When you first see “bacon tots” on the breakfast menu of Bada Bingg II, a counter restaurant inside the warehouse-like Allentown Farmers Market in eastern Pennsylvania, you might picture tater tots studded with bacon, or garnished with bacon bits, or perhaps wrapped in strips of bacon. But no potatoes are harmed in the making of this popular breakfast item.
“Tots” refers to the shape of the bacon—and to how it’s cooked. Tater tots are hunks of deep-fried potatoes. Bacon tots are hunks of deep-fried bacon. And they’re Bada Bingg II’s buzziest breakfast side and topping.
Six years ago, when Maureen and John Benko bought Bada Bingg II, it drew a steady lunchtime crowd, but morning shoppers tended to pass it by. (The original Bada Bingg in downtown Allentown is no longer in business.) With their niece, Shannon Koch—who manages the restaurant today—they began to brainstorm ways to liven up the existing menu.
Many of the breakfast dishes used hunks of slab bacon from another Farmers Market stand, crisped on the cooktop. The cooktop is right next to the deep fryer. The new owners wondered what would happen if they tried deep-frying the hunks.
What happens is this: The outside of each hunk gets crispy and slightly charred. The inside stays juicy. And people who order them come back for more, again and again.
“It’s funny how something as simple as cubing bacon and deep-frying it can make people so happy,” Koch says.
The tots factor into Bada Bingg II’s two most-ordered breakfast dishes: The 2:30 a.m. (two sunnyside-up eggs on a brioche roll with American cheese, chipotle mayo, tomato, greens, and bacon tots) and the Friggin’ Wrap (a pancake the size of a small pizza topped with crispy potatoes, cheesy eggs, butter, maple syrup, and bacon tots—a heap so large it doesn’t “wrap” at all). You can also order the tots as a side, mixed into an omelette, or stirred into home fries with peppers and onions.
If you’re too far from eastern Pennsylvania to get the real deal, here’s how to make the tots at home.
Adapted from Bada Bingg II in Allentown, Pennsylvania
1 pound slab bacon, cut into 1-inch-square chunks
How to Make It
In a small saucepan, heat two inches of canola oil to 375°F.
Working in batches, use a slotted spoon to lower the bacon chunks into the oil, taking care not to let the oil overflow. Cook for about five minutes or until the outside of each piece appears crispy.
Remove the bacon tots with a slotted spoon and place on plate lined with paper towels to cool. Allow the oil reach 375°F again before adding the next batch. Serves 4 to 6.