Los Angeles Times

Standout spuds

Whether you say po-tay-to or po-tah-to or prefer them baked, boiled or fried, these taters have what it takes to rise above their side-dish rep and take center plate.

Cafe Iberico
This always-bustling tapas bar features several muy delicioso potato dishes. Our favorites are the patatas bravas, a spicy combination of potatoes and tomato sauce, and the tortilla Espana, a classic potato and egg omelet.

Aria at the Fairmont Hotel
Chef James Wierzelewski loves potatoes and it shows. Every night he prepares three selections from his repertoire of 60-plus recipes and serves them in a trio of cast-iron ramekins. Recent offerings included potatoes roasted with blue cheese and walnuts, and mashed with lobster and tarragon.

This '50s-style Lakeview diner takes taters to a higher level by dousing its toothsome fries with tangy cheese sauce and then adding a generous dollop of guacamole. Don't go for the green stuff? That's OK, there's also a cheese and chili version.

Hot Doug's
What this gourmet sausage spot has done for the hot dog, it has also done for the humble french fry by frying its version in duck fat. But the decadent snack isn't for every day: it's available only on Fridays and Saturdays. Hurry in and get it while it's haute.

Leo's Lunchroom
The secret's out: This eclectic Wicker Park diner serves up some of the best potato salad in the city. Enjoy the mayonnaise-based mixture as a side with one of Leo's overstuffed sandwiches, or buy it by the 2-pound tub and take it home, where you can open lid, insert spoon and indulge.

Eli's The Place for Steak
Cheesecake and steak have made this clubby downtown restaurant a Chicago institution, but it also receives well-deserved acclaim for its potato pancakes. Proudly called "Eli's Famous Potato Pancakes," they come with applesauce and sour cream.

Army & Lou's
Although the sweet potato is not technically a potato at all, it sure looks like one. And it makes a much better pie--just ask the devotees of this South Side soul food joint's fluffy-sweet version.

Michael's Chicago Style Red Hots
This homestyle Highland Park diner makes its potatoes into full-fledged meals by stuffing spuds full of good things. Among the many selections--available whole or halved--are teriyaki steak potatoes, pizza potatoes and chili-cheese potatoes (choices include Swiss, low-fat mozzarella and feta).

Jenny B. Davis is a freelance writer.

Originally published on Jan. 28, 2003.

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