It’s thawed, fried and slung in a basket—unless it’s one of these crazy- culinary takes on bar snacks, conveniently served at craft beer havens.
FRIES: For hundreds of years, nobody dared attempt to improve on poutine—because how does one perfect perfection? The answer: Chicken Tikka Poutine at L.A.’s beer-meets-Bombay-street-food Indian gastropub, Badmaash. First, golden, house-cut fries—not too crispy, not too mushy—get a sprinkle of masala spice. Then a layer of cheese curds. Then a ladle of beef gravy. Then a heap of tandoori chicken. Then a Drake’s 1500 Pale Ale, or maybe a Kingfisher to be totally authentic about it. Then, Nirvana.
ONION RINGS: Onion “slices” as big as your head are apple-wood-and-hop-smoked (yes, smoked!) at Seattle’s Maritime Pacific Brewing before a bath in Jolly Roger Ale batter and a panko shower.
POTATO SKINS: It’s a toss-up between the meaty skins at Ballantine Gastropub in Willoughby, Ohio—stacked with braised beef, aged gouda and pickled jalapeños, kissed by crème fraiche—or the oh-so-Cali crab/bacon/ asparagus/Hollandaise tater boats at Fat Dog in L.A.
BAR MIX: Stale nuts and soggy pretzels are sacrilege at Mikro in Hamden, Conn., where the bar bowl’s a savory mix of crunchy malted barley, currants, wasabi peas, smoked almonds, pretzel chips and peanuts.
CHIPS: Potato crisps meet pork rinds (kind of?) at Meddlesome Moth in Dallas, where the chicharron of choice is Chicken Skin Chips—the best part of the bird fried crunchy, drizzled with spicy-sweet glaze and crowned with blue cheese.
TATER TOTS: At Boston bar The Lower Depths, tots are literally put on a silver platter: The Supreme platter is crispy tots topped with blue cheese, caramelized onions and a balsamic reduction; the Chili Cheese version has heaps of chili (made with Coffeehouse Porter) and beer cheese.
PRETZELS: Heritage Public House in Santa Rosa, Calif., puts close-to-home spins on its bar knots; there’s Lagunitas Sucks imperial IPA in the dough, and sesame seeds sprinkled on top. The twists come with Stone Smoked IPA honey Dijon the bar makes in-house.
POPCORN: Yes, there’s bacon—huge, crispy hunks of bacon—in the popcorn at Wisteria Southern Gastropub in Morganton, N.C. French espelette pepper and smoked sea salt take the flavor beyond the meat.