Potatoes have long played a supporting role on menus, rounding out entrées in varying forms: mashed, scalloped, roasted, twice baked, to name just a few. But the humble spud has moved from side dish to center stage recently, with potato-topped sandwiches appearing on menus worldwide.
As beef, pork and produce prices surge in global markets, operators are looking for cost-friendly alternatives when rolling out limited-time offers. Enter the potato, a versatile starch if there ever was one. It can be dressed up or down. Different preparation styles—such as crosscut fries or hash brown patties—can target a variety of tastes, from premium to indulgent. While it certainly isn’t a new idea, the potato-topped sandwich looks to be enjoying a moment in the sun.
In Mexico, Burger King is offering Crisscut Burger and Crisscut Tendergrill sandwiches, both topped with crosscut fries, as part of its Crisscut Fest promotion. These thick-cut waffle fries have proved to be a popular topping and base in the Mexican market: Carl’s Jr. recently offered Crisscut Nachos Guacamole topped with chili, guacamole, jalapeño, cheese and salsa.
Burger King’s Crisscut Fest in Mexico
Also in Mexico, Vips introduced its own variation on the potato-topped sandwich by stuffing potatoes and chorizo inside a browned tortilla. The lunch appetizer was part of the chain’s limited-time World Cup-themed menu.
The Asia-Pacific market is also no stranger to potato-topped sandwiches, where chains regularly experiment with burger garnishes and ingredients to appeal to consumers’ demand for premium limited-time offerings. While rice continues to be a major staple of Asian and Indian diets, potatoes serve as an accessible launch pad for global operators wanting to “Americanize” a sandwich, or regionalize with local flavors and spices.
Examples in the Asia-Pacific market include Lotteria’s new burger range topped with hash brown patties in Japan and Burger King’s Double Beef burger loaded with Golden Potato Crunch (fried shoestring potatoes) in Malaysia. KFC offers the Tower Burger in Australia, featuring a hash brown patty on top of an Original Recipe chicken breast with tomato sauce, cheese, lettuce and sweet mayo. The Big Daddy at KFCs in the U.K. also has hash browns in its build.
Lotteria’s hash-brown burgers in Japan
Last summer, we saw McDonald’s offer mashed potato-topped Black and White Burgers in Hong Kong, an eye-catching pair of LTOs. Now we’re seeing this idea tested in the U.S. too, with Carl’s Jr. recent trial of Mashers burgers and chicken sandwiches, which feature a scoop of garlic mashed potatoes with brown truffle gravy and crispy onion strings. Jack in the Box is also testing its own hearty potato-topped sandwich: the breakfast-meets-dinner Chick-N-Tater Melt, a crispy chicken filet topped with a hash brown patty, Swiss cheese, bacon, and cheese and ranch sauces on a croissant.
Carl’s Jr. Mashers Burger
McDonald’s Black and White Burgers in Hong Kong, 2013
Regional fast-casual and casual-dining restaurants in North America are also rolling out their own variations on potato-topped burgers featuring poutine, Canada’s celebrated comfort food of fries, cheese curds and gravy. Vancouver chain Triple O’s limited-time Poutine Burger is made with a Canadian beef patty, bacon, thick-cut french fries, cheese curds, gravy and chipotle mayo. Spritzburger in Chicago and Milwaukee Burger Co. in Eau Claire, WI, both offer the poutine burger as part of their regular menus.
Triple O’s Poutine Burger in Canada
And in one final ode to potatoes, restaurateur Phil Romano, creator of Fuddruckers and Romano’s Macaroni recently opened an all-potato concept in Dallas called Potato Flats. Customers order open-faced baked potato sandwiches, made from specially flattened baked potatoes, which can then be topped with the meat, veggies and toppings of their choice.
If this build-your-own-potato concept is successful, we may be seeing a lot more of the potato—in all kinds of variants—in the future.