When Spudnik landed at 416 W. Broughton St. a few months back, I will admit to being more than a little skeptical.
The small restaurant, 400 square feet or so, sells potatoes - russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, build-your-own any kind of potato, all with numerous toppings - Spudnik sells potatoes and beer, and that's pretty much it.
My skepticism as to Spudnik's success had nothing to do with the restaurant and its offerings, but rather how Savannahians would respond to such a simple and urban concept. Larger cities are accustomed to niche culinary experiences, whether it is a PB&J restaurant in New York or Grilled Cheese Mecca in Seattle, but Savannah restaurants seem to suffer from what I call "tourist palate" - the need to serve every type of dish humanly possible to accommodate the varying tastebuds of any and every person.
And yet, Spudnik has stuck to its guns and is digging deep roots on Broughton some eight months after opening. I see big, blue-ribbon things in their future.
When you enter the unassuming space, you glide across a gorgeous floor covered in more than 80,000 pennies, past the wooden booths and stools and head to the counter at the back. Giant menu boards wait to fill your heart with joy and your stomach with starchy treats. More than a dozen creative options are available for your pleasure, and diners are encouraged to build their own potato using any of the ingredients on the board.
Feeling as though I might end up ordering more than would be physically possible to enjoy, I ask for help. The owner, Andrew Wanamaker, suggests "The BBQ Porktato." This russet is topped with barbecued pulled pork, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and at Andrew's suggestion, Fritos! How something so simple could taste so heavenly I will never know; paired with a craft brew, this is the perfect lunch. Or the perfect reason to take the rest of the day off and have another brew. You decide.
Over the next several visits, alone or with friends, I have tasted a large portion of the menu. The savory sweet potato with feta cheese, sour cream, black beans, chives and butter is a surprising and winning combination of flavors and textures. "The Rustic Russet" is healthy and light, perfect for a quick snack with its rosemary, thyme, fresh ground black pepper, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. And for those craving a dessert potato, Spudnik has you covered: "The Sugar Mama" is a sweet potato finished with fresh toasted almonds, a gorgeous cinnamon compound butter and classic marshmallows. I'll take two, please.
Spudnik offers a nice selection of craft beers to complement your tater, along with fountain drinks and tea. My only real complaint with my experiences at Spudnik is the lack of plates and real silverware for those choosing to dine in. Paper goods and plastic knives only go so far when trying to engulf a delicious pomme de terre.
Regardless of this minor flaw, I suggest you flock to Spudnik in droves to engorge yourselves on these delicious and relatively healthy Idaho offerings.
Spudnik is open every day for lunch promptly at noon, closing at 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, but stays open until 3:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Speaking from my own shameless experience, a drunken potato is incredibly satisfying and considerably less greasy than some other late night offerings. Trust me.
Simple, delicious, creative - Savannah's foodies and culinary giants should take note of Spudnik. After all, sometimes less is more.
For more information about the Eat Squad, go to www.eatitandlikeit.com.