Festive Potato Dishes Around Lake Minnetonka

Fancy guises of the humble tuber.
Gianni's offers a top-your-own baked potato, which we all know only gets better with bacon.

Let us consider the prosaic potato. Sound boring? Not so fast. The realm of the unsung tuber warrants a closer look. Did you know that potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, hail from the Andes Mountains, are one of the world’s largest food crops, were the fuel behind the 19th-century European population boom, and can be made into vodka? Oh, and let’s not overlook the wee fact that potatoes have rescued entire nations from starvation. Perhaps some praise is due. We must also concede that potatoes make great vehicles for butter and cheese, are astonishingly versatile, and as at home as a lowbrow chip, tot or fry as they are in a fancy-schmancy au gratin, duchess or dauphinoise. We explored some of the potato’s more elegant and complex guises in the area, just in time for the feasts of the season.



Birch’s takes a breakfast classic, adds a creole twist, a perfectly poached egg, et voilà: a gustatory marvel. Shrimp and ham are a standard low-country pairing; corn kernels, and green and white onions complete the mélange. A rather mysterious Creole seasoning (paprika, cayenne, garlic, oregano, thyme and many other pinches of this ’n’ that) adds depth and spice. The burnished, crispy-edged cubes of tuber and hog were almost indistinguishable and equally delicious. Remember to poke the egg quickly so that the liquid yolk envelops it all with a rich, mellow sauce. Although it’s listed as a side dish, this makes a perfect—and perfectly decadent—meal for one, or a satisfying appetizer to share. $ 9.95. 1935 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake; 952.473.7513



Gianni’s Steakhouse

Gianni’s baked potato is nearly football-sized yet still exudes a refined, almost delicate potato flavor. This pure potato-ness evaporates a bit once you doctor it with the good stuff, but that’s comme il faut. Slice into the spud to create a good trench, release a waft of fragrant steam and create your masterpiece: Gianni’s delivers an abundance of raw material to work with. We started with a healthy pat of butter, a few dollops of sour cream, a scattering of smoky bacon bits and a flourish of sliced green onions. We devoured it with relish and fought over the potato’s skin: That’s where the vitamins are, after all. $6. 635 E. Lake St., Wayzata; 952.404.1100



Spasso consistently transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary, and their garlic Fontina mashed potatoes are no exception. The hearty serving of mashed potatoes is flecked with reddish bits of skin, so you can be sure these were not conceived via flakes in a box. The garlic flavor is a discreet caress rather than the typical sledgehammer, and the Fontina—a melting cheese from the Italian Alps—contributes an elusive aspect of pungency and nuttiness. If you think flavored mashed potatoes are merely a bed for gravy, think again: These elevate the standard formula to dizzying alpine heights. $5. 17523 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.224.9555

 Dig into this poached egg-topped breakfast staple from Birch's.


Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge

Lord Fletcher’s turns out one of the best iterations of au gratin potatoes we’ve experienced. It’s bold with garlic, light with cream, and tightly layered with thin, tender slices of Idaho gold potatoes. It’s the inclusion of nutmeg that makes it so special; the spice is a softening complement to the pungent garlic and adds a touch of the festive. The menu lists the au gratin potatoes as a signature side for good reason—they are indeed distinctive. They are available with any entrée, but a smile and a few bucks will get you a separate order on its own. 3765 Sunset Dr., Spring Park; 952.471.8513


Hazellewood Grill & Tap Room

Another evening, another gratin? Mais non, mon ami. These are Gouda gratin potatoes: intensely cheesy, surprisingly smoky and sit-up-straight-in-your-chair delicious. We were wowed by the dense creaminess that enveloped each toothsome slab of potato and admired the gorgeous golden hue. They’re a great companion to any steak or chop, but you can also get a hefty order to enjoy all for yourself. This gratin has been designated a “neighborhood favorite menu item,” and you owe it to yourself to try them. $6. 5635 Manitou Rd., Tonka Bay; 952.401.0066



Jake O’Connor’s Public House

Did we mention that potatoes are versatile? Yes, the potato can do just about anything that wheat can do: bread, pasta, pastry crust—even booze. A classic shepherd’s pie consists of a browned mashed potato crust that blankets a bowl of savory, bone-warming delights. Hie thee to Jake O’Connor’s for a drool-worthy version made with well-sauced ground beef, fresh peas, onions, carrots and mushrooms. We agreed with the menu’s claim: “One bite and you’ll understand why the Irish have flocked to this dish for centuries.” We flocked to it, too. $15.50. 200 Water St., Excelsior; 952.908.9650



Lakewinds Market

You can always get something creatively spudly from the deli case at Lakewinds Market. Whether you’re looking for lunch on the run or dinner to reheat for the family, the house-made sweet potato lasagna is an ideal candidate. The irresistibly golden cube with orange, green and white stripes is made from mushrooms, sliced sweet potato and spinach sautéed in white wine and layered with noodles, cream sauce and lots of cheese. It’s not your mama’s lasagna, to be sure, but it’s luscious, subtle and stacked with healthy vegetables. $9.99/lb. 17501 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.473.0292


Bukhara Indian Bistro

We tend to associate potatoes with mild cuisines such as Irish, Swedish and Midwestern. This is regrettable, because it excludes the glories of aloo (spelled Alu on this menu). What, you ask, is alu? Simply put: It means “potato” in the Hindi language and it figures in many a delectable dish. The vegetable samosas at Bukhara are a shining example of potato ingenuity in Indian cuisine. Think turnover, filled with chunky potatoes, studded with green peas and imbued with a subtle spice mix that includes ginger and cumin. All this is neatly sealed within a piping hot triangular pastry of light and flaky crust. Order all the available condiments for some adventurous dipping action: The raita, chutney and mint sauce, tamarind sauce and pickles are a rainbow for your eyes and palate, running the gamut from spicy, mild and chunky to smooth, sweet and astringent. $2.99. 15718 Wayzata Blvd., Wayzata; 952.476.7997



Redstone American Grill

What an entrancing mash this is! We were smitten as soon as it arrived in a cute little cast-iron skillet. These sweet potatoes were cooked until falling apart to absorb a maximum amount of liquid; the result is a pleasingly loose and light purée. The pure essence of sweet potato was so clearly pronounced that we were amazed to find out the long list of ingredients: plenty of butter, a touch of brown sugar, a drizzling of honey and dashes of cinnamon and allspice. The intriguingly spiced and crunchy topping turned out to be the same graham cracker mixture used to make a pie crust. This sweet concoction is wonderful with the grilled pork chop but also a serious contender for dessert if you add a bit of whipped cream. $5.50. 12501 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka; 952.591.0000