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OUT TO EAT / Great dishes, drinks and people

Tater tots pack a punch

At some Irish pubs, people look forward to the pint as much as the food. It's long been that way at the Blackthorn Restaurant (2134 Seneca St., 825-9327), though the jalapeno cheddar tater tots are giving the frosty pints of Guinness a run for their money.

Four tots ($3) will have you swearing off french fries for good. They also come with house favorites like the Firehouse Burger, Pub Sandwich or the Triple D Platter -- as in the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," which featured the restaurant in 2010.

Made with potatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, seeded and chopped jalapenos and seasoned with kosher salt and white pepper, the cheesy tots are too large to eat in one bite.

They're offered as a substitute with sandwiches, but owner Pat Lalley said that option has his staff working as much as 30 hours per week to make them, and the tots -- the invention of former chef Billy Anderson -- call for 50 pounds of potatoes each week.

"Trying to keep up is a bear," Lalley said. But as far as restaurant problems go, that's a good one to have.

-- Charlie Specht