Comfort Food

4 Portland Spots With Amazing Tater Tots

Tater tots are a true Oregon boon. Here's where to try our favorites.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton Published in the Spring 2021 issue of Portland Monthly

It’s the lone snack second-graders and buzzed bargoers agree on: tater tots. The processed potato cylinders date to 1953, when two potato-farming brothers purchased a freeze-drying plant in Ontario, a town in Eastern Oregon’s Malheur County near the Idaho border (hence the company’s name, Ore-Ida). Determined to squeeze maximum profit out of homely tubers, they recycled leftover pieces of cut-up fries, which they seasoned, formed into short cylinders, and fried. With their alliterative name, tater tots skyrocketed nationwide. Portland is full of salty and sweet indulgences—doughnuts, biscuits and gravy, poutine—but tater tots are truly Oregon born.

The Funky Twist: Bottle Rocket

Think of these tots glazed in spicy fish sauce as the caramel corn of the tater tot world, or maybe a potato-based alternative to the now-defunct Pok Pok chicken wings: crunchy, sticky, sweet, ideal for endlessly popping in your mouth. There’s a hint of funk from the fish sauce and a touch of spice, brightened by fresh mint with crushed pistachios sprinkled on top. 1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd

The No-Nonsense: Fuller’s Burger Shack

Along with old-school burgers, Fuller’s also serves up hot, super-crisp tater tots with a no-nonsense house-made ranch dressing. Call them memories of the ones you ate as a kid—only way better. 10131 NE Cascades Pkwy

The Pound o’ Potatoes: The Doghouse

PDX Lose yourself in a whole pound of tots (your pick of classic potato or sweet potato) and toppings from this SE Division food cart. Our pick is the Naughty in Nogales, loaded with grilled pineapple, jalapeños, bacon, grilled onions galore, a blanket of cheese with griddle-crisped edges, and spicy aioli. 5029 SE Division St

The Cheffy: Malka

The Jolene is Malka’s take on totchos, a tots-meets-nachos subgenre imbued here with the chaotic, creative, dozens-of-ingredients spirit of chef Jessie Aron’s menu. That means classic tots tossed in guajillo-lime salt and red mole to start. Then comes Oaxacan cheese, grated butternut squash, a lime squeeze, a drizzle of crema, and a sprinkling of queso fresco. 4546 SE Division St

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