Ever notice how certain items crop up all of a sudden?
It starts out innocently enough, with a scattering across seemingly dissimilar menus, but then overnight, scads of cheese tea, fuwa fuwa (Japanese soufflé pancakes), and other menu items suddenly require your attention.
The Spotlight is a regular feature highlighting a dish or ingredient that’s taking over the city.
This week: Introducing the dish you didn’t know you needed, Tater Tots.
Tater tots - deep-fried spuds, all crispy on the outside while boasting a hot, fluffy interior - have come and gone on menus for a couple of decades now, but recently have reached a kind of renaissance. After all, when you have finer dining establishments such as STK Toronto and Momofuku’s Kōjin locking it down on their menus, it’s time to take notice.
Here’s a closer look at the deelish comfort food being touted on menus across the 6ix.
Cheap & Cheerful
Budget bites and booze. Brilliant.
Pennies Bar (127 Strachan Ave.)
Their side of taters Hot Potato, Hot Potato is just $4, so you can afford to load it with cheese (add $2) or chili & cheese (add $2). Or the best deal of all, everything - cheese, bacon, jalapeño + sour cream (add $2). Since their drinks are cheap too, it’s one helluva night out for very little.
Everything’s better under a blanket of cheese curds and gravy.
Bannock (401 Bay St.)
The O&B-owned Canadian comfort food resto located at the Hudson Bay's flagship store on Queen West, serves up Pierogi & Tater Tot Poutine ($13) with Ontario curds and chicken gravy. The fusion of spuds alongside cheese and gravy, is sure to deliver all kinds of feels. Ditto for the straight-up fries edition The O.G. ($11), and put-an-egg-on-it Torontréal Smoked Meat ($14).
Prohibition Gastrohouse (40 Eglinton Ave. E. and 696 Queen St. E.)
It doesn’t get much more extreme than this start to your day: Breakfast Poutine ($13.95)* featuring three soft poached eggs, house-smoked bacon lardons, béarnaise, Quebec cheese curds, and TTs done in of all things, duck fat. And if you can down the Redneck Poutine ($16.50/veg $11.95)** of lamb confit, goat cheese curds, chives, truffle oil, duck gravy, red wine & balsamic jus lié atop duck fat tater tots without requiring a nap, you should get a medal. (*only available for brunch, **only available at lunch)
STK Toronto (153 Yorkville Ave.)
No need to choose between your favourite tubers. Have it both ways, thanks to Chef Tommy McHugh’s “Baked Potato” Tater Tot Poutine ($16).
DONE AND DONE
When your two favourite food groups come together.
Rag Doll Eatery (2110 Yonge St.)
Fleetwood Mac ‘N Cheese Tater Tots ($17) from newcomer Rag Doll will no doubt be your go-to this winter. Homemade mac and cheese and hearty covering o ftaters and old cheddar is a brilliant collab, that also happens to be vegetarian. Living your best plant-based life? Order vegan cheese (+$5) instead.
Want just a taste? Look to the apps section for Rag Doll Tots ($8) tossed with house seasoning, shaved parm, fresh garlic and herbs.
GRAB & GO
It’s gonna get messy.
Stuff’D Grilled Cheese & Tots (707 Dundas St. W., Unit 1A)
For fast food options, turn to Stuff’D who specialize in the golden fried morsels. Choose from two classics (Cajun $7, Roasted Garlic $7) and six loaded varieties ranging from $10-$12.
Wahlburgers Toronto (46 Blue Jays Way)
“Poutine-Ize” your tots – Traditional ($5) or Sweet Potato ($5) for an added $2.50 at the famous Boston clan’s outpost.
Light-years from the greasy spoon variety.
The Hogtown Pub & Oysters (633 College St.)
Truffle Tater Tots are a serious bonus when ordering the Slow Roasted Bison Meatloaf Sandwich ($18), seasoned with signature spiced, topped with roasted mushrooms and caramelized onion gravy, all tucked into a brioche bun.
Momofuku Kōjin (190 University Ave.)
Available as a side at lunch only, Chef Paula Navarrete finishes Tater Tots ($12) with a scattering of fried scallions. The optional addition of Spicy Beef Ragu (add $6) is recommended. Think of it as a “Steak Frites” of sorts, though less expensive, and perhaps even more enticing.
Planta (1221 Bay St.)
Swap out the typical nightshade for Brassica, add in truffle almond “Parmesan,” and you get Planta’s elevated vegan rendition: Cauliflower Tots ($10.50).
Note: menu items, ingredients and prices subject to change.