Saturday, March 3, 2012

Potato Champion (Part 2)

(Original Review -- September 2011)

And the re-visits keep on coming! This time, it's Potato Champion, located at the Cartopia food pod at SE 12th and Hawthorne. I thought the PB&J fries from my last visit were decent, and I just randomly had a fry craving this time. Heck, why not go back, right?

I might not have been to Canada (yet), but I always hear about poutine. It's basically one of their comfort foods. Fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Simple yes, but some of the best things in life are that way. I had heard so much about the poutine at Potato Champion that I was hell-bent on getting it, no questions asked. Go to Cartopia a poutine virgin and come out a grizzled veteran!

(February 2012)
Poutine and...Satay Poutine?!
Many sauces for your fries! Or are they frites...?
My thoughts exactly
This special started around the beginning of February and should run into mid-March
At Potato Champion, the fries (or I guess, "frites") have a brown, crispier outside than the average French fry, and still a soft inside, done the way I like it. Ordered up a small poutine ($4.25), and I went to the eating tent for some poutine warfare.

Small Poutine
(Potato Champion)
Bite after bite went down the hatch. The fries by themselves score a happy panda dance. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something about slightly crispy, browned fries that randomly made me think about starting the Macarena in the tent.

Other than that, though, the poutine here was largely uneventful to me. The gravy was on the runny side. The flavor is present, but it's not assertive and doesn't become that latching vehicle to really unite everything. The curds, while an authentic touch, didn't do anything to make me give it a second thought.

The following week, I came back for some pulled pork fries. Pulled freakin' pork. It's awesome enough that the pig gives us bacon. But yeah, you can attach pulled pork to almost anything and I'd eat it.

Pulled Pork Fries (small size)
(Potato Champion)
The small pulled pork fries were $5.50. Fries on the bottom, then a pile of pulled pork, topped with BBQ sauce. The pulled pork itself was happy panda great, although I expected a little more body out of the BBQ sauce. To me, it was more tomato and vinegar predominant, instead of having that thicker brown sugar and molasses aura.

The pork wasn't drained well, so a pool of the juices collected at the bottom to saturate the fries. For some people, it can be a nice touch, but for me, it interfered with the contrasting textures of pork and fries -- not to mention looked unappealing. The sauce will already help combine everything, so the extra porky juice isn't necessary. Maybe I'd have some frat guys chug that for me, no dare needed.

The owner runs specials like lime-chili chicken fries. There's also satay poutine on the menu. Just a week and a half ago, another special from their Twitter feed: "Mexican Style Tinga Beef Fries" with crumbled cotija cheese and sour cream. They all sound amazing. I just hope the execution confirms that presumption.

Potato Champion should have a championship belt for doing so many great things with fries and sauces. The fries alone are killer and could be five-star worthy. It's unfortunate that some of their menu items may have included some execution errors, substantially altering each of my experiences.

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