If there was one recommendation I could make to Irish pubs in America that would instantly and inexpensively improve them, it would be to offer British and Irish pub snacks. Many bars — especially dive bars — already have snacks behind the counter, including candy bars, potato chips, and sometimes ice cream. People belly up to the bar and after a drink or two often get the idea they might like to snack on something, and here’s your chance to take them on a culinary trip to Ireland.
I’ve started with Taytos because they are one of Ireland’s most recognized brands, and they are potato chips, so bar patrons are likely predisposed to eating them in a way they may not be with other snack food I will write about. Tayto offers something called Pork Scratchings as well, made of fried pork rind and sold in little packets, and that’s probably not going to be immediately appealing to American tastes.
Tayto crisps, however, are perfectly recognizable as potato chips, albeit they are typically offered in a range of savory flavors: Cheese & Onion, Salt & Vinegar, Smokey Bacon, and Prawn Cocktail; other flavors are offered now and then, including roast chicken, pickled onion, and wuster sauce. The texture is recognizable to American palates; its a bit like Pringles. But it is the selection of flavors that make chips from Britain and Ireland so unique, as they are almost always flavored in this way.The snack originates in County Meath, and have proven to be so successful in Ireland that “tayto” is sometimes used as a general word for potato chips, and there is Tayto-themed amusement park in Ashbourne that, for some reason, has several Native-American styled attractions. The smiling, red-jacketed mascot proved recognizable enough that Tayto ran him as a candidate in the 2007 Irish General Election, and he has his own fictional biography, “The Man Inside the Jacket.”
A number of Irish venues in America have already started to experiment with offering Taytos, and seem to have had success with them. They are one of the snacks offered by the gift shop in the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, which was a source of much amusement for Conan O’Brien when he filmed a visit to the center in 2012.