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Hash browns versus breakfast potatoes

A Chicago writer decides which potatoes have her heart: hash browns or home fries.


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Hash browns and breakfast potatoes: The two have been battling for my love a long time. The humble hash browns lure me with their nostalgic simplicity, but the (usually) spicier breakfast potatoes (a.k.a. home fries) seduce me with their seasoning. I’ve wavered between the two my whole life. But I’ve only got so much love to go around, so I set out to choose a winner.

My affair started at Vella Cafe (1912 N Western Ave, 773-489-7777), with its scallion-dusted new potatoes ($2.75). The still-intact red skin gave way to a mashed-potato-like interior, and I swooned. Advantage: breakfast potatoes.

Still holding out for hash browns, I ordered a plateful at Ramova Grill (3510 S Halsted St, 773-847-9058). This Bridgeport diner’s been around since 1929, and its hash browns ($1.35) are as classic as the place itself: crisp, lightly browned, salty enough to counter syrup-covered pancakes. My optimism was restored; the game was now tied.

Then Army & Lou’s (422 E 75th St, 773-483-3100) potatoes came along, crispy-edged hunks specked with onion bits and seasoned perfectly with paprika, garlic powder and salt. One bite and I knew I was falling. Breakfast potatoes: 2. Hash browns: 1.

Then I called in the big guns: the “killer” namesake potatoes at Hashbrowns (731 W Maxwell St, 312-226-8000), dense with cheese and sour cream with a supercrunchy cornflake roof on top ($4.75). Delicious, yet the antithesis of tradition. I couldn’t give them my heart.

Thus the game was pretty much over by the time I tried the brown-edged, soft-middled, fresh-red-pepper-and-onion-dotted breakfast potatoes ($2.25) at m.henry (5707 N Clark St, 773-561-1600). But I couldn’t help myself. I’ve given myself to breakfast potatoes now; I have no choice but to eat them.

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