By Emily Hamer | Wisconsin State Journal
After a crash on the Beltline Wednesday flipped and destroyed the Pots-n-Tots food truck, Madison residents will no longer be able to get their fix of Ranch Romance, Sweet Thai Chili and Atomic Cheesy tater tots from the local vendor.
Owner Rob Kratochwill, 39, who started Pots-n-Tots five years ago, said he doesn’t plan to reopen because it would cost too much to repair the truck he had built with his father.
“The entire inside of the food truck has been demolished from the impact of landing on the ground at 50 mph,” Kratochwill said.
Kratochwill said he was entering the Beltline from Verona Road on the Southwest Side when a car sped up and cut him off. He had to swerve back into another lane, which caused the food cart he was towing behind him to tip.
“I look back and all of the sudden the whole cart — I saw the cart on one wheel,” Kratochwill said. “My heart just broke.”
The cart flipped onto its side, wrecking the inside of the truck and all of the food inside. In a “split second,” Kratochwill said, his business was destroyed.
Pots-n-Tots specialized in “comfort food,” Kratochwill said. He created more than 130 different flavors for the tots, including Onion Dill-Icious, Roasted Garlic Rosemary, Cajun Keeper, Taco Temptation and Volcanic Explosion. In addition, he sold dessert tater tots, such as Apple Pie and Apple Crisp.
Kratochwill also made various non-tot specials, including a bruschetta chicken sandwich, catfish, various slow-cooked crock pot sandwiches and fried breaded Munster cheese sticks.
Over the years, Kratochwill made a name for Pots-n-Tots, winning five Taste of Madison ribbons in four years. One year at Taste of Madison, he sold more than 850 pounds of tater tots.
Pots-n-Tots also had a restaurant in West Towne Mall for a time, but Kratochwill said he had to close it because not enough people were coming to the mall location for him to afford the rent.
Kratochwill is planning to move outside of Wisconsin for another job opportunity, but said he wants to wait until it’s finalized to make a public announcement of what he will be doing next.
Although Kratochwill is heartbroken about his truck being destroyed, he said he is ready to move on.
Kratochwill loves cooking, but he said running a food cart is a challenging work environment. Temperatures in the cart can reach upwards of 120 degrees with the fryer inside. Kratochwill also frequently got burned by the oil, and the heat and oil caused his acne to flare up.
“Maybe it’s time to hang it up after five years,” he said.
But for those who still want his tater tots, this winter Kratochwill plans to start making a podcast and videos to show Pots-n-Tots lovers how to make their favorite recipes, step by step.
“I want Pots-n-Tots to have its little podcast,” he said.
While listeners and watchers will be able to learn how to cook some of Kratochwill’s signature tots, he said the “Pots-n-Tots Bible” is going to go to his 11-year-old son, Max, who wants to be a chef when he grows up.
Wherever Kratochwill ends up, he said he plans to continue cooking because that’s been his dream since he was a youngster.
“I’ve had a really good run with Pots-n-Tots,” Kratochwill said. “But, you know, I can always cook food.”