Wednesday, December 19, 2007
My roommates and I were looking for a nice comforting meal on a weekday night and decided to head up Girard to the Hot Potato Cafe. When this place first opened a few months back it received a terrible review by the Philly Weekly. But I don't always agree with "professional" critics, so we went in with open minds.
We started with an order of fries. A generous portion was brought out to us on a large white platter, but five minutes went by before our waiter returned with ketchup, and we all had doubts about whether the fries were freshly cut or simply frozen from a bag.
I had a difficult time deciding what to order. Unfortunately it wasn't because there were so many appetizing choices, in fact, the opposite was true. Nothing sounded appealing or jumped off the page at me. I started with a bowl of the potato soup, figuring if the Hot Potato Cafe could do anything right, it would certainly be a soup with the potato as the star. Sorry folks, unless you like thick, gluey, potato soup, stay away!
Liz ordered the meatloaf. It was probably the most appetizing looking thing we ordered. A huge slab of meatloaf, wrapped in bacon, was nestled on top of mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. The downfall was the tasteless, yet salty brown gravy they poured all over it. Unnecessary and in this case, damaging.
No joke, the Hot Potato Cafe serves Mrs. T's Pierogies. A local grocery store favorite, but we were shocked to discover the lack of homemade pierogies especially in the neighborhood where we were dining. It's not that they were bad, but we could have made them at home ourselves.
To supplement my disappointing potato soup I ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. It was a huge salad, and the lettuce was fresh and crisp. That's about all I can muster in terms of positive comments. The dressing was skimpy and bland, and the chicken was ice-box cold. I understand a little prep work is key to running a smooth kitchen, but maybe they could have microwaved the pre-cooked chicken breast before just plopping it on top of my salad.
With Liz in tow, I'm always sure to have someone to share my sweet-tooth, and after hearing the dessert list we decided on the Oreo cheesecake. It was clearly made off-premises, and that's alright, but it wasn't excellent.
I have to say, there's only one reason I'd ever go back to the Hot Potato Cafe, and here it is, the homemade Butter Cake. It's a rich, chewy, cake baked in a tartlet shell and dusted with powdered sugar before serving. This cake is awesome. It smells divine and I had a few bite more than my fair share, but I don't care. After such a unsatisfying meal, I could have eaten three of these by myself.
Overall, the service was decent. It did take a while to get ketchup or refilled water, but the server was knowledgeable about the menu and friendly. The decor of the Hot Potato was a bit puzzling. Deep red walls and interesting art were coupled with table tops covered in plastic table cloths and a terrible radio station blasting out of a boom box in the corner.
If you like Mrs T's pierogies, have no taste buds, or enjoy confusion, hit up the Hot Potato Cafe. Make sure to order the butter cake though, I still think about it from time to time.
Hot Potato Cafe
529 East Girard Ave (Fishtown)
Monday - Saturday, 11am to 9pm