You say "potato," I say "Baked Potato Bar Dinner Party." Recently, I was invited to a friend's to watch the last two episodes of the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. When the invitation promised a baked potato bar I was sold, and rushed out the door to watch Rory and Lorelai gab away while enjoying a comforting meal.

The baked potato party was everything I hoped for. It was simple, but so perfect and satisfying. I was so impressed with the idea that I've made it my personal mission to spread the word. So here is a plan to help you throw your own budget-friendly baked potato bar themed dinner party.

Photo by Soup Loving Nicole

The Perfect Baked Potato

Choose medium-sized russet potatoes. Scrub them well, pierce a few times with a fork, and rub with olive oil and salt before baking. Plan on 1-2 potatoes per person. If your guests are less than hungry, you'll have baked potatoes as leftovers. Just in case you are a fan of potatoes and have hungry guests on your hands, you might as well throw in a few extra spuds into the oven to guarantee a few leftover potatoes. Try these recipes:

Photo by Scotdog

The Tastiest Toppings

Make your own toppings. Just like with pizza, burgers, and tacos, toppings are where it's at! Be creative. Plan ahead. And do consider your guests's dietary restrictions when deciding on the selection of toppings for your baked potato bar. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Terrific Turkey Chili

Photo by Nicolette

Baked Potato Dip II

Photo by footballgrl16

Herbed Mushrooms with White Wine

Photo by Okinawanprincess

The Little Extras

Make it easier on yourself as a host and don't feel like you have to make everything yourself. Either delegate a few toppings to your guests, or ask them to bring dessert or a bottle of wine. Don't forget your local grocery store for a few quick, ready-to-buy items:

  • Shredded cheese - pick 2 or 3 varieties to include both sharp and mild flavors
  • Greens - sliced green onion, chives, dill, or parsley
  • Vegetables - diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, guacamole, broccoli florets (you can get these directly from a salad bar already prepped)

Make It Fun!

Once you've got your potatoes baked and toppings prepared, set them on a table buffet-style and let your guests build their own potato mastepieces. If you want to go a step further, print out suggested "builds" for potatoes. For example, add Mexican-Style Baked Potato with fajita beef, guacamole, sour cream, and queso fresco or Greek Baked Potato with ground lamb, feta, and tzatziki.

Need more ideas to step up your baked potato game?