Every bar in North Dakota wants to feed my newfound pull tab fascination.

Jake reminds me that pull tabs existed in the Twin Cities, despite the fact that I don’t remember them.

Here, many hunch over small baskets of pull tabs, chasing drinks around the bar.  Once, Jake’s coworkers entertained us with stories of winning thousands of dollars from pull tabs.  More than once.  So, I marched over to the pull tab seller and tried to buy a single pull tab with loose change.  The man gave me a strange look and made me exchange my coins for a dollar bill.  I bought one pull tab, garnering stranger looks from our friends.

My Casino Fails
I rarely heard the word casino growing up.  My parents uttered alcohol even more rarely and let’s not  even delve into the one and only time I brought home a six-pack of Berry Weiss during my first summer break, after turning 21.

Once, I stopped at the newly built Diamond Joe’s casino on the way back to college located in Waverly, IA.  Short story even shorter, I was shocked when the casino employee told me I could not actually insert pennies into penny slots.  I had no idea how to operate the slot machines, lost five dollars, got mad, and left.  More recently, we celebrated a family birthday at Mystic Lake casino.  When I gained back the  twenty dollars I had lost, Jake wrestled me away from Kitty Glitter.

Oh, and once I won two dollars from a scratch and win ticket during a May term spent in San Bernardino, CA.

This pretty much concludes my gambling experiences.

Dempsey’s Public House
226 Broadway
Fargo, ND 58102

On a Saturday night, we headed to Dempsey’s to order the Italian-style beef sandwiches Jake had enjoyed, earlier, at Bertrosa’s Chicago Cafe.  Though Bertrosa’s is only open 11 a.m. – 5p.m. on weekdays, their food is available at Dempsey’s on evenings and weekends.

Once we were seated, I indulged in a few pull tabs and won nothing.

Except pull tabs.

Since it was Saturday happy hour at Dempsey’s, we were each given a ticket for a chance to win a free drink.

We started by trying Bertrosa’s beer cheese soup.  Normally, I enjoy beer cheese soup for it’s obvious cheese factor, though I usually find it bland and gloppy.  A fellow foodie told me she thought it was the best beer cheese soup she had ever tasted.  I enthusiastically concur.

Like all other beer cheese soups, Bertrosa’s was garishly Cheez Whiz colored.  However, it’s texture actually struck me as soup, rather than gel.  The soup packed a mischievous kick of heat, sweetness from beer, and depth from herbs (albeit, they appeared to be dried herbs).  I’m going to stop here and stop trying to justify my love for this guilty pleasure, cheese soup.

When Jake and I road tripped to Chicago a couple of years ago, we enjoyed sopping wet beef sandwiches with spicy peppers.

Jake ordered Bertrosa’s regular Italian-style beef sandwich, while I ordered mine with horseradish.  We both ordered the sandwiches with hot pickled peppers.

While we waited, the bartender call out Jake’s ticket number and we won a free drink of our choice.  A free White Russian softened my pull tab disappointment.

The menu did not list an option to dunk one’s sandwich in au jus, and the bun arrived dry.  The bread was my least favorite component of the sandwich, as it seemed a little dry and its texture was reminiscent of spongy Olive Garden bread sticks.

The beef was moist and tender and I have no idea if it was homemade or sliced deli meat.

The sauteed onions and peppers were a nice touch, regardless of authenticity.  If offered sauteed onion and peppers, I will always say “yes.”

My favorite components of the sandwich, by a long stretch, were the hot pickled peppers and horseradish sauce.  Bertrosa’s not only topped the sandwich with plenty of peppers, but included an extra cup.

Though the horseradish sauce looked creamy, it actually tasted light, instead of mayonnaisey, and packed lots of nasal-burning bite.  Jake remembered his sandwich was moister and possibly dipped during his weekday visit to Bertrosa’s, itself.  So if you visit Dempsey’s and want your sandwich wet, ask if dipping is an option.

We had more than enough food and packed much of it for home, but Jake really wanted me to taste the Chicago-style hot dog.

I’ve managed to have never eaten a Chicago dog during several trips to Chicago, but Jake has and enjoyed Bertrosa’s.  The bun was much softer than the beef sandwich’s, and included plenty of sweet, fluorescent green relish, tomato, mustard, celery salt, and more hot peppers.

As we ate our meal, customers randomly dropped their uncalled drink tickets on our booth as they left the restaurant.  By the end of our visit, we had amassed a large pile of tickets and won four drinks in a row.  At first, we discreetly gifted the first two drinks to the most solitary and lonely individuals at the bar.  Drink three went to whoever hollered the loudest.  And by drink four, it was waitress’s choice.  On the way out the door, we also passed the drink tickets to another set of lucky patrons.

Our evening at Dempsey’s was a lot of fun.  This particular Saturday dinner hour was rather subdued and the friendly staff literally showered us with free drinks.  I would enthusiastically return to Dempsey’s for Saturday happy hour drink raffle, the best beer cheese soup ever, and affordable, spicy, Chicago-style food.  I feel an automatic fondness grow for any establishment that serves food spicy enough to make me sweat, pull tab victory or not.