6. The Royal
Hand-made tater tots at the Royal in Berkeley.
4000 Tennyson Street
When you order a burger at Josh Epps's Berkeley hot spot, make sure you give it the royal treatment by adding a side of housemade tater tots. Although this side dish looks more like a nugget than a proper tot, it sings with fried-potato joy. Each one is shaped by hand and cooked properly so that you don't end up with a mouthful of oil — a problem with deep-fried snacks from lesser kitchens. Each order of four or five large balls runs $4.
7. Sam's No. 3
435 South Cherry Street, 303-333-4403
2580 South Havana Street, Aurora, 303-751-0347
1500 Curtis Street, 303-534-1927
Head to one of the three Sam's diners, not for artisan or handmade tater tots — Sam's uses frozen food-service potatoes — but because you can get them on just about anything you desire. That means you can have tater tots over one of more than fifteen skillets on the morning menu, or even sub tots for home fries with any breakfast dish. Then for lunch and dinner, get the spuds to accompany your burger or sandwich. Or, order a side bowl (yes, bowl!) of these fried beauties to dip in the gooey cheese of an enchilada plate, to pair with that grilled trout or to soak up the juices from a steak. There's nowhere else in Denver where the tater tot reigns to such an extent.
The giant tater tots at the new STK downtown.
1550 Market St.
These may be the biggest tater tots in Denver. When they were first delivered to our table, my companion commented, "Are those fried marshmallows?" No, the ping-pong-ball-sized orb is definitely a tot, something that can be confirmed with one bite — and a good one at that. Despite the size, each three-bite spud has a lovely crispness to the outside and a flavorful creaminess on the inside, thanks to a three-cheese mixture of fontal, aged Jack and aged cheddar. Dip your tots in the spicy chile remoulade and you have a winning accoutrement to this new steakhouse's slabs of beef, or the perfect cocktail-soaking bar snack.
9. TAG Burger Bar
Troy Guard's handmade jalapeño-and-chèvre tots at TAG Burger Bar.
1222 Madison St.
When you get a bowl of the jalapeño cheesy tots at this Troy Guard establishment, they look like little buttons rather than the usual cylinders. Don't let that sway you; these piping-hot beauties are true tater tots enhanced with so much more. Each potato-filled bite offers tangy cheese and a spike of spicy jalapeño, a component that grows as you pop them in your mouth. They're almost addictive: Once you start munching, you won't want to stop. Luckily, the generous $5.50 order proves big enough for two, though you might have to order more after they hook you.
10. Zeps Epiq Sandwiches
Salt-and-pepper tots at Zep's Epic Sandwiches.
The tater tots coming out of this awesome sandwich shop aren't fancy. In fact, they're just the standard frozen potatoes that are fried up to order. But what makes them stand out from others comes in the form of added ingredients. Sure, you can opt for regular tots, which come out super-crispy and with a hearty dose of salt and pepper, or you can spike your spuds with a barrage of seasonings. We're talking bacon-jalapeño-cheddar; salt and vinegar; truffle; or Bloody Mary, an option that adds a kick of spicy tomato. Each hearty side, regardless of the add-on, comes for a mere $2.50, so really you don't have an excuse to pass them up.