Sunday, June 15, 2008

'Show us your tots!' . . .

Newport Bar & Grill bartenders Emily Wells (from left) and Brian Trombley accept the Golden Tot trophy from Tater Tot Trot founders Amy Murray and Sheri Piecuch. (Photo: Derrek Hull)

. . . was the tagline used to hook in four of the Southport Cooridor's watering holes for one of the quirkiest pub crawls ever.

Tater tot enthusiasts—or better yet AmbassatatersAmy Murray and Sheri Piecuch created the Tater Tot Trot in 2007 to celebrate a friend's birthday. In one evening they went from bar to bar in search of the best tater tots in town.

For the 2008 event, held on Saturday, they stepped it up a notch by creating a ballot, awarding the Golden Tot trophy to the winning bar and attracting more than 60 people—two of who came from as far as South Carolina and Kentucky just to join in on the festivities.

The theme was Rock the Tot, in honor of the election season, and participants judged tater tots on such criteria as presentation (variety of dipping sauces, quantity), taste (crispiness, texture, flavor, freshness) and bar/staff ("tot friendly," service, atmosphere). The featured pubs along the crawl were Newport Bar & Grill, Southport Lanes & Billiards, Schoolyard Tap and Messner's Wrigelyville, who all offered drink specials.

But it was Newport Bar & Grill, a divey neighborhood spot best known for its adjacent Laundromat, who went all out for the contest, offering free tater tots (always GOOD to bribe the people!), creating tot-centric signage and schmoozing with guests. It was no surprise that they easily nabbed the Golden Tot trophy, but they also had some of the tastiest tots on the crawl, as most of the guests raved about their Cajun-flavored potato bites that complemented the burgers and sandwiches.

The best moment of the night?! Right before the winner was announced, co-founder Sheri Piecuch made a joke about R&B star and Chicago native R. Kelly, who was just acquitted on all charges of child pornography.

"Too bad R. Kelly wasn't here to celebrate," she told the crowd. "You know how much he loves the tots!"