I need to get something off my chest. My name is Peter S., and I’m … I’m a Filet-O-Fish-aholic.
Yeah, yeah. I’m down with slow food, organic food, local farms — all the good stuff a progressive urbanite is supposed to embrace in 2014. I read Fast Food Nation in college and swore off the Whoppers, Big Montanas, Chilitos, and extra-large sodas that sustained me through high school. As a touring musician, I’ve driven past the innumerable high-density CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) off Interstate 5 in California; the miles of sad cattle, apocalyptic shit lagoons, and aggressive stench that should make anyone swear off a Big Mac forever.
And yet, I am powerless when it comes to the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. It is, I rationalize, the best¹ choice by far when it comes to a menu fraught — more than any other, perhaps — with all the stickiest agri-political wickets. I simply enjoy a fresh² Filet-O-Fish at times. What’s so bad about that? I will even go out of my way for one, on occasion. For those of you who are woefully unaware, a Filet-O-Fish sandwich is composed of a perfect square of “100% wild-caught Alaskan Pollock responsibly sourced from an MSC [Marine Stewardship Council]-certified sustainable fishery” (according to the McDonald’s website). It’s deep-fried, topped with a slice of pasteurized-processed cheese and a healthy³ dollop of tartar sauce, and tucked into a steamed, soft white bun. It’s good. Really damn good. Do you doubt me? Then hie thee to the nearest looming set of Golden Arches – you’re probably within ketchup-packet squirting distance of one right now — and try one. I’ll wait.
Thus it was with great delight that upon a recent visit to the so-new-the-paint-is-still-wet Tiny Diner in south Minneapolis I had an ecstatic experience. Billed as Brandade Tater Tots on the menu, these are tots unlike any you’ve had before. First, though: what’s brandade? Brandade is a traditional French preparation of salt cod emulsified with potatoes and olive oil. It’s a winning combination — The Kenwood featured a brandade appetizer on a recent menu, served with crostini. Think ethereally light mashed potatoes studded with bits of salted fish. Creamy, slightly fishy, filling, comforting. These Brandade Tater Tots are all of that, but in dippable tot form. There aren’t many of the largish cylinders on the plate, but they’re plenty filling; and they’re served with a side of deliciously herby sauce that has the unmistakable tang of dill pickles. The end result of this alchemy is a flavor so incredibly similar to a Filet-O-Fish, I almost shrieked out loud. Trust me. Like a crime boss poking his switchblade into a bag of cocaine to test the merchandise, I know the good stuff.
Somehow, these tots — the product of responsibly sourced ingredients, crafted by a decorated chef in a restaurant with its own frickin’ solar array and a permaculture philosophy — taste exactly like a Filet-O-Fish. It’s magical. When I need my fix, and when I need it guilt-free, I’ll be heading to the Tiny Diner for a plate of these brandade tots.
 You know what I mean.
 See above.
 See above.
Gastro-diner in Powderhorn Minneapolis
1024 E 38th St
Minneapolis, MN 55407
OWNER: Kim Bartmann
Farmers Market: Thursdays through September from 4-7:30pm
BAR: Beer + Wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $7-36
PARKING: Small lot, ample street parking