Around for Eighteen Years, Baked Potato King Unfazed by Sandy

Upon surveying Midtown post-hurricane, I noticed two things since I was here over a week ago: the population of both human beings and newer, fancier food trucks had gone down. Why the absence of food trucks? Many are in Red Hook, Staten Island, the Rockaways, and New Jersey, helping with hurricane relief by providing free food to victims. Others, like Red Hook Lobster Pound, were devastated by Sandy. Others, like Vendy Award sweethearts Cinnamon Snail and Uncle Gussy’s ran into problems with gas and power shortages. However, the older food carts, like hot dogs carts, street meat vendors of all kinds including Kwik Meal and Trini Paki Boys, El Rey Del Sabor, and Hot Soup Cart were all chillin’ in their same spots like nothing had happened. Baked Potato King, which has been around for eighteen years, was no exception. Although Lunch’er Jasmine reported on it back in 2008, this veteran cart hasn’t received much coverage.

As I approached I could smell sweet potatoes as well as regular, and since they are $4.50 each and I feared one wouldn’t be enough, I went ahead and ordered one of each. Although $4.50 seems steep for a baked potato, they are very big mf-ers with ample toppings. I’ve got to admit, my bag-o-food was a lot heavier than what I would normally schlep back to the office for under $10 in Midtown!

And I should also note that the price has only gone up 50 cents a ‘tater since 2008. There probably aren’t many places that have stayed that steady over the past four years. But then again, how much can you charge for one spud and get away with it?

The potato topping choices are: broccoli & cheese, spinach & cheese, chili & cheese, chili & home made salsa, spinach and cottage cheese, mixed vegetable & cheese, mushroom & cheese, cheese & bacon bits, and sour cream and chives. Each potato is $4.50.

I took a cue from the woman in front of me who seemed like a repeat customer, and I had what she had. This was the regular baked potato with bacon bits and what was described to me as “cheddar”. (She also asked for extra butter and got a big dollop for no extra charge; I skipped the butter this time.) The potato was bursting out of its box when I opened it, and piping hot. The cheddar he spoke of was more like Cheez Whiz but maybe a generic kind. I’m not a Whiz-hater, so this was OK with me, but you’re not getting cheddar cheese, but more like melty cheese product. There were four whole strips of real bacon rather than bacon bits. This made me very happy. Because the bacon wasn’t chopped up and were dripping with cheese product, it made eating it with only a fork rather unwieldy. There were a few bits on the edges that were burnt and a bit crunchy. I personally like this, but if the thought of a burnt tater edge makes you cringe, you might be disappointed here.

I love sweet potatoes, so I was really looking forward to my sweet potato with spinach and cottage cheese. When I ordered, the cart vendor said, “These are the best.” I was excited. But when I tried it, I was a little bit disappointed. I normally make sweet potatoes at home with basil, fresh mozzarella, fresh chili, fresh basil, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt & pepper. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe I’ve been using for years. This potato didn’t compare. The sweet potato seemed as though it had lost a lot of its flavor; and perhaps had been refrigerated before it was baked. The spinach was simply chopped, frozen, and reheated — with no extra flavor. The cottage cheese was great though, and there was plenty of it. I had to use a lot of salt and pepper to make the potato more flavorful, and it could have used a little squirt of lemon juice or some other souring agent.

If two baked potatoes seems a little much, the cart also serves soup for $3.25 to round out your meal. They have choices such as lentil, tomato, chicken rice, minestrone, vegetable, chicken noodle, chicken vegetable, French onion, and of course, potato soup.

So who’s a fan of the baked potato cart? Since they’ve been around for eighteen years, they must be doing something right! With all of the food trucks out of commission in Midtown, it might be the chance to give them a try.

Baked Potato King, 39th and Broadway

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