Why This Ham And Cheese Baked Potato Is Going Viral

If there's one food that's pretty much standard across the board at U.S. restaurants, it's the baked potato. Generally, no matter where you order one, you're guaranteed to get essentially the same thing, with some slight variations here and there. Reliable, but simple. Rarely ever something to write home about.

But order a baked potato in France? That might be a different story, according to traveler Steve Olson, whose praise of a baked potato he enjoyed during his travels in France has pretty much broken (French) food Twitter this week. According to Eater, the frenzy began after Olson tweeted a thread describing his experience dining at French fast-food chain La Pataterie, expressing his compliments for the "Pom' Au Four Savoyarde," which consisted of — in his words — "a gloriously baked" potato topped with ham and gruyere cheese. In his Twitter thread, Olson applauded the restaurant for offering several potato-centric dishes (an uncommon occurrence in the U.S. where meat is usually the centerpiece), and passionately went on about how incredible his meal was. "The angels were singing 'Bonnie and Clyde,'" he wrote underneath one photo of the spread. In another tweet, he described it as "the greatest potato ever made by human hands."

With 26,000 likes and several hundred mentions, it's clear people cannot stop talking about this baked potato. Even members of the French media (via Twitter) and La Pataterie's CEO took note, the latter offering Olson a complimentary meal (per Le Parisien). With that in mind, one has to wonder: What makes this spud so special?

It's made with a special kind of potato

While Steve Olson acknowledged his meal was delicious in part because of its notable set of French accompaniments, including raclette, gruyere cheese, cornichons, and creme fraiche, it seems he was most impressed by the star of the show — the potato itself. "I don't understand how a chain baked potato could be so much better than every other baked potato I've ever had."

Well, it turns out there may be an explanation. According to France Info, the potatoes La Pataterie uses are a super-exclusive variety from "Hauts-de-France," which are essentially the French equivalent of the Yukon Gold. Per the website, they are specifically grown for their texture and skin, which allows for better steaming, and therefore, a softer, more buttery bite. This tracks with Olson's review, as he literally compared the potato he ate to a Yukon Gold that was "tender, with structure perfection." In any case, it was a far cry from the brown russets you find served across the U.S.

And it seems Olson's not the only one to make note of this difference. "You must understand that Americans don't have access to those tasty potatoes," wrote one user in the comments under his review. "I had the same reaction when visiting France, everything tasted so good."

The baked potato has some people up in arms

Though Steve Olson couldn't say enough positive things about his La Pataterie experience, some French Twitter users who came across his thread weren't as pleased with his glowing review. Some even found it downright insulting. "Seriously? You guys come to visit France, homeland of gastronomy, and the most amazing restaurant you found is a chain?" remarked one person in the replies. Another user added, "I worked at the pataterie and I can tell you that it is one of the worst restaurant chains in the country!" Some people took to defending Olson, asking people to stop behaving like "jerks" toward people who were giving positive attention to French food.

Of course, Olson doesn't seem to be too bothered by critiques of his review or his taste buds. Responding to one tweet that complained about his thread giving undeserved attention to fast-food, he acknowledged he and his wife had positive experiences at other restaurants during their travels, but reiterated he was impressed by the quality at La Pataterie because he didn't have high expectations for it. 

Plus, plenty of people are genuinely expressing appreciation for his review. Some even thanked him for putting them on to La Pataterie's greatness. "I am French and I approve this thread," wrote one user. "PS: had never heard of La Pataterie before, now it's on my list – I hope they gave you a membership card for making them huge!"