on a griddle — preferably in clarified butter — until they’re golden brown and delicious. Leave them in for too long and they burn; make them too thick and they can be raw in the middle; don’t drain them enough and you end up with a soggy mess.
For this ranking, we defined hash browns in the most traditional sense: The potatoes needed to be shredded and fried on a griddle or in a pan, not deep-fried like a giant Tater Tot (cough McDonald’s cough). When chunks of potatoes are fried, even if it’s in the same manner, you’ve got home fries, not hash browns. Great hash browns should also be one cohesive unit, bonded together by a deep golden crust, not scattered into a pile of quasi-mushy potatoes.
In order to assemble our ranking, we tracked down non-chain restaurants that have attracted a legion of devotees who’ve made their obsession with said restaurant’s hash browns known online. Because ours is the first national online roundup of America’s best hash browns, there were no pre-existing rankings to consult, so we did a deep dive into the breakfast spot scene in America and found that some restaurants’ hash browns rise to the top. Keep in mind that we’re judging restaurants based on the hash browns themselves, not the variety of add-ons and toppings that go atop them.
These hash browns are crispy and crunchy on the outside but soft in the middle, perfectly seasoned, not greasy, and are just as tasty when eaten on their own as they are when complemented by eggs and bacon. Hash browns sometimes get the short end of the stick on the breakfast menu — folks don’t give breakfast potatoes enough credit, or they’re jaded by mushy home fries and fast food hash browns. If you find yourself in that camp, these 10 restaurants will completely restore your faith in breakfast potatoes.
#10 The Pan, Gardena, Calif.
Breakfast dishes and pan pizza are a weird combo for a restaurant to specialize in, but it all makes sense at The Pan. For just two bucks you can get a side order of perfect hash browns, which are thin and crispy and definitively good. But, even though we said we weren't judging add-ons, if you want the full hash brown experience here, you’ll order them loaded, topped with two eggs any style, bacon, sausage, green onions, Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and chile aïoli. It’s rich and insanely comforting.
#9 Sunset Junction Coffee Shop, Los Angeles
This unassuming Sunset Boulevard neighborhood diner is beloved for its all-day breakfast menu, anchored by dishes like biscuits and gravy, huevos rancheros, and corned beef hash. Their hash browns are a must-order, treat, however; they’re hand-formed patties that crunch spectacularly as you cut into them, and they’re so crispy and well-seasoned that a sprinkling of chives is all they need. Ordering them “fully loaded” with Cheddar cheese, avocado, sour cream, and pico de gallo doesn’t hurt in the least, though.