I’m so happy to have my ‘smashed tater’

I recently hit the three year mark here at the Advance. The job here brought me back to Southeast Arkansas and my family here for the first time.

It took a little time, but everyone has managed to settle in quite nicely. As many of you know, Jimmy is a full-time firefighter for the city of Stuttgart, and he loves it.

The kids—Jordan, Cameron and Gavin—have learned to call Monticello home.

While I instantly felt at home when I relocated here with my family, I have to admit there are things I still miss about Alabama besides my mom and dad and Jimmy’s parents.

I miss getting biscuits from Jack’s—a restaurant chain in the area where we lived. I miss Zaxby’s and Guthrie’s food. As many of you know, Zaxby’s is a chicken finger chain. I love them for their “Zalads.” Guthrie’s is also a chicken finger chain. They pretty much serve only chicken fingers and they are divine. I miss all these places so much that it’s what I eat when I go there to visit.

And, then, there’s the smashed tater at Swamp John’s in Red Bay, Ala. Oh how I count the ways I miss that dish. It is simply amazing.

I first had the smashed tater when I was covering the Red Bay City Council. My friend, Stephanie, who worked in Red Bay, and I had supper there early in my career. I immediately fell in love.

So, from that point on, I ate at Swamp John’s every chance I got. The chain has three stores—Red Bay, Muscle Shoals, and Florence. However, only the Red Bay store, which is the original Swamp John’s location, has a variety of meals to choose. The other locations have fish and fries or chicken and fries.

Since I don’t like fish or chicken cooked at a fish restaurant, I’ve only been to the Red Bay store.

The smashed tater–which is a huge baked potato covered with grilled chicken, onions, butter, cheese, peppers, and bacon bits all topped in ranch dressing—is my absolute favorite lunch or supper entree.

Since moving to Arkansas, I’ve been trying to find a local restaurant to take on the challenge of making me a smashed tater. It took me three years to do it, but I finally  have my smashed tater.

I was eating at Coal Diamond last week with my friend, Kristie, when I requested a special baked potato. The owner came out and I told her what I wanted. Just a few minutes later, she brought my tater to me.

I’ll be honest, it’s not exactly the same as Swamp John’s smashed tater, but it’s really close —close enough I’ll be eating it again.

I couldn’t believe I was actually eating a smasher tater made just for little ol’ me. I’ve been trying to get local places to make the dish for me for three years.

When it was first brought to my table, I snapped a picture and sent it to my friend, Stephanie. She quickly asked “who did you get to make that for you?”

I said the Coal Diamond in town. She laughed. Stephanie said I needed to make it for myself at home. I told her when I tried to recreate restaurant dishes, things didn’t exactly turn out so well.

She thought it was funny I managed to get my smashed tater. Now, that’s what I call it, but the name of the dish is actually “Melissa’s Baked Potato” and it’s delicious.

I tried to go back on Monday for another sample, but the restaurant was closed for a private party, or so the sign said.

It’s super nice of them to actually make one of my all time favorite dishes just for me, but to put it on the menu and naming it after me was awesome. I don’t always see a lot of businesses working so hard to please their customers.

I’m glad to be able to have my tater whenever I want it. I know I’m going to enjoy my name sake potato more than I should.

<em>Melissa Cason is the staff writer for the Advance Monticellonian. She can be reached at 367-5325.</em>

The Advance-Monticellonian

Mailing Address:
PO Box 486
Monticello, AR 71657

Street Address:
314 Main Street
Monticello, AR 71655

Phone: 870-367-5325
Fax: 870-367-6612

www.mymonticellonews.net

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