Laurie Aicklen is the owner of Spudly's Super Spuds (2609 Harvard Ave., Metairie, 504-455-3250; www.spudlys.com), a baked potato-themed restaurant that has offered unusual combinations of toppings on potatoes — from roast beef to pizza — for more than 30 years. The restaurant's Interstate-adjacent location, A-frame building and interesting concept have made it a staple of Metairie dining. Aicklen spoke to Gambit about Spudly's long history, baked potato bars and just what goes into a "super duper" spud.
How did you become the owner of Spudly's?
Aicklen: I've worked at Spudly's for 18 years, first as a waitress for four (years) and then as the owner for 14. The opportunity presented itself and I decided to take it. The restaurant has been around a really long time — over 34 years, total — with only four owners over its entire life. I think that's pretty rare for a restaurant these days.
The building that we're in is an A-frame, which is also a little weird. We haven't ever really done any sort of remodeling ... just pretty much kept it the same. It was originally supposed to be a Century 21 real estate office. We've kept the same [cartoon potato] mascot, too.
We're right by [Interstate 10], so folks can see us from the road, but not as well as they used to be able to see us before they put up the big wall [the sound barriers]. I don't like it, mainly because it makes me feel claustrophobic, but also because I'm going to have to put up a new, bigger sign so drivers know we're here.
What is the most popular potato?
A: The most popular potato we serve is the "super duper," which is a potato topped with crabmeat, shrimp, crawfish, cheddar cheese sauce and chives. It really is our all-time best seller. Another popular potato is the "pizza spud" which has pepperoni, Italian sauce, mozzarella and chives.
Sometimes, people come in and they're a little unsure about what these things will taste like on top of a baked potato, but then they try it and see it's really good. It's definitely one of those things you have to eat to understand.
We've been doing a lot of "potato bars" for events lately, so folks seem to be interested in trying out different kinds of baked potatoes.
What do you think is the secret of Spudly's longevity?
A: I think it's the novelty factor for us. It's something a little different — a restaurant based around potatoes — but we also have other things like hamburgers if people aren't interested in [baked potatoes].
I've thought about opening another restaurant. I was looking for spots on the West Bank right before Hurricane Katrina, but after that happened we decided just to focus on what we have here. It's a lot of work.
We have so many regulars and people who have been coming here for 25 years or more from all over. There are people who come in and I remember when they were kids running around, but now they're bringing their own kids in. That's fun to see happen. — Sarah Baird