I may have detailed my love of potatoes here in the past, but let me reiterate: when a place called Potatopia opened last year, no less than ten separate people made sure that I knew about it. I was excited. I was ready to go. I was… irritated by early adopters crowding the place, and its location next to West 4th – I’m an East Village kind of girl – meant that I never happened to be nearby. Its counter service nature meant that it was awkward to tell friends “hey let’s go to Potatopia” for a meal – not really set up to be the type of place you go out of your way to visit, you know?
I can be extremely patient – or really, I can be really laidback – about going to new places. I have a list of restaurants to visit, and even when I’m making plans with a friend, I rarely consult it. I let other people pick. I like me visiting new places to be more serendipitous, you know?
So one random melty evening, while wandering towards home from an event, seeking sustenance… I realized I was near Potatopia.
Potatoes. On a humid, sweltery evening.
The place was nearly empty when I arrived, which meant I felt perfectly OK asking the girl working the register a ton of questions. She happily obliged all of my questions, and when I hesitated over which sauce to get, she gave me two (it usually costs extra to have a second one). I asked her what she likes, what’s popular, if the place gets busier than this or if business had been slow, what’s good, and she answered every question. (To my relief, business was not normally slow – maybe it was because that day was really sticky and hot, and who carboloads on a day like that?)
With a little guidance from her, I ordered the mashed pie. Because I’m a believer in some sort of structure when it comes to your toppings/mix-ins – it results in a more delicious combination – I took a moment to really look through everything and finally decided to go in a Mexi-slant.
I opted for the mashed pie, which starts with all of my veggie choices on the bottom along with my protein (optional), then mashed potatoes smoothed over the top, my cheeses sprinkled on top, and then stuck in a broiler to melt the cheese on top. My veggie choices: scallion, cilantro, broccoli, corn, and three scant slices of jalapenos (my choice). I also added bacon because, why not? and topped it with cheddar and pepperjack. Fairly straight forward; sour cream on the side and the cashier’s favorite sauce, roasted pepper aioli.
Holy crap; this is exactly what you want it to be. It’s Shepherd’s pie – minus any sort of gravy – with all the best bits mixed in. It’s mashed potatoes on steroids. The mashed potatoes themselves are creamy, but not milky or watery; stiff enough to hold up to everything, but soft enough that I could easily mix my veggies into each bite… this was perfect. I happily sat at the communal table alone, digging into my huge plate – which cost a little more than $8 – and ate every last bit. Scraped that plate clean!!
Now, is this going to change your life? Probably not. It opened my eyes to the notion that topping things with mashed potatoes and baking isn’t just for shepherd pies, and there are many other choices here that I want to try as well. I really enjoyed my choice, but want to explore the rest of the menu to get a more complete picture of what might be my favorite. Was it a little pricey? I guess, I mean I paid over $8 for mashed potatoes and veggies, but I didn’t want to go home and make mashed potatoes, so… you pay for convenience. I like the idea of a salad bar for the veggies, because you can see what looks good and go with whatever your gut tells you. Some of the stuff, I don’t know how that would work on fries, but people get them – as I heard someone do so while I was there – and I’m sure some stuff works better with other iterations of potatoes than others.
Honestly, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a potato cookbook for a long time, and some of these dishes would totally make the cut for that book. So… maybe… I should keep writing that book…
Anyway, my dog has been sitting next to me crying pitifully the entire time I’ve been writing this, waiting for me to join her on the couch, so if it sounds a little disjointed and distracted, I blame her. The bottom line is that if you like potatoes the way I like potatoes, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least pop your head in to see what’s on the menu and try something.