They're a cross between a French fry and a baked potato, with a crisp outer shell and a mushy center texture. They're served hot, often sizzling from being submerged in a pot of oil. Tater tots have been around for more than 50 years, and to no surprise, Americans consume an absurd amount of them: 70 million pounds per year, to be exact. That's a lot of tots.
Invented by frozen-foods company Ore-Ida, the first tot was recorded in 1953. It's said they were created as a means for scraps of potato and misshapen fries left over from French-fry production, which explains their irregular chipped outer appearance. Now, they're as common as sides of fries, with fast-food locales, burger joints, and even high-end eateries offering their spins on the bite-sized side dish.
Made from deep-frying potato scraps, they can be made in a variety of different flavors and ways. From traditional-style using regular potatoes to sweet potato and loaded versions filled with cheese and bacon, there's a tot for everyone. But what all tots have in common is that they're usually the size of a large grape, giving eaters a slew of ways to munch on them: Use them as a side to an entrée, or stick them inside a burger or sandwich to add some crunch. Whether you're a die-hard tot eater or just looking for something tasty to snack on, Broward has enough tots to go around.
650 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-462-0088, or visit shuck-n-dive.com.
Nearly everything on Shuck-N-Dive's menu is fried. Fried chicken, fish, pickles, and tater tots. The eatery is best-known for its New Orleans-style char-broiled oysters, fried crawfish, and crawfish étouffée, and its tater tots ($4.99) serve as the perfect counterpart. They're deep-fried and served as a side to any entrée on the menu. Though they're more basic compared to the others on the list, sometimes simpler is better.
4. Steak 954
401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-414-8333, or visit steak954.com.
Stephen Starr's Steak 954, located inside the W Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach, is known for its lavish raw bar and large steak and meat entrées. But what often goes under the radar is its tater tots ($11). They're served in a large pile as a side dish and ooze oil. They're a nice refresher, compared to traditional French fry, mashed potato, and potato gratin dishes.
3. Dim Ssäm á GoGo Food Truck
Creamy cheese, slow-braised beef, and tater tots, all in one. Dim Ssäm á GoGo, Sakaya Kitchen's food truck counterpart, has created the ultimate loaded tot dish. Creamy cheese sauce is drizzled over a mountain of tots, then drenched in sweet, spicy Kalbi marinated beef, slow-braised until practically falling apart. And just a tip: You might want to grab a fork and a stack of napkins before conquering the Asian-fusion truck's beloved plate. Priced at $7.99, order it as an entrée for one or share it as a side with friends. Follow the Dim Ssäm á GoGo truck on Facebook for its latest whereabouts.
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2. Pincho Factory
155 N. Hiatus Road, Pembroke Pines. Call 786-405-1475, or visit pinchofactory.com.
At the newly opened Pincho Factory in Pembroke Pines, tater tots are on the menu. As the first location outside of Miami-Dade County, Pincho Factory is bringing its Latin-inspired cuisine, unique burgers, pinchos, and signature sweet potato tots up north. They're made like a regular tot but use sweet potato instead of regular potato. They're $3.99 for a mountain of them, and for an added 75 cents, you can get a serving of apple butter on the side.
208 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-7656, or visit rokbrgr.com.
At Rok:Brgr in downtown Fort Lauderdale, comfort food is the main attraction. From burgers to grilled cheese, its famous mac ’n' cheese, and a bevy of fries and rings, its menu has a little of everything. Also available are loaded tater tots, paired well with an over-the-top burger like the morning glory or black ’n' bleu. The tots ($8) come in a rectangle-shaped tray, with cheddar cheese covering nearly every inch. Smoked bacon and sour creme are added on top for extra flavor.
Follow Clarissa Buch on Twitter.