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Potato, po-tah-to: a ranking of Oxford potatoes

<p><em><strong>Pulley Diner fries, hash browns and mashed potatoes.</strong></em></p>

Pulley Diner fries, hash browns and mashed potatoes.

Potato, po-tah-to, taters, spuds, murphies — whatever you want to call them, potatoes are easily one of the most versatile and popular ingredients in the country. They’re delicious, so I can definitely understand why people love them so much.

When I say potatoes are well-loved, I mean it. According to the National Potato Council’s 2021 Potato Yearbook (and yes, such a thing does actually exist), almost 18 billion pounds of potatoes were utilized in food service alone in 2021.

Naturally, to live up to the American potato hype, I spent the last two days eating exclusively potatoes in an attempt to rank some of the city’s most signature spuds.

Here were my criteria for which dishes made it into the final ranking:

  1. The potato had to be the main ingredient of the dish.

  2. With the exception of Miami, I would only pick one “signature” potato dish from each restaurant. 

  3. Finally, the most important thing: no chains allowed.

With that, let’s get into the rankings.

8. Pulley Diner — hash browns

A longtime lover of Pulley omelets, I have had these hash browns more times than I can count. So believe me when I say that I didn’t just get a bad batch of them this time — they are pretty much Miami’s worst potato option.

The first bite was warm, but the rest was filled with strange pockets of cold shredded potatoes, which was strange because I had just watched them come off the grill, but is unfortunately pretty much the norm.

One expects crispiness from hash browns, and this is the one category in which Pulley Diner usually delivers — however, this time, the crispy parts were just burned, crunchy and tough. 

The parts that weren’t crispy were just soggy and slightly undercooked, and the whole thing just tasted like potatoes with no seasoning whatsoever. (Good thing potatoes taste good.) They got better when I added an entire packet of salt, but that should never be necessary.

Overall, not Miami’s best showing by a long shot.

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Ranking: 2/10

7. Patterson’s Café — home fries

Let me just preface this by saying that I consider home fries to be cubed potatoes, not shredded, so I was very surprised when I opened the to-go box of Patterson’s home fries to find shredded potatoes. Apparently, that wasn’t a mistake — Patterson’s really does serve shredded home fries.

(The more you know.)

Golden-brown and spotted with little flakes of what I’m pretty sure was pepper, these looked fantastic, if lacking in crispy bits. I assumed they would be very well-seasoned, and I assumed wrong. Much like the hash browns from Pulley Diner, these were very bland and really just tasted like potatoes.

After eating them for a while, though, I found that a nice peppery aftertaste built up as I went on. Plus, they were oodles better when I salted them. So they were seasoned enough, even if I didn’t get that at first.

As for the texture, my first impression was right — these were properly cooked, but not really crunchy or crispy. I feel like they are probably way more delicious when they’re fresh off of the griddle, but all in all, not bad. A decent side.

Ranking: 5/10

Photo by Ames Radwan | The Miami Student

Patterson's home fries.

6. Pulley Diner — mashed potatoes

I love mashed potatoes, personally, and I remember dining hall versions being pretty decent. Pulley Diner’s mash is, however, solidly middle-of-the-road.

For being pretty bland (as Miami food apparently tends to be), the scoop that I got tasted surprisingly good! Maybe that’s just that I’m a mashed potato fan, though.

They were lukewarm — definitely not cold, but could’ve been warmer. The scoop was decently sized and, as is a trend, was better with salt added.

These were okay, but not awesome. There’s not much to say other than that.

Ranking: 6/10

5. Fridge & Pantry — truffle fries

Fridge & Pantry has been a personal favorite since my roommate introduced me to their truffle fries in the fall of 2020, and as a huge truffle fan, I’ve always treated these as a delicacy that are not to be eaten every week. Because, let’s be real, if I didn’t make that rule for myself, I would eat too many potatoes all the time.

If you’ve never had F&P truffle fries, they are humongous, tossed in 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 inside flesh of the fry will somehow escape during the frying process, leaving an empty crispy shell masquerading as a full-bodied fry. The disappointment I felt when I crunched into what looked like a perfect fry, only to discover an impostor, was indescribable.

Some of the fries themselves were sort of soggy — I like squishy fries, but these were almost a little too squishy for me — but they were all piping hot and clearly freshly fried. Overall, yum.

If you’re not a fan of truffles, though, I would avoid these. I will order something off of a menu just because it has truffles on it, and even I get overwhelmed with the richness of the flavor by the end of a basket of F&P truffle fries. These are seriously truffly.

Ranking: 7/10

4. Pulley Diner — French fries

If you’ve ever had French fries at Miami University, you know that the quality of Miami fries varies almost as much as a potato itself can. I personally have had a lot of bad experiences before, especially in dining halls.

The fries I got from Pulley Diner on Tuesday, however, blew me away.

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 squishy for texture variation. Yes, the crispy ones could have been crispier, but at least I can confidently say that some of them were crunchy goodness.

In fact, these were so flavorful on their own that they were actually worse when I added ketchup. This is 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 necessary — a Miami first.

In short, not my favorite fries ever, but probably the best I’ve had from Miami.

Ranking: 8/10

3. Skipper’s Pub — waffle fries

Skipper’s waffle fries are some of my favorite fries on earth, and the batch I got on Tuesday night showed exactly why. Crispy, crunchy and super fresh — so fresh that I literally watched them come out of the fryer, dump into a to-go box, and get handed to me in the span of maybe twenty seconds — these slapped.

The only issue, in my opinion, was the lack of salt. I think a good sprinkle right as the fries came out of the oil would have made them undeniably top tier. 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 did in fact get those. They’re like a little snack after the snack. Don’t judge me — these fries are just that good.

All in all, the waffle fries were absolutely delicious, but no trip to Skipper’s will ever live up to the first time trying these delectable criss-cuts. 

Ranking: 9/10

Photo by Ames Radwan | The Miami Student

Skipper's waffle fries.

2. Steinkeller — potato pancakes

Holy. Steins.

When I came into making this list, I did not expect Steinkeller to have such a strong showing. But they came very, very close to topping the ranking with their potato pancakes.

The huge portion of two thick pancakes, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, was a perfect size considering that it is technically an appetizer. Again, like Skipper’s, the dish was piping hot and clearly fresh.

They were well-seasoned, too, with chives and scallions visibly folded into the pancakes before cooking. Even better, they’re served with applesauce and sour cream, which I grew up eating with potato pancakes, so that transported me back to my childhood.

My only critique was that the outside crust got less crispy as I went on, but that first bite was absolute heaven. There’s no doubt about it. I will be returning for these potato pancakes again and again and again.

Ranking: 9.5/10

Photo by Ames Radwan | The Miami Student

Steinkeller potato pancakes.

1. Dividends — baked potato soup

This soup actually inspired me to write this article, simply so I could profess my love for it.

Not only is the Miami dining hall/Dividends baked potato soup my favorite Miami food, but it is also my favorite potato food, ever. This is the only dish that can ever tempt me into a dining hall anymore.

Creamy, but with chunks of potato for fullness; this soup is nothing if not cheesy, salty goodness. 

Overcome with love for this soup, I actually wrote to Miami to get the recipe last summer. I made it myself at home, but it will never be the same as Miami’s. 

I could write an ode to this soup in my sleep. Everyone around me is tired of hearing about it. 

Please, Miami, I beg of you, have this more often at Dividends so I can buy it. Or, better yet, just sell it by the gallon.

Ranking: 10/10

A last, closing side-note: I’m not going to eat another potato for at least a week, but man, these were amazing. I’ll be trying them all again in the future.

Just not all at once.