“You’ve got to see this,” he said urgently, producing what looked like an inflated potato pancake. “It’s like a hash brown breakfast burrito!”
My friend had just come from the Hillcrest farmers’ market with a bizarre find: a thick, round hash brown stuffed with chorizo, egg, cheddar, and avocado. He got it from a booth called Spudz Potato, where they call it an Hombre. If you order a version with bacon it is called an Egg Head. With pork and chile verde, a Real Deal.
Fast forward 20 minutes, and I was standing in front of the booth watching an Hombre being made. The grated potato is packed into each side of a custom-made cast iron press — kind of like a pill-shaped waffle iron. The ingredients are packed in, the iron closed, and then it’s cooked over an open flame until both sides of the thing have browned a bit. “The thing.” I still didn’t know what to call it.
On the Spudz website the owner describes the potato dish without naming it but does explain that the inspiration came from something made for him by a Brazilian friend. I did a little digging, and it seems to be what Brazilians call batata suíça, or Swiss potato. That dish takes inspiration from — you guessed it — a Swiss dish called rösti, described as a pan-fried potato cake or fritter.
Whatever you call it, here it’s been reinterpreted as street food with a clear breakfast-burrito influence. And if that seems out of step with a farmers’ market crowd, the website would have us consider, “All menu items are gluten free and use only fresh and local ingredients.” When I stopped by around mid-day, there were enough hungry shoppers to keep the three guys manning the booth pretty busy.
After a good six or seven minutes and several healthy shakes of salt, I had my finished product. I can say this for certain: there weren’t any real surprises. The hash brown was browned and lightly crispy on the outside. Inside it got a little mushier where it hit a thick stretch of cheese melting with the guac into the meat. The egg didn’t make much impact. While savory and filling, it didn’t feel super heavy.
I think I could have ordered better than the chorizo. Salsa was available at the booth, but a little verde sauce would have been welcome. While I’m in wishing mode, I’d have also liked some sour cream to go with it. Or, as the Brazilians apparently use, some requeijão, a ricotta-like cream cheese.
At $9 to $10 apiece, this Swiss-potato booth faces stiff competition against a dozen or so other quality food vendors in its immediate vicinity. But I sure went for it, and I believe that one should never bet against hangover food selling well on a Sunday morning.