Category: Fargo (Page 2 of 9)

A List: Our Favorite Fargo-Moorhead Dishes & Drinks

After nearly two years, we’ve tasted a lot of Fargo-Moorhead, though there’s plenty we still haven’t tried. Here is our list of favorite dishes from Fargo-Moorhead (and beyond).

Savory Dishes

Parma Prociutto Wrapped Shrimp with Marscapone Polenta & Sun-Dried Tomatoes ($7 during happy hour, $13 full price), Mezzaluna, Fargo.

Happy hour is like magic at Mezzaluna. On Mon.-Fri. between 3-6 p.m., you can order some of the biggest, most beautiful plates of food for $7. Our favorite dish at Mezzaluna is this small plate of crispy prosciutto wrapped shrimp. High quality shrimp with crispy tails, tangy tomatoes, and creamy polenta drizzled with chunky pesto sauce bring us back to this dish again and again.

Red Curry Scallops ($14), Sarello’s, Moorhead

I didn’t expect to find better red curry at Sarello’s than I’ve at most Thai restaurants. The curry was surprisingly spicy and well balanced while the tender-crisp vegetables contrasted with the silky scallops. I enjoyed the sauce so much that I swiped my plate clean with my finger. Jake used the bread basket. Either way, you’ll find a way to consume all of the sauce.

    An appetizer portion costs $14. This is a double portion we ordered to share with the table.

    Fish & Chips ($14), Hodo Lounge, Fargo

    I almost always order this dish when we dine at the Hodo Lounge or Sky Prairie Rooftop Lounge. Moist chunks of cod are coated in a panko breading and fried until crispy. The fish is always moist and noticeably fresh. I drizzle bites with malt vinegar or swipe them through flavored mayonnaises that have always been addicting, whether chipotle or curry-flavored. Plus, the fries are hand cut. This dish is spendy, but satisfying enough that I’ve ordered on our last few visits. 
    Wild Rice Burger ($9) & Bison Burger ($11), Hodo Lounge, Fargo
    In addition to the Fish and Chips, our favorite Hodo plates include the Wild Rice Burger and Bison Burger. Again, these burgers are pricey since they’re served a la carte, but are consistently well-prepared.

    Bison Burger & Wild Rice Burger

    The bison burger’s a juicy medium-rare and comes with fresh accouterments and spicy giardiniera. Diane, the editor of the High Plains Reader, recommended the Wild Rice Burger as one of her favorite dishes in Fargo and now it’s one of ours. Even my husband, who hardly ever orders vegetarian dishes, likes it enough to order it on occasion.

    Other dishes from the lounge menu have been hit or miss, but these three are consistently executed. 

    Dhamaka Balti with Lamb ($14.99), India Palace, Fargo

    Fargo’s newest Indian restaurant wins for serving us the spiciest food we’ve tasted in Fargo. This particular curry came with it’s own disclaimer: *Very HOT! Prepare for an explosion in your mouth. Finally, we found the heat we were looking for. The prices here aren’t cheap, but the quality is high and curries contain an appropriate amount of proteins. 

    We’ve also found the service at Passage to India hospitable and the food tasty, but it’s just not as spicy. Their curry sauces are richly flavored, but the meat dishes provide less value than the vegetarian. Their weekend buffet is above-average if you like that sort of thing. 

    Spring Rolls ($5), Cafe 21, Fargo

    We order these spring rolls each time we visit Cafe 21. They’re nicely wrapped and fresh. I like that Cafe 21 fills the rolls with a base of lettuce instead of rice noodles so they’re more like salad. You’ll also find small bits of shrimp and savory roasted pork. The peanut dip is rather sweet, but somehow it all balances out.

    Beer Cheese Soup, Bertrosa’s Cafe/Dempsey’s Public House

    Bertrosa’s serves the best beer cheese soup we’ve had anywhere. The cafe is hidden inside the Black Building along Broadway Ave. in downtown Fargo. Although it’s only open during weekday business hours, you can find this soup at Dempsey’s every evening. I find most other beer cheese soups too sweet, too thick, and/or too Cheeze Whizy, but not this one. It’s also a little bit spicy. At Dempsey’s, prepare for a carb-fest, because soup bowl arrives in a basket surrounded by bread and croutons.

    We also like their hot, Chicago-style beef sandwich with horseradish sauce and extra hot pickled peppers.

    German Sausage Chowder, Sanford Hospital Cafeteria, Fargo
    Oddly enough, hospital cafeteria food makes the list. For my first year a half in Fargo, I worked in a neighboring clinic and often visited the cafeteria next door for lunch. Many of us took an early lunch when we spotted this soup on the menu and it ran out quickly. It’s made with a creamy broth (not the overly thickened kind), kielbasa, silky cabbage, and potatoes.

    Hot & Spicy Tofu & Steamed Dumplings, Jade Dragon, Fargo
    One of my last meals in Fargo was also one of the loveliest. Tender meat-filled dumplings steamed and served with vinegar infused dipping sauce and this stir fry made with fried pillows of tofu, scallions, onion and bell peppers cooked to an ideal tender-crisp. The sauce wasn’t extremely spicy but it had a kick. I also like that it wasn’t cloyingly sweet.

    Our pizza delivery of choice is usually from Pizza Nico’s. They make homemade sauces as well as prepared meats like ham and barbecued beef. If we didn’t choose our own combination of toppings, we rotated specialty pizzas like the Buffalo, BBQ, taco and Hawaiian. Jalapenos are fresh and thinly cut.

    Buffalo sauce is above average but the wings aren’t great. They’re coated in a crumb mixture and I think they’re baked. On the other hand, the sandwiches are great. 

    Rhombus Guys: Louisiana Saturday Night
    I might make a few enemies saying this, but we haven’t frequented Rhombus Guys often because it’s overpriced. They offer a lot of creative pizzas, though some are a little overwrought for my preferences. Then, our friend introduced us to his favorite pizza, the Louisiana Saturday Night. It’s topped with Cajun marinara, shrimp, sausage, red pepper, pepperocini, and and caramelized onion. A large will run you $25 plus tax and tip. Expensive, but memorably delicious. 
    Rhombus Guys does run some daily specials like half priced bottles and glasses of wine on Tuesday evenings.

    Roasted Chicken & Basil Pesto Flatbread ($10), Maxwells, West Fargo
    Maxwells might be the most expensive restaurant in Fargo. Their dishes are intensely flavored and beautifully composed, but also strike me as being overwrought for creativity’s sake. However, we are smitten with their flatbread appetizer that’s available in both the restaurant and bar. It’s a simple, yet harmonious combination of flavors melding fresh mozzarella, salty olives, sweet roasted tomatoes, and reduced balsamic vinegar. For $10, it’s amply portioned. 

    Anything from Nichole’s Fine Pastry
    Nichole’s Fine Pastry smells like butter, just as it should. Sweet bakeries that don’t smell like butter make me nervous.

    I’ve never been let down by Nichole’s. Over the past couple years, we’ve tried many different treats like cranberry and brie-stuffed croissants, biscotti, quiche, constantly rotating cheesecakes, red velvet cookies, cannoli, and lemon tarts.

    Nichole’s also offers coffee shop beverages. I like their strong coffee, signature hot tea blend, and rhubarb iced tea.

    Buttermilk Pie ($2/slice), Pumpkin Cookies ($1.18) & Chicken Pot Pie Soup ($3-4) at Josie’s Coffee Corner Cafe
    In full disclosure, I worked at Josie’s for a couple months this summer until we had to get ready to move to Mason City, IA. I was given the opportunity to try many of their foods and found some favorites. I’d order them myself even if I hadn’t worked here.

    We especially liked the buttermilk pie, a tangy custard with a caramelized top baked into a homemade pie crust. The pumpkin cookies are fluffy and more like cake, topped with a rich cream cheese frosting. They’re intense for people like me who prefer salty foods, but I enjoyed nibbling them a little at a time.

    Even though Josie’s is a bakery, it also functions as a busy little lunch joint where people order sandwiches and homemade soups. I especially liked the creamy chicken pot pie soup garnished with a handful of flaky pie crust leaves.

    Coffee is freshly ground before brewing, as well as espresso. If you have a sweet tooth, look for Nancy’s special beverage creations on the chalkboard.


    Giant $5 Frosty Mug O’ Beer, Mango’s Mexican Grill, Fargo
    Since you’re there, enjoy the complimentary chips and salsa. The food isn’t as authentic as you’ll find in larger cities, but it’s made with fresh ingredients and nicely seasoned, more so than the Mexican Village and Paradiso chains. Plus, it’s run by a family that treats you like family.

    Favorite Martini: Maxwells and Monte’s
    The martinis here aren’t cheap at regular price, but they’re so expertly made that they’re worth it. 
    Favorite Cocktails: Mezzaluna
    Mezzaluna manages to craft creative, yet well-balanced cocktails. All too often, I order cocktails that sound intriguing on paper, yet taste too weak, too sugary, or generally strike me as “meh.” This doesn’t happen at Mezzaluna. Bartenders are hospitable and just plain likable. A small selection of cocktails is available for $7 during happy hour and $9 full-priced. Haven’t met one we didn’t like. Plus, they’re happy to accommodate requests for equally refreshing non-alcoholic creations. 

    Beyond Fargo Mentions:

    Jumbo Shrimp, Popovers, & Frosty Mugs of Beer at Wilkin Drink & Eatery, Breckenridge, MN
    This 100-year old eatery located about 40-minutes from Fargo along the main street in Breckenridge. Kind of like a pub and kind of like a supper club. Guests receive complimentary bowls of popcorn and popovers with honey butter. Has a unique character you won’t find anywhere in Fargo. We felt completely welcome as non-locals.

    Jumbo Shrimp at Theodore’s Dining Room at the Rough Riders Restaurant, Medora, ND
    The town of Medora is nestled into the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s got a family friendly Wild West vibe in the summer and eerie stillness in the fall. I had a lovely meal in the hotel’s restaurant that included lobster-like jumbo shrimp.

    Neopolitan-style Pizza, Sorbet & Gelato, Fireflour Pizza, Bismarck, ND
    Serves Neopolitan-style pizzas with blistered, airy crusts baked in a wood-fired oven. Toppings range from La Quercia prociutto to arugula to Calabrian chili oil. The housemade gelatos and sorbets are really fantastic.

    Knoephla Soup & Rhubarb Pie with Meringue Topping at Home Plate Cafe, Fredonia, ND
    To this date, Hot Plate Cafe’s knoephla soup and rhubarb pie are still the best versions of themselves that I’ve tried.


    Too bad the cafe is two and a half hours away from Fargo. FYI, the town’s population was recorded at 46 in the 2010 census and it’s a locals-only joint. Don’t let this stop you from taking the road trip.

    Breakfast Eggbake, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, MN

    One of my favorite parts of our stay at the lodge was eating squares of cheesy eggbake filled with various fresh vegetables (I doused mine in hot sauce). It’s complimentary with your stay. The view’s not bad, either.

    Drinking Cans of PBR at the Crowbar, Sabin, MN
    This cozy dive bar is located in the small town of Sabin, about 20-minutes from Fargo-Moorhead. You’ll easily find this bar on a corner along the main street, across from a towering grain elevator. The scene is composed of mostly locals, but we felt very welcome. There’s graffiti on the ceilings and a popcorn machine in the corner.

    Order a dinner special from the blackboard or flip through the tattered menu. We were happiest with a burger basket, more specifically, the cream cheese and olive burger. 

    India Palace in Fargo: A Spicy Dish With A Curious Disclaimer

    Our first visit to India Palace, Fargo’s newest Indian restaurant, brought tears of joy and tears of pain to my eyes. I wished it hadn’t taken us so long to get here. 

    Since moving to Fargo, we’ve been quite loyal to Passage to India. We dined at Karma, once, and found it bland so we stuck with what we knew. In the Twin Cities, there are at least five India Palaces, several of which are part of a local chain. I was initially concerned Fargo’s India Palace also a part of a chain, but from what I can tell, it’s not related. In January 2013, Eric Daeuber wrote a review of India Palace that was published in the Forum. He spoke well of the food and service, but the following description stuck in my mind:

    “When tradition demands something more like the Indian food your Midwestern mother used to make, the popular Chicken Tikka Masala brings a kind of comfort food familiarity, and a little smoke, to the table.” 

    Despite the fact that Daeuber gave India Palace’s food a four star rating, I couldn’t move past the comical mental image of picturing my own Midwestern mother cooking Chicken Tikka Masala. She never ate Indian food and avoided anything spicy. It would have been dreadful. Recently, a friend and chili-head assured us the food was spicy and well-prepared, so visited on our next date night.

    On this Saturday evening, we were warmly greeted and seated immediately. We ordered a couple Indian beers and our server expertly poured them into fancy beer glasses. For dinner, we chose a few orders of garlic naan ($2.99/order), raita yogurt sauce ($1.99), Paneer Masala ($10.99) and Dhamaka Balti with lamb ($14.99), a style of dish described as being cooked in a special pot with white wine, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions and seasoned with cumin, coriander, cassia bark and ginger. Most curiously, the following disclaimer accompanied this particular Balti dish:

    *Very HOT! Prepare for an explosion in your mouth.  
    Omg. An explosion in my mouth? We had to try this. 

    Top left: Dhamaka Balti with lamb. Top Right: Paneer Masala
    The Dhamaka Balti with lamb was wonderfully spicy. Despite the fact that I was weeping tears of pain and sweating profusely, I was really happy. Completely giddy on the rush of endorphins released by the hot peppers. The Paneer Masala was milder than the Dhamaka Balti, but it was still notably spicy and both dishes were laced with chunks of hot peppers. Those who aren’t fond of heat can certainly order dishes mild. Spiciness aside, the sauces had compelling flavors from which the heat did not detract. I also appreciated that the Balti dish contained a generous amount of tender lamb.
    Both entrees came with a plate of fluffy basmati rice fragrant with a subtle, warm spicing. 

    We sopped the curries up with the garlic naan that was blistered and soft in all of the right places and cooled them down with raita yogurt sauce. Both were respectable versions of themselves.

    In conclusion, we were thrilled with our first visit to Fargo’s India Palace. Our meal wasn’t cheap, but it was flavorful and thoughtfully prepared, the curries were appropriately filled with their respective proteins, and the service was warm and hospitable. Most exciting of all, they actually make spicy food spicy. I was getting bored with turning to Buffalo Wild Wings to satisfy my spicy food cravings.

    Kudos to India Palace for being bold and bringing us heat. 

    I Tried Cafe 21’s Banh Mi

    This past week’s spring break was a good example of how even the best laid schemes can go awry.

    One morning, I planned to drive to the Twin Cities to visit a some friends. My last solo trip was interrupted by a blizzard and all of the major freeways surrounding Fargo-Moorhead were closed. This happens out here. They really close the freeways.

    I was desperate to go to the Twin Cities. Spring break’s fluctuating weather left me stir crazy. Plus, I felt guilty for mistaking the date of a get-together I initiated. My friends were kind to rearrange their schedules and I wanted to attempt the drive. With nothing more than a soda and a backpack, I drove east on I-94, even though it had been closed earlier. I figured that as a seasoned Midwesterner with new tires, the roads couldn’t possibly be that bad. After all, the MN Department of Transportation traffic map categorized the roads as challenging and I am usually up for a challenge.

    The road becomes icy and I witness a frightening car accident when someone pulls around my car to pass me. They whiz past me and I watch as they begin to spin in circles and tumble into the ditch. For the first time in my life, I call 911. I panic and my hands shake so hard I can barely hold the phone. The dispatcher keeps asking me to better describe my location and I can’t. Finally, someone tells me they found my location from my phone. By the time I turn around at the next exit, the police and tow truck are at the scene and it looks like everyone is OK. I drive home going 45 miles an hour, even though a plow has already sanded the road. Cars and semis pass me, clearly frustrated, and I don’t give a damn because they didn’t see what I just saw.

    I spent my last weekend of spring break at home. Sitting on and brooding in my wanderlust.

    On a nicer day (keep in mind that I live in North Dakota, so nice implies non-lethal), I returned to Cafe 21 to try the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches they only serve at lunch. To my knowledge, these are the only regularly offered banh mi sandwiches in Fargo-Moorhead. I have found cold cut banh mi sandwiches at the Asian market but they look like they are imported from the Twin Cities. I’m not a fan of the mysterious deli meats and feel some of the freshness is lost in transit.

    We’ve previously enjoyed a couple dinners at Cafe 21, especially liking their fresh spring rolls and spicy ramen. I found their version of pork bulgogi to be less spicy and sweeter than the fiery versions my favorite Twin Cities Korean restaurants serve, but I’d still order it again. On this weekday, I ordered two banh mi sandwiches ($7 each) to go. One for me and one for Jake, who unsuccessfully tried to order one on our first visit. Cafe 21 only offers a roasted pork variety, but this happens to be my favorite. The server kindly brought me a glass of water as I waited for my order and 15 minutes later, I was on my way home.

    Each sandwich was packed with a serving of french fries and small cups of ketchup and soy sauce. Their size struck me as less than or equal to those offered at Jasmine Deli located along Eat Street in Minneapolis. Jasmine’s grilled pork banh mi also cost $3.75, but this is Fargo where Banh Mi are still a novelty.

    I found a lot to like about this sandwich. The pork had a satisfying savory flavor. There were a lot of sweet and sour pickled vegetables. Strands of fresh cilantro and jalapeno. A glistening of mayonnaise and, best of all, a thick smear of pate. It looked like banh mi’s I have loved and tasted like banh mi’s I have loved. Unfortunately, I felt the size was a little small and the bread was too hard. The bun was overly toasted and crunchy like a crouton. I sustained minor damage to the roof of my mouth. 
    The flavors were spot on and the fillings were fresh, but that bread. Overall, a good effort that’s decent enough to satisfy my banh mi cravings while in Fargo. 

    Only Got $20 In My Pocket: Fargo’s European Market

    It’s an exciting time to live in Fargo-Moorhead. Two, internationally-influenced markets opened, just within the past five months. Katerina Berg opened the European Market in the late fall and, in February, four individuals from Bhutan opened the Himalayan Grocery.

    The European Market is located in Downtown Fargo, down the sidewalk from Nichole’s Fine Pastry. Their Facebook updates describe their latest deliveries from the East Coast including pastries, cheeses, and cured meats. In early January, Forum reporter John Lamb wrote about his visit to the Market and the foods he sampled. I stopped in this past weekend to check it out for myself.

    The shop is tiny but features a cross-section of foods from Eastern Europe and Russia. Its selection is limited, but thoughtful, as if the proprietor cut to the chase and picked out her favorite things to feature. I chose a bag of frozen beef and pork pelmini dumplings from the frozen foods case that also contains frozen blintzes, and additional pelmini varieties in both a veal and sweet variety. Across from the frozen section is a shelf of dry goods. I grabbed a jar of sweet and spicy eggplant spread and buttery crackers. I was also intrigued by jars of fruit preserves and tiny, pickled patty pan squash, though I passed on this visit.

    Next, I visited the deli counters featuring cheeses and cured meats. I tend to be a shy and slightly bashful person, but I’m glad I asked Katerina for suggestions. She encouraged me to sample a variety of cheeses, from smoked Gouda to a mild, dimpled cheese from Lithuania. I noticed a few more cheeses in the refrigerated cooler. One appeared soft and spreadable, while another reminded me of feta. Next time, I’ll explore the cured meats. Finally, the cooler to the left of the cheese case features fancy desserts. Tidy rectangles of layered cakes and pastries in all colors. Like the rest of the store’s offerings, they, too, were affordable.

    My bill was $14.

    This is frickin’ awesome.

    Katerina instructed me to boil the pelmini for seven minutes in salted, boiling water along with a bay leaf and enjoy them with ketchup or sour cream. After I boiled the dumplings, I tossed them into a pan and sauteed them with butter infused with caramelized onions and hot chili.

    They were porky and succulent. A nice lunch for two (with leftovers) for $4 a bag. My friend, Yuliya, who coordinates the local Fargo Foodies Network in Fargo makes her own pelmini and recommended this video tutorial. She fills hers with ground beef, garlic, and green onion and serves them with sour cream and sprinkled with dill.

    While I was exploring the European market, a couple popped in to visit. They looked around and left without trying anything. Confronting a deli case filled with unfamiliar meats and cheeses can feel intimidating, but don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions or samples. I’ve rarely met a propriator unwilling to show off his or her favorite foods.

    Saying Farewell To The Green Market: My Ode

    It’s hard saying goodbye to Fargo’s Green Market.

    It’s really hard saying goodbye to the Green Market. The restaurant recently announced they would be closing at the end of March and issued the following statement:

    We will be closing the restaurant at the end of March. The restaurant has been a consuming passion for the past six years and we are looking forward to new passions in our lives.

    I, like many others, am very bummed about this upcoming closure, but wish the staff well on their new pursuits.

    Jake and I have enjoyed some of our favorite Fargo meals at the Green Market. This restaurant fills a void in the Fargo-Moorhead dining scene by offering seasonal menus, intentionally made from local foods, when possible, and it rotates every day. Its menu items are creative without being overwrought. Nor, does this creativity distract from the quality of its ingredients.

    Often, the menu celebrate occasions like the Chinese New Year or Dia de los Muertos. Other times, it celebrates themes like Julia Child. The Green Market has been supportive of local artists and fundraisers, often catering events, donating food or beverages, and offering their restaurant as a space for the function. Last fall, the Green Market partnered with Probstfield Farm, a local, organic farm in Moorhead, MN, and designated a couple weeks towards featuring the farm’s produce.

    There are a handful of other restaurants in the area that also strive to utilize local products and rotate their menus, but, to be honest, none do to the same extent that the Green Market has. Especially in terms of menu rotation frequency and most especially in terms of pricing. Somehow, it manages to serve food reflecting the presentation and quality one might expect to see at Fargo’s best, upscale restaurants at prices found at casual chains. Plus, they do so with local, seasonal, and organic ingredients.

    I can’t expect all restaurants to duplicate Green Market’s model, nor will I claim it’s perfect, but I would like to see more independent, sit-down restaurants serving, at the very least, scratch-made food in Tier Two’s price range with the same amount of quality and thought. In this regard, I’ll feel the loss of the Green Market the most.

    During our visits to the Green Market, we haven’t had any contact with the chef, but have enjoyed becoming acquainted with co-owner Peter Kelly and the lovely Kitchen Assistant. They always made us feel at home. Plus, Kelly’s a pro at helping guests choose wines and select cheeses from their case.

    Snapshots from our visit on February 21st, 2013. Dessert first, moving counterclockwise from the top-left: Magical buttery tart shell filled with tangy orange cream and passion fruit jelly ($5). Meatballs in bracing red and green mojo sauces ($13). Snappy shrimp, vegetables, and rice in a sweet, caramelized orange sauce ($14). Gently flavored sesame udon noodles with edamame and silky sheets of sweet pickles ($6). Not pictured: Cup of spicy West African peanut and yam soup ($4). Housemade pickle plate ($7).

    The Green Market is closed next week, re-opens after March 6th, and closes after March 30th. It’s only open Wednesday-Saturday meaning you have 15 days left to visit.


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