Food & Drink

The 12 best tater tots in Chicago

Published On 06/04/2014 Published On 06/04/2014
LEYE

America consumes 70 million pounds of tater tots a year, and approximately 69.3 million of them are mostly crappy -- they're either too "crunchy", too "soggy", or too "not covered in pulled pork, cheese curds, grainy mustard, and a fried egg".

Ensuring you're only eating top-shelf tots going forward, here're Chi's 12 best ones.

Park Tavern

Animal Tots at Park Tavern (click here for address and info)
Near West Side
The tots are topped with pulled pork, cheese curds, grainy mustard, and a fried egg, then covered with Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout gravy. Like God intended them to be.

Suite 25

Incan Tater Tots at Suite 25 (click here for address and info)
Logan Square
It's almost unfair to even call these tots. The giant, hand-mashed tater... balls?... are stuffed with sirloin meat (yes, sirloin), hard-boiled egg, black olive, and onions, and are then pan-fried and served with a mayo pesto sauce.

Brownstone Tavern

Tater Tots at Brownstone Tavern & Grill (click here for address and info)
North Center
No bells, no whistles, no gravy; these are just perfect tots. The outside is incredibly crunchy, while inside the potatoes are silky smooth. And they're always served piping hot (don't say we didn't warn you, roofs-of-mouths).

Aberdeen Tap

Sweet Potato Tots at Aberdeen Tap (click here for address and info)
West Town
Much like DMK's sweet potato fries, Aberdeen takes the seldom fried potato to new, tater-y heights. While most tots thrive under ketchup, these sweet potato tots give you the excuse you really didn't need to go through an entire cup of ranch.

2 Sparrows

House-made Tater Tots at 2 Sparrows (click here for address and info)
Lincoln Park
Handmade, these oversized tubes of glory are finely shredded potatoes wrapped around themselves like the world's most delicious rubber band ball. Bonus: they serve 'em at brunch, too!

Titus Ruscitti

Tater Tots at Skylark (click here for address and info)
Pilsen
The secret behind Skylark's tot game? 1) they frequently change the oil, and 2) they keep them on the extra-crispy side.

Trencherman

Pickle Tots from Trencherman (click here for address and info)
Wicker Park
Most tots on this list have some sort of topping, but the beauty of Trencherman's pickle tots lies within. Before frying, crushed dill pickles are mixed in with the potato hash to create a part-tater tot, part-fried pickle hybrid that they then class up with red onion yogurt, some scallions, and a thin ribbon of chicken breast... because, why not?

LEYE

Buffalo Tots at Bub City (click here for address and info)
River North
Blue cheese. Buffalo sauce. Tots. It's really that easy. Nice glass of tot-complementing whiskey optional. Sorry, "optional".

Nick Biscardi

Tater Tot Pizza at Quenchers Saloon (click here for address and info)
Logan Square
This pizza has tater tots on it (obviously), but also bacon (thank God), green onions, cheddar cheese, and a hint of marinara. Next time NYC tries to say they have the best pizza, punch them in the face. And then give them a slice of this.

Black Rock

Mega Taters at Black Rock (click here for address and info)
North Center
Don't be fooled by the name. The tots themselves are actually standard size, but the 'mega' comes into play with the toppings: a heaping pile of bacon, nacho cheese (!), sour cream, and scallions.

Local Option

Master-Tater Tots at Local Option (click here for address and info)
Lincoln Park
The perfect complement to its collection of rare beer, these tots thrive on their simplicity: they're cooked to perfection with a crispy exterior and a hot/soft interior.

The Rocking Horse

White Truffle Tots at The Rocking Horse (click here for address and info)
Logan Square
The Rocking Horse is one of the few places in Chicago that realizes that adding white truffle aioli, parsley, and Pecorino Romano takes its otherwise-fairly standard tots and turns them into a must-eat side dish.

Colin Joliat is a freelance food and alcohol writer who taught Napoleon Dynamite everything he knows about tots. Follow him @FlintSkinny.

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1. Park Tavern Chicago 1645 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60612 (West Loop)

Park Tavern is a double-decker sports bar well-suited to watching the game thanks to the well-placed flat-screens and a mighty 14ft projection setup. Try not to get sauce all of your face while munching on fried egg 'n pulled pork-laden Animal Tots sporting cheese curds, grainy mustard, and gravy spiked with Bell's Kalamazoo Stout. Beer is obviously aplenty.

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2. 2 Sparrows 553 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Famous for its breakfast, 2 Sparrow serves comfort foods perfect to cure your hangover (we're onto you). Allow the biscuits & gravy, eggs in purgatory, and housemade doughnuts soak up last night's bad decisions.

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3. Skylark 2149 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608

Not only does this dive bar have some of the best tater tots in the area and an awesome beer list -- it's got a photo booth too. Warning: cash only.

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4. The Rocking Horse 2535 N Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60647 (Chicago)

A neighborhood tavern/grille opening tonight from the peeps behind High Dive (boasting yet another painstakingly picked indie-heavy jukebox), TRH is rolling out a menu heavy on the fried app goodness beneath repurposed antique lamps and varied equine-them

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5. Bub City 435 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

Nashville comes to River North through the doors at Lettuce Entertain You’s Bub City, whose award-winning barbecue, 100-plus whiskey labels, and live music can make you forget about that deep Chicago chill. The all-American bar brings the heat from down South with dishes like barbecued brisket (get the burnt ends), fried chicken sandwiches (the Original 8 Buck Cluck is best served with a side of those aforementioned burnt ends), spoonbread, and baby back mac & cheese. To drink, you can sip on anything from a can of Bud to a pour of Pappy Van Winkle himself. Enjoy live country music multiple nights a week, and be prepared for a rowdy dance party.

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6. Quenchers Saloon 2401 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Opened in 1979, this laid-back corner bar on the Bucktown/Logan border was a craft beer bar way before people on the Internet were making lists of good craft beer bars. Because there was no Internet. And, there weren’t really other beer bars. They aren’t really the type to brag that they did it first, though (well, they do call themselves “Chicago’s Original Beer Bar,” but they don’t broadcast it too loudly). They’re too busy maintaining an unassailable tap list, throwing kickass rock shows in the back, and offering kickass-er specials all week. Just because you have great craft beer doesn’t mean people can’t appreciate $1 Blatz and $2 mystery shots.

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7. Black Rock Pub and Kitchen 3614 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (North Center)

This American-style pub boasts a beautiful fireplace, delicious 'tails, and awesome company in the dead of Winter.

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8. Local Option 1102 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

The reverberating heavy metal and serious brew selection here will make you completely forget that just before you entered, you saw a nice-looking couple walking their French bulldog down a sleepy, tree-lined street in Lincoln Park. If you can’t find something you like on draft (highly unlikely), there’s also an impressive bottle selection (the rarer, large-format options included). Really, though, you’d be remiss not to sample at least one of the house-branded options they make at other Midwest breweries (the small dive's big personality doesn't leave enough room for fermentation tanks).

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9. Suite 25 2529 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

The folks behind Rio d'Sudamerica put a Peruvian spin to this second-floor sports bar above Milwaukee Ave with snackage, like Incan Tater Tots (a mashed tater shell that's stuffed with sirloin, olive, 'n onion then pan-fried). Check their website for weekday drink specials.

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10. Brownstone Tavern & Grill 3937 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60613 (North Center)

Bronze fixtures and stained glass might remind you of the idea of a classic brownstone, but we doubt that's what you're going to focus on in this saloon. Your focus will likely be caught by the 16 beers on tap, 40 more in bottles or the slightly upscale American contemporary menu. If that sounds like a bunch of buzz words, think seared ahi tuna, soft pretzels, and sandwiches named after Chicago highlights like "lakeshore Drive".

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11. Aberdeen Tap 440 N Aberdeen St, Chicago, IL 60642 (West Town)

Duck and rabbit sausage, jerk chicken and pork belly grinders are only a few of the offerings at this meat-intensive tavern. The latter comes large, warranting both hands, as do many of the sandwiches here, only another swig to take a swig from one of their taps of the moment.

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