Potato, po-tah-to: a classification of potatoes from Oxford
Potatoes, po-tah-to, taters, spuds, murphies – whatever you call them, potatoes are easily one of the most versatile and popular ingredients in the country. They are delicious, so I can definitely understand why people love them so much.
When I say potatoes are loved, I mean it. According to the National Potato Council Potato Yearbook 2021 (and yes, such a thing actually exists), nearly 18 billion pounds of potatoes were used in foodservice alone in 2021.
Naturally, to live up to the American potato hype, I’ve spent the last two days eating potatoes exclusively in an effort to rank some of the city’s most iconic potatoes.
Here are my criteria for which dishes entered the final ranking:
The potato was to be the main ingredient of the dish.
With the exception of Miami, I would choose only one “signature” potato dish at each restaurant.
Finally, the most important: no channels allowed.
With that, let’s get into the rankings.
8. Pulley Diner — hash browns
A lifelong lover of Pulley omelettes, I’ve had these hash browns more times than I can count. So trust me when I say I didn’t just have a bad batch of these this time around – they’re pretty much the worst potato option in Miami.
The first bite was hot, but the rest was filled with odd pockets of cold grated potatoes, which was odd because I had correct watched them come off the grill, but unfortunately that’s pretty much the norm.
The hash browns are expected to be crispy, and that’s the only category Pulley Diner usually delivers in – however, this time the crispy parts were just burnt, crunchy and tough.
The parts that weren’t crispy were just soggy and slightly undercooked, and the whole thing just tasted like potatoes without any seasoning. (Lucky the potatoes taste good.) They got better when I added a whole packet of salt, but that should never be necessary.
All in all, it’s not Miami’s best performance by far.
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7. Patterson’s Café — homemade fries
Let me preface this by saying that I consider home fries to be cubed potatoes, not grated, so I was very surprised when I opened Patterson’s home fries takeout box to find some apples grated earth. Apparently that wasn’t a mistake – Patterson does serve shredded home fries.
(The more you know.)
Golden brown and speckled with little flakes of what I’m sure were pepper, these looked fantastic, if missing some crispy bits. I assumed they would be very well seasoned, and I assumed they weren’t. Much like the hash browns from Pulley Diner, they were very bland and really tasted like potatoes.
After eating them for a while, however, I found that a nice peppery aftertaste built up the longer I continued. Also, they were much better when I salted them. So they were seasoned enough, although I didn’t realize that at first.
As for the texture, my first impression was good – these were well cooked, but not overly crunchy or crispy. I feel like they’re probably a lot tastier when fresh off the griddle, but overall not bad. A decent side.
6. Pulley Diner — mashed potatoes
I love mashed potatoes, personally, and I remember the dining room versions being pretty decent. Pulley Diner’s mash is solidly in between, however.
For being fairly bland (as Miami food apparently tends to be), the scoop I had was surprisingly good! Maybe it’s just that I’m a fan of mashed potatoes, though.
They were lukewarm – definitely not cold, but could have been hotter. The spoon was a decent size and, as is the trend, tasted better with added salt.
These were okay, but not great. There’s not much to say other than that.
5. Fridge and pantry — truffle fries
Fridge & Pantry has been a personal favorite ever since my roommate introduced me to his truffle fries in the fall of 2020, and as a huge fan of truffles, I’ve always treated them as a delicacy that shouldn’t be eaten. every week. Because, let’s face it, if I didn’t make this rule, I would be eating too many potatoes all the time.
If you’ve never had F&P truffle fries, they’re huge, tossed with cheese and herbs and served in a gigantic portion that usually takes me two days to finish. This time did not disappoint.
My least favorite thing about these fries is that sometimes the inner flesh of the fry somehow escapes during the frying process, leaving an empty crispy shell being made pass for a full-bodied fry. The disappointment I felt when I bit into what looked like a perfect fry, only to discover an impostor, was indescribable.
Some of the fries themselves were a little soggy – I like spongy fries, but they were almost a bit too spongy for me – but they were all piping hot and clearly freshly fried. Overall, yum.
If you’re not a truffle lover, I would avoid them. I’ll order something off a menu just because it has truffles in it, and even I’m overwhelmed by the richness of flavor at the end of a basket of F&P truffle fries. These are seriously truffle.
4. Pulley Diner — fries
If you’ve ever eaten fries at the University of Miami, you know that the quality of Miami fries varies almost as much as a potato itself. Personally, I’ve had a lot of bad experiences before, especially in dining rooms.
The fries I received from Pulley Diner on Tuesday, however, blew my mind.
They were delicious, and I don’t use that word lightly. The fries were hot, salty and fresh with a good combination of crispy and spongy to vary the texture. Yes, the crispies could have been crispier, but at least I can say with confidence that some of them were crispy.
In fact, these were so tasty on their own that they were actually worse when I added ketchup. It’s not something I ever say. My mother often has to remind me that “ketchup is a condiment, not a food group”, and yet I finished these fries with no ketchup needed – a first in Miami.
In short, not my favorite fries, but probably the best I’ve had in Miami.
3. Skipper’s Pub — waffle fries
Skipper’s waffle fries are some of my favorite fries on earth, and the batch I received Tuesday night showed exactly why. Crispy, crunchy and super fresh – so fresh that I literally watched them come out of the air fryer, toss them into a takeout box and hand them to me in the space of maybe twenty seconds – these were slap in the face.
The only problem, in my opinion, was the lack of salt. I think a good pinch just as the fries came out of the oil would have undeniably made them top notch. The ketchup helped, in this case.
My favorite part of Skipper’s fries is the little crumbs they leave on your fingers, and, as always, I actually got them. They are like a little snack after snack. Don’t judge me, these fries are just good.
Overall, the waffle fries were absolutely delicious, but no trip to Skipper will ever live up to the first time trying these delicious criss-cross cuts.
2. Steinkeller — potato pancakes
When I got to making this list, I didn’t expect Steinkeller to perform so well. But they came very, very close to the top of the rankings with their hash browns.
The huge serving of two thick pancakes, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, was a perfect size considering it’s technically an appetizer. Again, like at Skipper, the dish was piping hot and clearly chilled.
They were also well seasoned, with chives and scallions visibly tucked into the pancakes before cooking. Best of all, they’re served with applesauce and sour cream, which I grew up eating with hash browns, which took me back to my childhood.
My only criticism was that the outer crust got less crispy as it went on, but that first bite was absolute heaven. There is no doubt about it. I will come back again and again for these potato pancakes.
1. Dividends — baked potato soup
This soup actually inspired me to write this article, just so I could profess my love for it.
Not only is Miami Dining / Dividends Baked Potato Soup my favorite Miami food, it’s also my favorite potato food, ever. It’s the only dish that can still tempt me in a dining room.
Creamy, but with potato chunks for fullness; this soup is nothing but cheese and salty goodness.
Overwhelmed with love for this soup, I actually wrote to Miami to get the recipe last summer. I did it myself at home, but it will never be the same as Miami again.
I could write an ode to this soup in my sleep. Everyone around me is tired of hearing about it.
Please, Miami, I’m begging you, pick this up more often at Dividends so I can buy it. Or, better yet, just sell it by the gallon.
One final closing note: I won’t be eating another potato for at least a week, but man, this was amazing. I will try them all again in the future.
But not all at once.