Taste Test: Ohio's potato chips

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If that story sounds too close for comfort, then why not consider, at least occasionally, buying potato chips made in-state? It's really easy, especially as Ohio is -and has been for many, many decades -a veritable hotbed for making these All-American knock-'em-back snacks.

As a bonus, buying Ohio chips not only limits your fossil fuel footprint, but it also helps support small regional companies battling for shelf space against major players intent on releasing ever-expanding lines of flavors and products. I recently rounded up a few bags of made-in-Ohio potato chips (I limited myself to "unflavored" varieties) and came away with these observations.

Brand: Gold'n Krisp (4.5/5)

Hometown: Massillon

Chipping since: 1963

Packaging style: Sort of '50s mod (or neo-constructivist - depending on your politics), with bold gold, red and white

Packaging promise: Internationally known; kettle cook'd

Fried in: Soybean shortening and/or lard

Tasting notes: Lard was a blissfully apparent ingredient and it lent these sturdy chips a nice pie-crust-like "meatiness." These ranked No. 1 overall in this bunch for their high ratings in crunch (best) and potato flavor (second best).

Brand: Shearer's (4/5)

Hometown: Brewster

Chipping since: 1974

Packaging style: Contemporary, with a big and glossy photo of a burger ringed by chips

Packaging promise: Perfection in every bag

Fried in: Soybean shortening

Tasting notes: These curly chips had the best potato flavor and a pleasant crunch, and might've tied for No. 1 if not for the slight residue of grease left in the mouth after chomping a few.

Brand: Ballreich's (3/5)

Hometown: Tiffin

Chipping since: 1920

Packaging style: Straightforward and symmetrical, with lots of purple and red

Packaging promise: Bursting with potato taste

Fried in: Soybean shortening

Tasting notes: These "marcelled" (ridged) and salty chips had a decent potato flavor but veered too far to the greasy side.

Brand: Mike-Sell's (2.5/5)

Hometown: Dayton

Chipping since: 1910

Packaging style: University of Dayton Flyers' red and blue used in a sort of '70s-looking aesthetic

Packaging promise: They are delicious; 0 grams trans fats; all-natural

Fried in: Vegetable oils "enhanced with premium peanut oil"

Tasting notes: These thin-side medium crunchers weren't overly salty or bad, but they stood out mostly for a flavor of peanut oil.

Brand: Conn's (2/5)

Hometown: Zanesville

Chipping since: 1935

Packaging style: Old-timey and patriotic with a photo of a bowl of chips and lots of red, white and blue

Packaging promise: Delicious

Fried in: A mix of vegetable oil shortenings

Tasting notes: These salty, super-light and even mouth-meltingly evanescent chips were flagrantly greasy and the biggest leavers of an oral film residue.

Brand: Grippo's (2/5)

Hometown: Cincinnati

Chipping since: 1919

Packaging style: Flashy and fanciful with a surreal potato-headed chef

Packaging promise: No preservatives

Fried in: A mix of vegetable shortenings

Tasting notes: These partially skin-on chips were unabashedly greasy but, except for their whimsical packaging, not particularly distinctive.

Spot a supermarket specialty you'd like Taste Test to try? E-mail gbenton@columbusalive.com