With the Oscars just around the corner, we’ve got movies on the brain. Nominated for seven of the coveted awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name, has our vote. Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney — stuck on Mars and fervently plotting to survive long enough to be rescued, he (SPOILER ALERT) figures out how to grow potatoes on the previously barren planet. While Watney only gets to enjoy the fruits (or tubers) of his labor with salt or ketchup, his efforts inspired us to count the ways we love a good spud. Fried, baked, mashed, topped with cheese, or folded into pillowy gnocchi dough, potatoes are pure starchy pleasure. Below find some of our favorite ways to dig into a potato. Surely, The Martian would approve.
Marta, New York, New York
If you’re having trouble deciding whether pizza, potatoes, or pasta is the ultimate comfort food, head straight to Chef Nick Anderer’s Marta in Manhattan’s Martha Washington Hotel for your definitive answer. Marrying the best of all three, Patate Alla Carbonara is a white, thin-crusted pizza cooked on a wood-fire grill and topped with potatoes, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino, and egg, for an especially comforting and tasty iteration of the classic Roman Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. Make a reservation at Marta.
Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.
This contemporary neighborhood spot in D.C.’s West End turns 10 this year, and while their signature Handcut BDT Fries have been on the menu from the beginning, they’re revamping the recipe for the occasion. Russet potatoes are steamed, dried, seasoned, and mixed. The mashed result is molded onto a sheet pan, hand cut, and fried for a delightfully unique take on your average french fry — inside, a fluffy foil to the perfectly crispy exterior. A happy birthday, indeed. Make a reservation at Blue Duck Tavern.
No. 9 Park, Boston, Massachusetts
With a few ingredients, gnocchi can be made relatively easily, but in the hands of chef Barbara Lynch, simple potato dumplings are elevated to legendary status. In a multi-step process, Lynch’s Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi start with made-from-scratch potato dough, which cover prunes that have marinated in Vin Santo. Forget pillows; this dough is as soft as a down comforter, lovingly wrapped around each sweet wine-soaked fruit. The dumplings are covered with a foie gras butter sauce and topped with slabs of seared foie gras and slivered almonds. Licking the plate might be frowned upon in this stately Beacon Hill spot, but we’re not here to judge. Make a reservation at No. 9 Park.
Bird Dog, Palo Alto, California
The menu at this sleek Palo Alto bistro highlights the best of Japanese meets California cuisine. Broken into three sections, ‘raw’ offers fresh crudo, ‘protein’ features salmon and Wagyu beef, and ‘vegetables’ includes, among other thoughtfully inventive dishes, the Potato Terrine. Chef Robbie Wilson’s version features paper-thin potato layers topped with Tuscan kale, nori, preserved grapefruit, and a butternut squash puree for a dish that’s as beautiful as it is flavorful and comforting. Make a reservation at Bird Dog.
Prime & Provisions, Chicago, Illinois
At this swank steakhouse in Chicago’s River North, the name says it all. The Substantial Baked Potato is stuffed with thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, and crème fraîche for an elevated take on the quintessential steakhouse side. Your porterhouse needs this potato. Pro tip: it’s colossal, so get one to share. Make a reservation at Prime & Provisions.
The Breslin, New York, New York
Oh, your favorite French fries are cooked once? How quaint. At chef April Bloomfield’s Michelin-starred gastropub in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, the Thrice Cooked Chips are boiled first, then fried twice for the ultimate in crisp, chewy, salty goodness. They come alongside the excellent Chargrilled Lamb Burger, or order a batch on the side with cumin mayo for dipping. They’re what all fries aspire to be. Make a reservation at The Breslin.