The Guilty Pleasure: BBQ brisket "loaded" baked potato
Where to Get It: The Loaded Potato
Price: $11.50 (jumbo size)
What it Really Costs: Only a few hundred Weight Watchers points, give or take.
The Loaded Potato, which has been open for about a year now in south Phoenix, may be the first and only spot around town to specialize in the gastronomy of the baked potato. And while baked potatoes may seem like a curious concept for a restaurant, it all makes sense once you get a taste of Miss Dee's baked potatoes.
Miss Dee, the owner and head chef of this tiny, counter service take-out restaurant, which is located in a ramshackle strip mall near 16th Street and Baseline Road, talks about potatoes with the kind of passion you might expect from an Idaho farmer. If you ask her why she has dedicated a restaurant to the humble tuber, she will direct you to a homemade poster tacked onto one of the restaurant's bright yellow walls, which lists a compendium of potato-related trivia (did you know that the ancient Incas used the spuds for healing broken bones?), along with the purported curative properties of the nightshade veggie.
At The Loaded Potato, she uses the baked potato as a kind of blank canvas, projecting all kinds of culinary ingenuity onto the starchy spud. Sure, you may have eaten a baked potato before, but have you ever savored a baked potato, hot out of the oven, topped with enough saucy, slow-cooked brisket to make a carnivore's heart melt? Or, how about a baked potato loaded with homemade jambalaya? Or a baked potato dressed up with chopped steak and grilled onions like a Philly Cheese steak? You get the picture.
The restaurant's baked potato menu has more than ten meat toppings, ranging from pulled pork to jerk chicken to Cajun shrimp, to name a few. Miss Dee is always dreaming up new recipes and unique ways to get the word out about her baked potatoes. In the coming year, she told us, the restaurant will host invite-only baked potato tasting "flights," so she can try out her latest recipes on her most loyal clientele.
Ordering your baked potato can be a bit tricky on a first visit, in the sense that there are lots of meat options and toppings to pick from, with varying prices. Add-on's tend to add up quickly, which means you can easily drop more than $10 on a baked potato.
You start by picking your potato size, available in medium, large, or jumbo. Then you choose whether you want your potato "naked" (served only with butter, sour cream and green onions), or "loaded," which comes with all the basic toppings, plus cheese, bacon bits and your choice of crispy toppings, which include fried onions, fried jalapeños and crispy wontons.
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Then you choose your meat topping (veggies are also available), which might be the hardest choice of all. Will it be brisket, Buffalo chicken, or maybe a Mexican-inspired baked potato? There is also a healthier alternative, a "faked" potato made from cauliflower. And if you're in a mood for sweets, the restaurant offers several sweet potato-based desserts with fruit toppings.
On our visit, we ordered the jumbo BBQ brisket baked potato, which seems to be a house favorite. The jumbo-size brisket potato, fully loaded with all the toppings, is so big and hefty, your first instinct might be too cradle it like a small child. We recommend finding an eating partner to tackle the oversize spud, which is about as guilty as pleasures get.
The potato, which is slightly crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, features a heap of tender brisket, bathed in a slightly sweet barbecue sauce. The potato is split apart down the middle, where the spud seems to erupt with a delicious muddle of sour cream and cheddar cheese, lightly dusted in crunchy bits of fried onions.
If your idea of baked potatoes are the tinfoil-wrapped, overcooked spuds you tend to find in cafeterias buffet lines, it only takes a forkful of this creamy, meaty baked potato to realize what you've been missing out. Baked potatoes will never look quite the same way again.