Tater tots aren't just for kids; plenty of chefs have elevated the dish into a work of potato perfection. Of course, just because you can have truffle-laced tots or tots enhanced with cheese and bacon, that doesn't mean a good ol' classic tater tot is passe. These ten restaurants and bars offer an array of spectacular spuds, from high-end, housemade masterpieces you might find cuddling up to a wagyu steak to out-of-the-bag frozen beauties that get fried and go perfectly with a pile of eggs or a greasy burger. No matter how you like them, there's a tot for everybody, even one that doesn't have any potato at all. So take this 2017 tater-tot tour and rediscover a childhood favorite both at old-school joints and new eateries.
1. Bacon Social House
Bacon tots at Bacon Social House.
2434 West 44th Avenue
It may not surprise you to find out that the tater tots on chef Brian Crow's swine-themed menu contain the namesake item. That's right, there's bacon buried in the tots, along with a hearty dose of cheddar cheese. Each nugget is a little bigger than your average tot, and the size does well to hold in all of that potato-porky-cheesy goodness. Dip your dish in a side of chipotle ranch for a little smoky creaminess and consider the meal complete. Get a big order to share for $9 or simply garnish your entree with a $3 side; either way, you'll leave Sunnyside happy.
2. Carbon Cafe & Bar
Hangover Cure tots at Carbon.
1553 Platte Street
As expected from an eatery that caters to the stoner crowd, Carbon's housemade tater tots aren't merely a simple dish of fried potatoes. Here the downtown spot builds a pot of loaded tots: just like nachos, only with tots instead of tortilla chips. Named the Hangover Tots, each $10 order comes with green chile, white cheddar, shredded pork, guacamole and cilantro yogurt. Eat them fast, because the longer you let the mess on top sit, the more your once-crispy tots will lose that pleasing crunch, and let's be honest — who wants that?
3. Fire on the Mountain
A basket of sweet-potato tots from Fire on the Mountain.
3801 West 32nd Avenue
Sweet-potato tots are totally a thing, and although this Highland wing joint buys its tots frozen and in a bag, they still taste amazing. Each little orange ball has a crackling crust and light, candied dusting that come from nothing more than natural sugars caramelizing during frying. You don't need a lick of ketchup or any other sauce to enjoy this side dish; just order one of the many beers on tap — perhaps a stout to play off the sweetness of the tots. Orders come in small, medium and large, starting at $4.
4. Highland Tavern
Highland Tavern's reuben sandwich with a side of handcrafted tater tots.
3400 Navajo Street
The kitchen at this LoHi staple has been churning out the same tasty homemade tots for the past eight years. That means that the guys behind this decade-old neighborhood joint — owners Brian Sommatino and Andy Stutz — know what they're doing. Heck, you can even buy a cute T-shirt commemorating the Tavern Tots. To make these famous spuds, the chef treats the potato like a hash brown and spices it up with garlic, onion powder, cayenne pepper and a dash of tamari. Then each little plug gets deep fried and served with your choice of blue cheese or ranch (and BBQ sauce, if you ask nicely). Get a large, $7 order for the whole table or, for $2, you can sub out your fries. It's well worth the up-charge to try something so deliciously classic.
5. Jill’s Restaurant and Bistro
The tater-tot appetizer at Jill's Bistro in Boulder is far from standard bar food.
900 Walnut Street, Boulder
Much to the delight of the customers and guests at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa
, chef Laurent Mechin fries up these cheese-and-potato dream tots every day and serves them with truffle aioli. "They under-promise and over-deliver, and they’re simply delicious and addictive," the chef says, adding that this appetizer has graced the menu since the restaurant opened in 2005. That was before Mechin joined the team, but because he and the diners like them so much, they have remained a staple. To get the tots so smooth and creamy, the cooks rice the peeled russet potatoes and gently fold in free-range eggs, gluten-free flour and Grana Padano, a regional Italian cheese similar to Parmegiano-Reggiano. You can get them for $7.95 an order to eat solo or with any of the main courses.
Keep reading for more of the best tots in town...