When you live in a place, you find restaurants that you come to know and love, and that you miss once you don't live there anymore. (Even though I don't think the Pacific Northwest is for me in a forever way, there are restaurants here that I'll miss once I leave, whenever that might be.) This includes one-of-a-kind restaurants like Bistrot Lepic in Georgetown (D.C.), or Umi Sake House in Belltown (Seattle). But it also includes chain restaurants that are particular to the area. I miss In-N-Out Burgers like crazy, as well as Mimi's Cafe, both of which are very common in California (in fact, it looks like Mimi's just doesn't like the north of the country, for some reason).
The chain I miss from D.C. is Red Hot and Blue. It's a barbecue joint. The barbecue itself is good, nothing I'd turn my nose up at, but it doesn't especially stand out. What does stand out? Their potato salad. It is AMAZING. It's the best potato salad I've ever had, and with something as ubiquitous as potato salad, you better believe I've had my fair share of it. Red Hot and Blue serves it at room temperature, and it is definitely best that way. It's fairly simple, and a bit unusual, as far as potato salads go. I say this because of the presence of green onions, which I've generally found is not a common ingredient in this dish.
This copycat recipe is one that I created on my own -- not that it took rocket science or anything. It's not difficult to discern the red potatoes (since Red Hot and Blue leaves the skin on), eggs, and green onions when you're eating it. And of course, there's the mayo, a necessary component of potato salad. I do have to say that the final ingredient is somewhat of a 'secret' ingredient (though not really), because it's not immediately obvious. Something made this potato salad taste especially good, but what? I tried making it once, using just the four ingredients I named, and it just didn't taste right, it wasn't as good. So the next time I was at Red Hot and Blue (ironically, not until I had moved away and was visiting -- dragging my companion to the restaurant just so I could have their potato salad again), I took a chance and asked my waitress what made their potato salad taste the way it did -- was there some special seasoning? And bless her heart, she actually went and asked the kitchen, and the answer was: celery salt. I still wish that my financial situation at that time had more closely resembled what it does today, so that I could have left her a bigger tip. Because thanks to her, now I can have Red Hot and Blue's delicious potato salad any time I want, without having to fly across the country for it.
To make it more like Red Hot and Blue's version, you'll want to cook the potatoes to a point where they are just soft enough to sink your teeth into, but before they start to get really mushy. I went a little too far this time and so it ended up being half mashed. It's no less delicious that way, and in fact has its own charms, but I want to make sure I'm conveying the true, authentic Red Hot and Blue experience. I've used different kinds of mayo and they all seem to work (unlike for Hodge Podge Salad, which absolutely requires Miracle Whip) -- this time I used one from Trader Joe's. It may be easier to achieve a firmer consistency with the potatoes if you boil them whole; I tend to be lazy and pre-chop them into medium-sized pieces before boiling so I don't have to deal with hot potatoes. The eggs can be boiled right in with the potatoes or separately; up to you. The components for this potato salad are so few and simple that you just can't leave anything out, or the flavor simply won't be the same. You've been warned.
Even though this isn't an official version of their recipe, every time I've made it I've been happy with the results. It tastes like Red Hot and Blue's version, which is what I'm looking for. When searching for copycat recipes for this potato salad online, I found one that sounded similar (but had no measurements), though it included celery. I don't remember celery being in Red Hot and Blue's potato salad, but it's been awhile, maybe my memory's wrong. Or maybe it's something they've added recently. I don't think it'd detract from it, so perhaps one day I'll try it. For now, I'm sticking with my version!
Red Hot and Blue's Potato Salad (copycat recipe by yours truly)
- 2-2 1/2 lbs red-skinned potatoes, skin on
- 6 eggs
- 1 bunch green onions, just the green parts, diced finely
- generous 1/2 cup real mayonnaise
- 3/4 tsp celery salt
- Place potatoes and eggs in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. You can pre-cut the potatoes if you wish, though this will probably make for mushier results unless you're super diligent about checking them. The eggs can be boiled separately if you wish; they just need to be hard boiled.
- When potatoes are done, drain them into a colander. Run cold water over the eggs to make them easier to handle. If you boiled the potatoes whole, chop them into bite-sized pieces when cool enough to do so. Shell the eggs and dice them. If you're watching your cholesterol intake like me, set aside half of the yolks to throw away or use for another purpose -- like giving them to the dog for a nice treat.
- In a large bowl, gently mix all the ingredients together (you don't want to end up with mashed potatoes if you're too rough with this step!). Serve at room temperature for best flavor.