The Mid-Atlantic Potato Chip Throwdown: “Who’s Who”

All things considered, we’ve had quite a week here on GrubGrade.com.  Not only did we experience pure sweet potato nirvana in a fried form (Route 11 Potato Chips, read our review here), but we even managed to arrive at some semblance of a consensus as to which Mid-Atlantic chip company makes the best potato chip.  All of this, of course, without our fearless leader Ryan, who along with Bear Silber was last seen fleeing Los Angeles in a ’94 Bronco while claiming to have invented a “Chalupizza” that even this guy would have trouble downing.

Before we reveal the “final” results of Tuesday’s Throwdown, let me emphasize that the testers more or less enjoyed all the chips tasted, with the notable exception of Sample 3, which sucked. We’re not hoity-toity “experts” here people, and (outside of maybe myself) we’re not going to make up some metaphysical conceit touting the perceived advantages of a “naturally crisp Idaho spud with a subtle yet full bodied flavor that comes from organic French sea salt and pure cottonseed oil.”  With that being said, giddyup…

“Sample 1″=Herr’s

herrsFinal Score:  7.66 (Good)

Nobody in our group was very familiar with Herr’s chips, which might be why most of us guessed that these were Lay’s brand chips to begin with.  We all really liked this chip, and the brand gets my personal recommendation as well.  These are just good solid potato chips with an above average flavor, texture, and a nice cover of salt which isn’t as skimpy as some other brands.  I’ve raved about Herr’s products before, and have yet to buy something from this company which I haven’t enjoyed.

Final Verdict: I’d Buy ‘em

“Sample 2″=Utz

utzFinal Score: 5.83 (Medicore)

This was the big shocker for everyone in the group (including myself) who had pegged the Utz chips we all grew up on as being Sample #1 or Sample #4 (our highest scoring chips.)  I don’t know whether or not the bag we tasted from just happened to be sitting around too long or what, but we all sort of felt like these chips we’re “just OK” and didn’t have much flavor.  Frankly, I think this is because we were trying to be too “official” in our tasting, and didn’t properly enjoy the chips as they are supposed to be enjoyed – that is to say we didn’t just stuff our faces with these things.  Coincidentally, I tasted some Utz Kettle Chips for the first time yesterday, and loved them. While the company did not come up with the best showing in our test, they nevertheless produce a plethora of chips which I would suggest, including their unique Carolina BBQ chips.

Final Verdict:Procure’ them from a friend’s house, then buy more as needed

“Sample 3″=Martin’s

martinsFinal Score: 4.33 (Poor)

We’ve been saying it all along; these chips were horrible.  They tasted old, they had little potato flavor, and they would have received a score of -2.7 had it not been for their surprisingly sturdy and enjoyable crunch.  I, along with the rest of the team, would not recommend even looking at these in the snack food aisle, much less spending money on them.

Final Verdict: Avoid at all costs

“Sample 4″=Route 11

route11-pc-lsFinal Score: 6.16 (Average)

These chips were good – if not otherwise divisive – because of their uniqueness. As I said the other day, they really aren’t your standard, cheap-and-massed-produced kind of chips, and probably more aptly fit the ‘kettle cooked’ definition of a chip. I’ve raved about Route 11′s flavored chips before, but I think the concept of a regular, ‘minimalist’ chip that is ‘lightly salted’ may just have been a little too extreme for those belonging to the age bracket that our tasters fall into.  Still, knowing some of the old farts who read this blog, I’d definitely recommend these if you can find them.

Final Verdict: Try first, then stock up if enjoyed

“Sample 5″=Lays

lays_classicFinal Score: 7.50 (Good)

I’ll be honest with you in that I came into this experiment somewhat hoping the national brand of chips would come out below all the local chips.  It’s not that I hate Frito-Lay, but I just resent the fact that every major “national” snack brand seems to belong to the company.  That being said I have to admit these chips were good.  They are, like one of our taste testers said, “what I think of when I think of a chip.” Because of a stubborn and not-quite-accurate ideal of chip makers like Utz and Herr’s employing only the finest in Amish labor I will probably continue to buy Utz and Herr’s chips over Lays, although I’ll gladly concede to a bag if out of my Mid-Atlantic comfort zone.

Final Verdict: I’d Buy ‘em (If on sale and out of the Mid-Atlantic)

A Note on Price

If cost is an issue, I would recommend Utz.  I’ve often encountered their 3.75 oz bags for only a buck or so, which beats anything else I’ve seen.  That is except for Martin’s, but we’re not going to touch that again…

Your Thoughts?

Think we got it wrong when it comes to Potato chips?  Hit the comment button and let us know!

13 comments on “The Mid-Atlantic Potato Chip Throwdown: “Who’s Who”

  1. Hahaha, now I’ve really got to make a a “Chalupizza”. There’s this local Mexican place here that has this amazing sauce, the “Orange Sauce” …(it’s orange)…better known as “The Crack Sauce”. I’ve always wanted to make a pizza with it as the base.

    Getting to the chips…it seems that people get accustomed to what they were raised on or what they’ve eaten the most. I bet if you did a national tasting of chocolates most people would prefer Hershey’s over high-end brands…they’re familiar with it that’s why. Same thing with peanut butter….or mustard…or catsup…or on and on. I’m sure there are WAY better versions of most of the things out there but people like eating things that remind them of growing up…or “mom’s cooking”, etc.

  2. Adam says:

    @Bear-
    Usually I would agree, but the fact that UTZ was not the clear winner makes me question that assumption.

  3. Keith says:

    Perhaps it’s due to some home-town allegiances (Martin’s is in my backyard) I have to say that Martin’s Kettle Cooked chips are fantastic. Yes, I agree their original chip are nasty. Not sure where the disconnect is, but their flagship is definitely the kettle cooked.

    Of course that’s a whole different style of chip; I think Lay’s even has a kettle cooked variety now. I believe Utz’s kettle cooked variety is still cooked in lard.

    Ah, gotta love Central Pennsylvanians and their obsession with salt and fat.

  4. Ryan says:

    Maybe it’s just me but it’s difficult to relate to this throwdown because I can’t remember the last time I went for this sort of potato chip. If it’s going to be a plain jane potato chip, I’ll usually get the ruffled variety. The thicker ruffled chip is essential for what I’ll do with a plain potato chip…dip it into some Helluva Good French Onion Dip.
    If dips aren’t involved, my goto chips are Doritos and probably one of the best chips ever made, Utz Kettle Classics Smokin’ Sweet BBQ Flavored Potato Chips. They are amazing.

    Great throwdown though Adam…I’ll make sure to steer clear of regular Martin’s potato chip and grab a bag of Herr’s.

  5. Adam says:

    @Keith…Gotta love the kettle chips. I like Utz the best for those though.
    @Ryan…I think the “regular” old chips are good to get in the small (1 oz) packages, mostly because you can often get ‘em for .50 cents or so. I love fancy chips as much as the next guy, but most company’s don’t make kettle chips in the little, super cheap bags.

  6. Marvo says:

    I’m surprised that the lesser known brands didn’t do better than the Lays. Almost of the chips I’ve tried from smaller companies are better than what Lays pumps out.

  7. John says:

    I’m a Mid-Atlantic guy myself and have never heard of/seen either Martin’s or Route 11 chips before this post. In what stores are they usually found? I thought Utz would be the top-rated chip as well; I also thought Lay’s would be the worst.

    Which Utz chip do people prefer: the Carolina BBQ or the Crab Chips?

  8. Adam says:

    John: Tough call, but gotta be the Carolina BBQ.

    Check out http://www.R11.com for where you can find Route 11 Chips. They are more of a “natural brand” kind of chip that usually sells in gourmet markets.

  9. Raiders757 says:

    I’m not a big potato chip guy. I like them, but prefer the normal ol’ plain salted kind. no fancy stuff. When I eat them, I tend to not eat very many at one time. I don’t even finish off one of those 99 cent grab bags in one sitting. If I do, it’s because I am drinking and craving something salty. On the flip side, I love Potato sticks. Those things don’t stand a chance when I’m around.

    @ Bear

    You have a good point, and I can agree with that. although I must say, when it comes to chocolate, your theory fails with me. I’ve gotten to where I find Hershey’s Milk Chocolate to be rather putrid at best. I love some chocolate, but I have noticed my snobbery towards it has frown over the past ten years. I will admit to enjoying Hershey’s Coco though. The hot chocolate recipe on the can comes out so well ,that he packet crap just doesn’t cut it anymore.

  10. RoleModel says:

    Utz is decent, Lay’s is decent, regular Herr’s is mediocre, Wise sucks, and Martin’s tastes like lardy powdered sugar chips.

    My favorite regular chips right now are the New Yorker Herr’s (which I’ve seen in Waldbaums, Pathmark, and rarely Stop & Shop) which has the perfect amount of crunch, salt, sturdiness and doesn’t taste burnt. Cape Cod’s 40% reduced fat kettle-cooked chips are very good too, but that’s a whole different category of chips.

  11. Trisha says:

    @Keith – I agree, Martin’s Kettle are the best chips in the mid atlantic! Herr’s makes a great bbq flavor, but their regular isn’t so hot.

  12. Ashley C says:

    I may be biased, but these are the best potato chips I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

    http://www.sterzingchips.com

  13. ervin says:

    NIXX CHIPS SOMETHING NEW IN THE U.S THEY TASTE GREAT

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