Chips are perhaps the most-hated-on-yet-delicious, affordable, and inventive foodstuff on the planet. This crispy, salty, deep-fried snack offers a rad accompaniment to a sudsy can of beer, a barbecue, a burger, or a hot dog. Hell, you can eat a full bag all on its own without really trying.
We’ve all done that a few times, right? Right?
The true beauty of potato chips is the variety out there. Every region of the U.S. has its own particular homegrown brand that fans straight-up ride or die for. These chips aren’t just flavored with salt and seasoning, they’re also laden with nostalgia. We’ll always support the foods we grew up with and rep fiercely for them when the subject arises.
Still… there are ingredient and execution components that allow some regional chip brands to rise above others. So we’ve decided to rank our ten favorite regional potato chips. We’re even going to call it “definitive” though any sort of regional food argument deserves tons of caveats.
If we missed your local bag of chips, sorry! Hit us in the comments and we’ll check them out.
10. Brother Kane Potato Chips — Atlanta, GA
Brother Kane pulls their potatoes pulled from a family farm outside of Atlanta. This is a small, local operation that takes care while making classic style chips and thicker crinkle cuts. The flavors are spot on with a deep sense of the original products that the chip dusting is meant to mimic.
Flavor To Try: Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese
The combination of chicken broth fattiness, tangy hot sauce, and funky blue cheese is a winner for this crinkle cut. This is a nice, hefty chip that works well as a pairing with a light and very cold lager on a hot Georgia day.
9. Wise — Berwick, PA
Pennsylvania’s Wise potato chips have a stronghold with chip lovers from Vermont down to the Ohio Valley. The potato chip company started frying chips back in the 1920s when Earl Wise grew too many potatoes to sell. So Wise did the sensible thing and started making potato chips and selling them in brown paper bags.
Flavor To Try: Red Hot
Wise Red Hot chips finish strong with a spicy kick. The heat lands more on the side of a powdered spice rather than a hot sauce. The chips have airy thinness that keeps a nice starchy saltiness. These are light chips with a good sense of heat.
8. North Fork Chips — Mattituck, NY
North Fork chips were born in the 1970s on Long Island when a struggling potato farmer took over the family farm. The duo turned to kettle frying potato chips for the local market to help save the farm, and now their chips are renowned for local flavors and sustainability.
Flavor To Try: Rosemary & Garlic
North Fork’s latest flavor is there most interesting. Their Rosemary & Garlic was made specifically to pair with the local wines coming out of Long Island. The chips have a deep herbal essence with an earthy smokiness that bleeds the local terroir. They are, indeed, the perfect wine pairing chip.
7. Ballreich’s Marcelled Potato Chips — Tiffin, OH
Ohio’s Ballreich family has been making potato chips for nearly 100 years. Instead of making simple chips, the Ballreich’s “marcelled” their chips, giving them a wavy surface similar to a hairstyle popular in the 1920s. This also meant a good heft for the chip, adding more salt and crunch to the batch. The chips were a hit back then and remain a local, award-winning favorite to this day.
Flavor To Try: Original Marcelled
This is an “if it ain’t broke…” scenario. The original chips are fantastic. There’s a lightness present, even though these are thicker chips. How? There’s very little sense of the oil, leaving you with clear potato flavors accented by a nice dose of salt in all those waves.
6. Cape Cod Chips — Hyannis, MA
Cape Cod Potato Chips are fried using the kettle method of shallow frying. This gives the chips a very low oil factor while keeping the crispiness intact. The company was founded on keeping things simple, local, and as unprocessed as possible. This is potato, oil, and salt meeting in unison to create a tasty chip.
Flavor To Try: Sea Salt & Vinegar
Salt and vinegar chips are some of the best out there. Cape Cod’s Sea Salt & Vinegar is one of the best versions of the style on the market. The rich sea salt provides a nice base alongside the crunchy potato. Then the rich, tangy vinegar cuts through the umami like a flavor Ginsu.
It’s bold, salty, and delicious, especially washed down with a New England IPA.
5. Utz Potato Chips– Hanover, PA
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Family-owned Utz started off nearly 100 years ago in the backyard of a Pennsylvania family home. Today, they’re the dominant brand of chips from New York to Philadelphia to Washington, DC, along the Mid-Atlantic corridor. The chip is a classic thin chip that gets the job done with great flavors.
Flavor To Try: The Crab Chip
The Crab Chip is the perfect example of Utz diversifying and bringing great, local flavors into the fold. Taking on the famoys Chesapeake Bay crab boil seasoning and slightly funky soft-shell crab brininess, these chips shine. They’re light and thin but not so thin they lose all meaning. The spice is dialed into a pleasant heat that feels more like a powdered Bloody Mary than a bottle of hot sauce.
4. Tri-Sum — Leominster, MA
Tri-Sum lays claim to being the oldest potato chip company in America. The Massachusetts chip got a start in 1908, which is certainly a long time for one family to be making humble potato chips. That equates to a great chip that is often nationally lauded as the best.
Flavor To Try: Original Style
Since this is a classic bag of potato chips, you kind of have to go with the classic style. Tri-Sum’s Original hits the spot of having the perfect heft, saltiness, and crunch. There’s a sense of the frying oil without the chip being oily. The chips feel expertly homemade.
3. Kettle Chips — Salem, OR
Kettle Chips are probably the most nationally (and internationally) available brand on this list. You can get these Oregon chips pretty much everywhere these days. Still, the classic kettle fried chips are some of the best out there overall. The hefty chip is the perfect foundation for big, diverse flavors — making this one a crowd-pleaser.
Flavor To Try: New York Cheddar
There’s a boldness to this chip that’s addictive. The funk and umami of the cheddar bursts from the hefty crunch of the salty chip. The oil is there as an accent that never weighs the chip down. There’s always a nice, solid crunch to every chip. This is a really hard bag to put away once you open it up. It hits your salivary glands hard.
2. Zapp’s Kettle Potato Chips — Gramercy, LA
Louisiana’s Zapp’s is a damn fine chip which masterfully utilizes local flavors. The kettle fried chips are cooked in peanut oil, adding an extra layer of local Louisiana flavor and a unique, crunchy texture. Zapp’s was bought out by Utz, meaning you’re starting to see a little wider distribution of these chips. Still, if you’re in the Big Easy this is the chip to hunt down and eat as you order a Hurricane and a big ol’ plate of raw oysters.
Flavor To Try: Spicy Cajun Crawtator
A crawfish boil infused into a spicy potato chip? Sign us the f*ck up! This chip has the beauty of briny shellfish, sweet corn, onion, and chili powder mixed with the crunch of a well-fried kettle chip with a hint of peanut and plenty of salt. It’s spicy, funky, and deliciously local.
1. Tim’s Cascade Style — Auburn, WA
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Tim’s Cascade Style chips hit pretty much every mark of what makes a great chip with a ten out of ten. The kettle fried chip has the perfect heft with a big crunch factor. That heft helps carry a flavoring that feels more natural than powdered. Finally, the use of peanut oil adds a certain essence that makes potato chip aficionados weak in the knees.
Flavor To Try: Jalapeño
This is a classic example of using a flavoring that adds something to an already great chip. The jalapeño used on this chip feels like it came from an actual piece of fruit. Plus, the heat is real but never overwhelms. These are the sort of chips where you will eat the whole bag and not feel bad for a single second. This is crunch, salt, spice, and flavor all dialed in, making for one superb chip.