The 15 Best Side Dishes Of All Time, Ranked
At this point, I consider gluttony to be a core value of the modern human. The volume and relative luxury of the daily diet of any first-world country occupant is a constant reminder of our complete and total domination of this planet’s food chain. We have somehow become an apex predator that never has to exercise. It’s incredible and dark and I thank our lord for it every day.
Perhaps the greatest thumb to the nose of the idea of eating to live is the prevalence and enjoyment of the appetizer and side dish. A hearty meal is simply not enough anymore, we now need a little meal ahead of time to whet our appetite, and another tiny mea whenever we want a brief break from the taste of our main course.
But I am not here to criticize. I am here to rank. So without further ado, here is the DEFINITIVE ranking of the top 15 side dishes of all time.
Sure. I guess. I felt like salad had to be on this list for the same reason people order side salads: out of an overwhelming sense of guilt and duty. Somehow wet lettuce has a mental hold on us like a doting Jewish mother, living rent-free in our heads. I almost felt like I had to add it to this list just to soften the average calorie count. But sometimes salad can be good! Like when they add a bunch of chicken and cheese to it so it’s barely a salad.
Potatoes are going to be a consistent force on this list, but in better preparations. Mashed barely snuck onto this list, and Baked is unfortunately lost in the wreckage of lesser side dishes. Good mashed potatoes, with lots of garlic and butter et cetera, can be amazing. It can also be a heavy paste that could hold up a single-family home. I feel like mashed potatoes are a historical artifact at this point, like hardtack. We have air fryers now. There is a better way.
Potato chips clock in here because they’re truly the Ol’ Reliable of the side. However, they have no chance of taking top marks because of the lack of highs that goes with their lack of lows. Potato chips are a classic high-floor, low-ceiling snack.
I have eaten probably one thousand egg rolls in my life and I still could not tell you a single ingredient. I have no idea what is inside them, but I know that I could eat 5-10 without blinking. They do away with any pretense and present themselves as what we are all secretly hoping for: a cylinder of solid grease that it’s OK to eat.
If potato chips are the safe, reliable choice, onion rings are the lotto ticket. A really good onion ring is almost unbeatable. A very bad onion ring will have you questioning your entire life while a lukewarm, rubbery onion dangles on your chin. If you’re an Onion Ring Enjoyer, you’re going to have a lot of duds. But when you hit, oh baby!
The weird homeschooled kid of the fried potato category, tater tots are good, sure, but just have this… weird energy. Like, why aren’t you fries? Is this a food even possible to be made by hand, or is this exclusively the creation of a large metal extruder? But it’s deep-fried potatoes, so it’s still pretty damn good.
Look, I’m as surprised to see them up here as you are. I still remember when brussels sprouts were basically a punch line for the grossest possible thing you could be served. That, however, was back when people were stubbornly steaming them. Now, the code has been cracked on how to make them good: an absolute f**k ton of oil and bacon. And by god, it works.
Mozzarella sticks are an absolute delight. This is undeniable. I think they’re truly in last meal territory. The only reason they’re stranded down at number 8 is because there are few things I can eat that make me feel as genuinely, deeply depressed as mozzarella sticks. I mean, let’s be real. If you ate 6 cheese sticks in one sitting, you’d be put immediately on Zoloft. But somehow, deep fry those 6 cheese sticks and now it’s a fun, flirty appetizer? It’s a sham.
Chips And Salsa
A delicious crunchy combination of texture and taste AND something to do with my hands when I feel awkward? Me gusta!
I don’t know how the addition of garlic makes it OK to basically soak a baguette in butter for a fortnight, but I’m not complaining. There’s nothing like garlic bread from a pizzeria or Italian restaurant, made by a chef who clearly has no respect for the concept of blood pressure. That thing will leave a grease stain that would make a cotton tablecloth transparent.
It’s like bread, but better. Red Lobster and Popeyes’ biscuits alone, even if every other biscuit on earth was actively poisonous, would be enough to carry them to number 5 on this list. If they tossed a Cheddar Bay Biscuit into a gulag I would take a life to procure it.
I have yet to encounter an emotional problem that good dumplings cannot, at least temporarily, fix. If I entered a dumpling-eating contest, that would be my last day on earth because that would be the day I popped like a soap bubble. I assume the recipe for dumplings was found on a stone tablet because they are proof of the divine.
Look, you knew it was coming. It’s like reading a list of the greatest basketball players of all time. You’re basically just seeing who ISN’T Lebron or Jordan. French fries are the king, and the throne is safe, the kingdom is thriving, it’s a golden age. If aliens ever land here, the first thing we should give them is a hot McDonald’s french fry. After that, they will forever know the value of our planet.
It’s fries, but better. They usually have some cajun seasoning on them and you can bounce them like little springs. If you have any doubts of the power of a curly fry, just know that it is a side dish that has single-handedly kept Arby’s in business for decades. Lord knows f**king roast beef sandwiches aren’t pulling the weight.
A holy matrimony of geometry and grease. A waffle fry is a beautiful thing. It’s an over-engineered solution to the question of just how good a french fry can get. Each waffle fry is a beautiful snowflake of maximized surface area. Not to mention that sauce clings to waffle fries like a gecko on plate glass. Sauce is simply assimilated and trapped within them, like a spiderweb, and the whole delicious contraption is placed in your mouth, a gift. Sliced bread can go to hell, this is the best food invention of the modern world.