Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Trader Joe's Trader Potato Tots

Xerox. Kleenex. Scotch Tape. These are all pretty commonly known, pretty commonly used terms we use that are actually trademarked brand names. Like, somebody asks you for a Kleenex, and you know to pass them a tissue, whether it's that brand name or not.

But tater tots?

Excuse me, I mean Tater Tots™.

Yes, Ore-Ida actually trademarked the term Tater Tots™ to refer to those little, crispy, semi-greasy, hot, salty, irresistible cylindrical logs of tasty, potatoey goodness known by any good red-white-and-blue-blooded kid ever subjected to cafeteria food in the past fifty years. And to most adults, too. I have yet to find anyone who doesn't like a good, heaping serving of tots, and if I were to find someone, I'd assume they either grew up in a cave on the moon or were a Cyborg. Most likely, both.

Anyways, that trademarking thing is a little unfair sometimes, I think. For instance, Trader Joe's wants to make Tater Tots™, and can't call them that for legal reasons, although they are universally colloquially known as such in the parlance of our times. So they have to come up with another name and the best they can do is "Trader Potato Tots." Yeah, try saying that five times fast (it's even tougher with your mouth full of them). So many things wrong with that name. I mean, what else would you make a tot out of that would lead you to specify it was made from a potato? I've never heard of a broccoli tot or kumquat tot or carrot tot or anything like that. I'm fine with "tater tot" because it's natural and easy to say; "potato tot" is not. And do I want to know what a "trader potato" is? For some reason that conjures up the image of a potato made out of tofu to me, which I don't think is possible (and may be more technically a "traitor potato"), which just isn't right. Don't mess with the goodness of a potato, especially in one of its finest incarnations as a tot. The best alternative for a name I can think of is Trader Tots, though I'm a pharmacy technician and not a trademark lawyer, so I don't know if that's consider too closely named to Tater Tots™.

Anyways, forget all that and let's start chomping. And chomping. And (I wish) more chomping. Needless to say, Sandy and I love these. We usually bake them up (if we had a deep fryer, we'd deep fry everything, even bacon) and plow them down as soon as they're cool enough to bite on down. They seem pretty much unsalted, so sometimes we sprinkle some on, or douse them with a little hot sauce. Sometimes, we just grab them by the handful and mash them on down the trachea. That's usually the nights we make them after going to the gym. The only thing semi-negative thing about them is, Sandy and I have been trying to watch what we eat, and we figure portion control is a good thing, so we try to eat only one serving of whatever we eat. According to the nutrition label, one serving of these guys is only ten tots! Find me anyone, other than my wife and a crotchety, stingy blue-haired cafeteria lady, who thinks eating only ten tots is a good idea. Impossible. If Trader Joe said I could eat more on the label, then I would be allowed. Sigh. On the plus side, you get a two pound bag for only about $2, which at our consumption rate makes them last a while, though certainly not by my choice.

I'm not describing much about what they taste like, because imagine an ideal, good, tasty tot, and yup, that what these taste like. Tots are a classic taste that's so comforting, so good, and honestly, so hard to mess up. Kinda like meatloaf in that regard, though I've had bad meatloaf (never yours, Mom or Megan), and have never ever had a bad tot. So our ranking reflects more of our general feeling towards tater tots .... which is total love. Five from the Mrs and you can take five from me ... uh, Sandy, I'm talking about Golden Spoons, you cannot take half of my allotted tots, you give those back right now! Sandy!!!!!

Bottom line: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. The only thing better than Tator Tots in my book are BETTER Tator Tots. These are on my want-to-buy-on-my-next-trip list. Thanks!

  2. I've had these many times and they are just yummy! Best tots I've had in ahwile.

  3. For what it's worth, that same trademark law is what keeps me from opening a store called "Trader Joe's" at every truck stop, selling crappy food at high prices, and therefore confusing people about whether this "Trader Joe's" they've been hearing about is actually any good.

    But they're damned good tots.

  4. Good point, Matthew. Damned good indeed.

  5. If I approached food the way I did when I was 16, I would eat these and nothing else forever.

  6. I was just about to tell you to try these and review them. They were SO FREAKING GOOD!

  7. I like the name they gave it, I dont know why you meandered on about that for what seemed like eons.. I think it pays homage to the fact a lot of people in this age of health consciousness tend to recreate traditional dishes with alternate, low fat/sugar/whatever ingredients. Maybe I can make zuchinni tots. Or pumpkin tots. I dont know, but it leaves that possibility open. Maybe tjs themselves could be the ones to offer that variety in store! And the "traders" part of it I think is a nice touch as well, because just like the "taters" do they want their personal mark on it that everyone knows and adores. A trader potato would be one that is exquisite, non-GMO and beyond your wildest dreams. I appreciate the name. In fact, I would go as far to say I love it after all that assaying