An Ode to Barker’s Kettle Chips

One of my favorite restaurants in the whole world is a small, unassuming bar and grill in Hudson, Wis. named Barker’s.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what keeps me obsessed with this place. I mean, the food is awesome, but I’ve been to a lot of the restaurants with great food. There’s something different about Barker’s, and I think part of that difference is the house-made kettle chips.

Photo by Megan Suckut

Photo by Megan Suckut

The first time I ever ate at Barker’s was with my mom and grandmother on a chilly November afternoon several years ago. One of my absolute favorite Christmas traditions is Hudson’s Tour of Homes, a weekendlong festival in which local boutiques and interior designers partner to completely decorate houses around town, and people (mostly women) get tickets to ride a bus between the houses and walk through them, ogling at the unbelievably gorgeous furnishings. Nothing puts me more in the holiday spirit than touring these mega-decorated homes, and nothing works up quite the appetite either.

Hudson is such a wonderful small town because it’s super close to the Twin Cities metropolitan area, but it’s got its share of not only adorable boutiques, but also established family restaurants like Barker’s. I don’t remember why we chose to eat at Barker’s the first time we did, but the three of us had such good meals that we’ve kept coming back the years afterward.

Barker’s, to me, is a special occasion kind of restaurant, even though it’s not fancy dining at all. No matter what I order there, be it a burger, a chicken sandwich, a patty melt, wild rice soup, etc., my sole requirement is that it comes with the kettle chips.

These kettle chips are the base standard side to all the main dishes, with the option to substitute fries, soup or salad, but I can’t imagine why anyone would ever think of turning down these salty, crunchy treats. I’m a huge fan of kettle chips in general, but these are truly special. Be it season salt or curry or something, they are coated with seasonings that make it impossible for me to stop eating them. Have a beverage ready because you’ll get thirsty after scarfing down a handful of these.

Every time I go to Barker’s, I almost forget how flavorful these chips are. It’s hard to remember and have a benchmark to judge them by, because they are truly unique in terms of free sides at restaurants. Each crunch makes you less and less willing to go back to your main dish, because while the sandwiches taste great, they’re not nearly as special as the side of chips.

Or you can be like me and pile the chips on your burger. And then proceed to gnaw on everyone else’s chips too. I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Barker’s, just for the kettle chips.

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