Getting Loaded on Baked Potato Soup

The Dish

A few weeks ago, we compiled a Top 5 list of Seattle's best soups. What sparked our inspiration for this week's challenge was not the list itself, but the comments. Two of our very own (Mike Seely and Erin K. Thompson) proclaimed their love for baked potato soup, specifically the ones served at Nana's Soup House and West Seattle Thriftway. The latter is not currently serving the baked potato soup, but we found a comparable replacement in the same neighborhood. A grocery store and a soup house -- which had the winning spud and which was a dud?

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Nana's baked potato soup,
The Rivals

Nana's Soup House

225 N. 36th St., 829-9416

Nana's is a quaint little house-turned-soup kitchen in Fremont. It's cozy, warm and smells good when you walk in. After that, things get a little fuzzy. Do we seat ourselves? Do we order at the cash register? Someone tell us where to go! How we placed our order may have been a little hazy (you order at the register), but we do remember staring at a blackboard filled with scrumptious sounding soups. The selection rotates fairly often, but the one that stays the same is Nana's most popular soup, the baked potato. It's a heavy cream-based soup with potatoes (skins and all), cheddar cheese, and green onions that's served with two slices of rustic potato bread. A cup will run you $3 and some change. Our soup tasted just alright. It was a little too milky and there wasn't much depth to the flavor, but it did taste like baked potatoes. We just wish we were able to detect more of the toppings, like the cheese and chives. It was too bland.

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Super market, super taste.
QFC

4550 42nd Ave. S.W., 923-6390

We've got to give it to QFC -- they make good, palate pleasing soups. Not only were people swarming around the six varieties the West Seattle location had on tap when we arrived Saturday afternoon, but the store was nearly out of several flavors. Luckily, we got to the loaded baked potato before the pot ran dry. A generous cup of this soup was well worth the $3.29 we paid. It was loaded with large chunks of russet potatoes and everything else we love on our baked potato: cheddar, minced onions, butter, bacon and chives. The whole-milk base of this soup gave it a nice silky texture -- not too runny and not too thick. The consistency was almost like a melted cheese sauce. The sprinkling of bacon added a soothing smoky taste, while the cheddar delivered a richness we did not expect. Our only complaint is that there was a bit of a synthetic cheese taste to this soup, like the stuff that comes out of a pump at 7-11. The artificial flavor wasn't so off-putting that it ruined our lunch, but it was noticeable.

The Champ

Nana's has a great line-up of soups on their menu, and we have every intention of going back to try their seasonal pumpkin and broccoli cheddar. But when it comes to their baked potato soup, we were not impressed. We found it too milky and thick for our taste. After several minutes, the chowder-like soup turned into a cold, pudding-like consistency. We do appreciate that their soups come with bread, which is a necessity when you're eating hot liquid. QFC's loaded baked potato soup didn't come with a starchy counterpart, but it did come with a load of flavor, leaving us surprisingly insatiable. We don't know how much TLC went into the making of this large-batch soup, but it was good. QFC for the win.

 
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