First there were nachos with potato chips, then nachos with french fries, then nachos with fritos, nachos with latkes, nachos with potato skins, and nachos with any stiff starch food that allows you to transfer toppings from its central mass to your mouth without incident. Now a new nacho is rising in The Emerald City, Seattle, and unlike the leader of the other famous Emerald City, Oz, this seems to be the real deal, a food here to stay. Forget the Pleistocene, forget the Holocene, it appears that we may be entering the Totchocene.
My first experience with Tater Tots, or “Tots”, in Seattle was at the Unicorn bar where they made an excellent amuse-bouche. Part arcade, part bar, part restaurant, part carnival, this was the first time I’d encountered tots in the adult restaurant world, and I liked it. Normally, as a non-child, the only time I consume them was is a little hangover curing dish I call Breakfast Smashup, wherein you take eggs, breakfast sausage patties, and tots, and smash them all together with ketchup to cure what ails you. Eating them in public without the stigma of a hangover however opened a whole new world of possibilities. So tater tot nachos, or totchos, I’m entirely behind that.
While totchos aren’t a creation that fell off the potato cart yesterday or entirely unique to Seattle, somehow the city has become something of a mecca of totchos. With dozens of restaurants around town now serving their own takes on the tot dish, how did this city become the figurehead of the totcho revolution? Could it be location? Could it be hipsters? Or could it be a little of both?
The Tater Tot (Trademark of the Ore-Ida potato company) came into being in 1953 when company founders needed something to do with all the leftover potato slivers created by the rest of their potato products and the name came from a contest within the company when nobody could think of a fitting name for these compressed nuggets of potato nibblins. With the Ore-Ida company located on Oregon’s border with Idaho in America’s potato equivalent of the Bible Belt the potato fever easily spread to surrounding North West states, including Washington. Tater Tots themselves quickly became the choice food of school lunches and cafeterias and worked themselves into the hearts of children and nostalgia of grownups who ate them as children, which brings us to the hipsters.
A Megalopolis is defined as an urban region consisting of several large adjoining cities and suburbs, which makes the word Hipsteropolis describing the area stretching from Corvallis Oregon north to Portland and then up to Olympia and Seattle Washington perfectly cromulent. With their consumption of artisanal craft beers and mixology, drinking among the hipster class and the need for trendy bars to cater to them has increased multiple fold, and what better food than a cool new take on the classic nacho? And by “cool new” I mean “nostalgic”, which is what all the kids want these days to distract them from the day-by-day trudge into the grave. Also on the drinking count, much like the Breakfast Smashup there isn’t anything better after putting back a few Pabst Blue Ribbons than having something cheesy and crispy, plus most tots are also gluten free. Forget acai berries, tots are the true superfood.
So are totchos here to stay? In Hipsteropoli, yes, but how about in the rest of the world? Probably. It may have taken a food product like Sriracha a while to take off, but now it’s the new Red Velvet or Pumpkin Spice, and there’s no reason to expect tots and totchos to not follow a similar course. Not that I’m implying that Taco Bell will be having totchos any time soon, but the dish will probably be coming to at least one bar or restaurant in your area sometime soon.
And what will the next step forward in food nachofication after totchos be? Some kind of cracker nacho? Cucumber nachos? The rumored and whispered chicken nugget Nugcho? Who can say but the future...