The tot is hot these days, my friends. The classic fried shredded potato cylinder, born in the frozen-food 1950s, has been dusted with flavors and spices. Madison's new tater-tot-centric cart is called Pots-n-Tots, serving eight different flavors of perfectly crisp tater tots and sandwiches made with slow-cooked meats.
That useful kitchen accessory the crock pot, where cook and owner Rob Kratochwill slow-cooks his meats, is the source of the "pots" of the cart title. Although it could also refer to Kratochwill's preferred sandwich filling -- "I like pot roast," he confesses.
Kratochwill begins his meat preps at 9 p.m. the evening before serving and they go low and slow for ten hours for a rich, Midwestern take on shredded sandwich fillings. In addition to the homey pot roast with gravy sandwich, there's pulled pork and shredded chicken available, each with three flavor options (naked, barbecue, or Cajun) on a sturdy bun.
The tots come in two serving sizes with choice of flavorings including "Volcanic Explosion," Cajun, taco, barbecue, onion/dill, parmesan/garlic, ranch, and cinnamon. The sweet cinnamon tots have been a hit, says Kratochwill, and he plans to come up with more sweet toppings. All of the spice dustings he mixes himself.
Providing comfort food was Kratochwill's goal as he dreamed up the cart. The Wisconsin Dells native has lived in Madison for over a decade working in various culinary jobs. He and his dad, an art instructor at Madison College, painted the bright and funny murals on the side of the custom-made cart -- takeoffs on Van Gogh and Grant Wood paintings, and an op-art portrait of legendary tater tot fan Napoleon Dynamite. The cart debuted May 15, and provides updates about specials on its Facebook page.
Pots-n-Tots vends at 1025 W. Johnson in front of Educational Sciences from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays Kratochwill notes that this site, with the building's steps and overhangs, has a ready-made rain-friendly seating area.
As this is a space in the southeast campus vending area, Pots-n-Tots has not had to participate in the city's cart ranking system, which helps determine cart placement on the Library Mall and Capitol Square.
Library Mall construction has displaced some of that area's usual carts, but those remaining have settled in on East Campus Mall near the University Club and on N. Lake Street on the side of Memorial Library.
In addition to Pots-n-Tots, frequently vending in the Southeast Campus Vending Area this summer have been Thai's Cuisine at W. Dayton and N. Charter, Saigon Sandwich at N. Charter and W. Johnson, and Gili's Paninis on University Avenue in front of Grainger Hall.