Editor's Note: sadly, the Mashed Potato Club closed down sometime in 2002
"Restaurant and party bar"
Since 1994, the Mashed Potato Club delivers on its promise of being an "eclectic, erotic, eccentric restaurant and party bar." The MPC is known for two things: mashed potatoes and ultra-camp. Formerly located at Clark and Irving Park, the MPC has recently become a cultural institution of River North.
Canary yellow paint and a flashing pink neon sign outside give a prelude to the potpourri of glitz on the inside. This is a place where all the waiters are flamboyantly gay, and the menu urge you to flirt with them. The walls are painted with huge, colorful murals of naked men and women, Mr. Potato Heads and pink flamingoes are scattered around the room, and the high ceilings are bedecked with disco balls, upside-down Christmas trees, and more tinsel, tulle, and colored lights than you can shake a stick at. Additional decor includes walls of bookshelves and fake animal heads, one of which is eating someone. The bar is longer than most I've seen and is complete with a giant martini glass at the far end.
You can get potatoes any way you like from mashed to roasted, and either two or four lumps for your dinner. Mixed in with the potatoes, you have a choice of over 100 items from jelly beans to raspberries to humus to brie. Two scoops of potatoes are $6.95 plus at least $1 for each additional topping. If you're really hungry in the potato department, try the "Big Baker" – a baked potato the owner of La Bamba would be proud of.
For the less potato-minded, one can get pot roast, meatloaf, pork chops, or chicken for $10-$20. For desert, have a sweet potato with a variety of fixin's including brown sugar and rainbow sprinkles. And be careful! Even a Budweiser costs $4.50, so if you get loaded, your bill will be expressed as a percentage of the national debt. Additionally, my group got charged $4 for the dessert the waiter brought out for my friend's birthday, which we did not even order. On the other hand, if the staff likes you, they're apt to buy you a Jell-o shot or two.
As far as drinks go, if you asked for a Schlitz, they would probably point you in the direction of the bathrooms. Instead, they are known for their impressive selection of $7.50+ martinis. The most popular is the Chocolate Martini made of white and dark chocolate liquors with a Hershey's chocolate kiss on the bottom. For the budget-conscious martini lover, there is half-priced "Martini Madness" on Thursdays. Not into martinis? Have no fear, your pursuit of inebriation can progress with the help of 19 vodkas, 10 bourbons and 9 tequilas to choose from. Thursday nights feature "Half-Price Martinis." The trick: the martini glasses are half as big as normal. Like everything else at the Mashed Potato Club, cheeky – very cheeky.
Straight guys, be forewarned: you can still have fun at the Mashed Potato, but it's not a place you'd hang out in with your buddies. Especially, when around 10pm, the tables are cleared out to make room for the dance floor. Then it gets really gay. On the other hand, women are treated like queens because the waiters are jealous.
This is a place you should definitely check out at least once – if only for a "Las Vegas style drag show" each Monday at 9pm, sharp. Fridays offer the "Ultimate Dining and Dancing Experience" including a motorized Frankenstein, a singing statue of Zeus, and fog machines. Sundays bring the cabaret.
"A few years ago my friend and I went to this cozy little place based on the name only. We were seated right away (we got lucky). Not knowing anything about this place we sensed that something was different. Looking around we began to notice peculiarities. Paintings on the walls were odd, an American flag was reconstructed using rainbow colors, and then there was this catwalk and women who looked a little masculine. Then the show began and we knew. We had a raucous time. The food and drinks were outstanding. I am going back to Chicago in January and just looked to see if the MPC was still there. I will make a concerted effort to go back. This restaurant was the highlight of our vacation and I still recommend it years later to those going to Chicago."
In recognition of it's spud magic, the Mashed Potato Club was one of five editorial nominees for Citysearch: Chicago's Best Comfort Food award in 2001. For further information check out the Mashed Potato Club website. There you will find a rotating, 360°, color interior view with zoom in/out capability, and a coupon for a free drink [Editor's note: the website was shut down around the club's closing]. And remember the MPC's advice: "Have a good time, hope you get lucky, don't get arrested... 'cuz we ain't bailing you out."
Never 'just' potatoes"