Versus: Frequent Fryers

Downtown Bothell gets a little chippy.

The Dish: We're taking our snacking to the streets this week as we try to find the best place for taters straight out of the fryer. We entered this potato-chip challenge thinking the victor would be an easy call, but ended with a rather unexpected decision. These Versus challenges don't often result in two worthy dishes; this proved to be one of those rare occasions.The Rivals: Matt's in the Market, 94 Pike St., 467-7909. Forget snack. These ample-sized salt-and-pepper chips ($7) are a legitimate entrée. Carved from skin-on russet potatoes and fried in peanut oil, Matt's potato chips are served alongside a bubbling dish of bacon-and-caramelized-onion dip made from a filling combination of cream cheese, Grana cheese, sour cream, and mayo. The chips are golden with a hint of oil and lightly dusted with seasoning. They aren't as crisp as your traditional chip, but they do make the taste buds tingle and are hearty enough for the dip. Oh, and they're only available during lunch.Main Street Ale House, 10111 Main St., Bothell, 425-485-2972. Though neither our bartender nor the kitchen staff knew what kind of potatoes these chips were made from (Idaho spuds was the consensus) or what type of oil they were fried in (one server guessed a combination of vegetable and canola), we enjoyed these crispy slices of mystery more than we thought we would. You can order a full or a half-sized portion ($4.50) of either original or spicy chips. We went with our server's suggestion: a half-portion divided between both flavors, which was more than enough for two. Dipping sauces also come in two flavors: ranch and "ale-mustayo," a satisfying mix of mustard, mayo, and beer. These chips are one of the most sought-after items on Bothell's Main Street, and now we know why.The Champ: There's no question that if we were picking our favorite dish, Matt's in the Market would win hands-down. But since we are here to judge the integrity of the chips alone, we have to give this Versus round to Main Street Ale House. Their chips are weightless and crispy without being chewy or bogged down by the slightest drop of oil. These chips stand alone, sans dipping sauce, with a fresh flavor and texture that brings forth the kind of fervent enjoyment that tempts other patrons to order a basket for themselves. We are looking forward to making the drive to Bothell again just so we can bury ourselves in another basket. This time, a full

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