Gone crazy in White Earth

WHITE EARTH She got the idea from a quaint little restaurant in a small Mexican town. Having a mother who was a wizard in the kitchen helped too. The result is the “Crazy Potato,” a small kitchen on wheels that prepares a unique version of baked potatoes.

“My husband and I used to spend quite a few spring seasons in Mexico,” said Dottie Hanson, owner. “We went to a small village that had a Papas Locos, or Crazy Potato. They would put fried-up cactus, mushrooms, any kind of meat you wanted on a potato, just load it up. That’s kind of where we got the idea from.”

You won’t find fried cactus on the Crazy Potato menu, but you will find virtually anything else you could possibly want on a baked potato cheese, pork, chicken, ground beef, sour cream, olives, onions, salsa and more. The idea has proven popular in a region where restaurants remain few and far between.

“We get a lot of return customers coming back time and time again,” said Hanson. “They seem to be appreciative of it, that’s for sure.”

Even though White Earth is nearly five miles from the main highway, it has been designated a “boomtown” by some. Several campgrounds have sprung up in and near the tiny community, bringing with them a customer base for the “Crazy Potato.” However, others who have heard of the tiny cook car with the crazy name stop by on occasion too.

“I enjoy the people and all the stories I hear from them. I enjoy the locals. It’s been good,” said Hanson. “We’re open every day except Sundays and Mondays.”

The “Crazy Potato” is also closed during the winter.

“That’s because we have to haul water in here,” explained Hanson. “Once it starts freezing up I’ll close for the winter and then open again in the spring.”

Hanson, who retired after 32 year in the insurance industry, arrived in White Earth with her husband. He was working construction in Montana. When work became scarce he did like many others have done, headed for the oil fields of western North Dakota.

“He built me this kitchen, which was just a shell, and we started up the business,” explained Hanson. “I have no restaurant background but what I do have is an awesome mom who was a German girl who could cook like crazy. I learned well from her.”

Hanson says she has encountered numerous construction people from Montana who came to North Dakota to earn a regular paycheck. Sometimes she helps her husband on her days off, including the winter months when the “Crazy Potato” is closed.

“We have a home in Las Vegas and head down there for part of the time. We work through most of the winter up here though,” said Hanson.

Winter work is nothing new for Hanson. She was raised in Alaska. Her entire family still resides there.

“I flew the coup in 1983 and they all stayed there,” laughed Hanson during a computer chat with her sister in Anchorage.

In addition to fully loaded baked potatoes, the “Crazy Potato” menu includes other more common items such as hamburgers, pork sandwiches, nachos and soft drinks. Still, it is the crazy potato that remains the feature item and a favorite among those seeking a very satisfying meal in North Dakota’s remote and rugged White Earth Valley.