My Knoephla Soup Quest

I’m new to knoephla soup.

The first time I encountered knoephla soup occurred during a solo road trip to Fredonia, ND.  Last fall, I had stumbled upon the site Ghosts of North Dakota which documents ghost and near-ghost towns throughout the state.  I became enamoured with the website’s stunning photography and its readers’ compelling antidotes.  Fredonia had caught my eye because a reader mentioned Home Plate Cafe, a restaurant offering Russian-German specialties.

At Home Plate Cafe, I lapped-up every drop of my knoephla soup.  It came as part of the hearty meatball lunch special which probably cost less than $7.  The broth had a light texture and mouthfeel, even though it shimmered with butter.

Translucent shards of celery and celery floated in the soup, amidst tender potatoes.  Its knoephla dumplings were shaped as diversely as snowflakes.  Unfortunately, Fredonia is two and a half hours from Fargo; west to Jamestown and south through the rural back roads of North Dakota.  I hope to return, someday, for another meal.

Since our move to North Dakota, I’ve learned a little about the state’s German-Russian heritage.  Knoephla soup is one of their food traditions and makes its appearance in restaurants all over this region.

My newly found fascination with German-Russian cuisine has resulted in my self-proclaimed knoephla soup quest.  I am going to try as many versions of khoephla soup as I can and create a version at home, drawing from my favorite versions.

This weekend, I stopped by Kroll’s Diner, a local chain with four locations in North Dakota.  My takeout bowl of knoephla soup with saltine crackers cost $4.99, before tax and tip.

The broth was salty, verging on too salty.  I debated on whether or not I wanted to dilute the soup with a little milk.  The knoephla dumplings were abundant and I was relieved when they tasted lighter and fluffier than they appeared.  The broth left a strong, bouillon aftertaste in my mouth.  I also noticed small pieces of translucent onion and occasional chunks of creamy potato.
This afternoon, I ordered a bowl of knoephla soup from CJ’s Kitchen, to go.  This bowl’s size seemed comparable to Kroll’s Diner and cost $5.50, before tax and tip.
CJ’s knoephla soup was almost as salty as Kroll’s Diner’s.  The broth’s flavor reminded me of clam chowder and didn’t leave a bouillon aftertaste.  The dumplings were dainty and their texture was fluffy.  In addition to small chunks of potato, CJ’s version included some bits of chicken.
Overall, these two Fargo versions were tasty and comforting enough, but quite salty.  I preferred CJ’s by a small margin and will continue my knoephla soup quest.  Feel free to suggest your favorite versions of knoephla soup, recipes, or tips.
Jen’s Knoephla Soup Quest Ranking:
1.  Home Plate Cafe, Fredonia, ND
2.  CJ’s Kitchen, Fargo, ND
3.  Kroll’s Diner, Fargo, ND

14 Comments

  1. Trout Caviar

    Hi Jen: It’s encouraging to see that some vestiges of traditional cooking survive in the cafes and diners of NoDak. A few years ago there was a really interesting PBS special called “Schmeckfest”, about German Russian cooking in North Dakota: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/tapes/foodvideo.html

    It doesn’t appear you can see the whole thing at that site, but maybe if you Googled around a little more you’d find another place to view it online, or contact them telling them you wanted to see it for research? There was some great stuff, unusual preparations–I particularly remember someone making watermelon “molasses,” just cooking watermelon juice down until it was dark and sweet. Happy exploring~ Brett

    p.s.~ Stay legendary!

  2. Jen

    lol! you too. thanks for the link. i am looking forward to learning more about German Russian cuisine. I saw an event in Bismark this weekend with a German-Russian meal and am sad to miss.

  3. Anonymous

    you really need to try the homemade knoephla soup at the simonson station store off the interstate in bismarck….you will be back for more

  4. Jen

    Thanks for the tip! We hope to make a trip out to the Western part of the state in late summer or early fall.

  5. Susie

    I have an excellent recipe for Knoepfle soup. It beats Krolls’ for sure. Theirs is watered down.

  6. Tracie B.

    Try Nibbles and Brunch in Bismarck and Frieds’s in Mandan. Also a little cafe in Lehr has good soup but I don’t think they serve it everyday. Wentz’s in Napoleon was the BEST by far but they’re now closed.

  7. Anonymous

    Nice to see this. I visited Fredonia in June and wrote a review of the town> http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28955-i1257-k5582913-Fredonia_Lovely_Growing_Community_in_German_Russian_Country-North_Dakota.html

  8. MONICA

    I am also intrigued by the taste in that soup. I came to Jamestown from Texas to leave my son at college,decided to go Grizzlys bar and Grill in Jamestown…waitress offered soup and i loved it ( so did my 10 mo.old) lol..ever since then i have been trying to find it in other states or towns on my way back to south Texas 🙁 no luck…but hope to come back to ND FOR MORE. I THINK YOU WILL LIKE IT.

  9. Anonymous

  10. Jen

    Accidentaly deleted your comment. Thanks for the suggestion in Casselton!

  11. Shantel

    I love knoephla soup! I stumbled across your blog when looking for different places that offer it in Fargo. I recommend trying Mom’s Diner. By far the best I have had in Fargo. Kroll’s is ok, but Mom’s is homemade and hearty. Still not as good as MY moms, but a very good choice in Fargo!

    • Jeni

      Thanks for sharing your recommendation! We sadly never made it there. At least others can know to try it though!

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