Category: West Fargo

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. 

    It Took A Year To Get To Maxwells

    It took us a little over a year to get to Maxwells. WF Maxwells, to be exact.

    The pricepoint being our main reason. The restaurant’s prices seem to hover a few dollars higher than its fine dining counterparts like The Hodo Restaurant, Mezzaluna, and even The Beefsteak Club (excluding the 28-day, dry-aged prime steaks). Those expecting a grand setting will be surprised to find Maxwells tucked in a humble strip mall in West Fargo.

    Earlier this winter, we visited Maxwells’ Max Bar for dirty martinis and the Roasted Chicken and Basil Pesto Flatbread. Both tasted better than average so we saved our return for a special occasion.

    We arrived at Maxwells after eight p.m. This Saturday evening the restaurant was extremely busy, but the staff had an opening at a small, empty table. Our original plan had been to arrive much earlier, but it was foiled by Jake’s car which wouldn’t start. Although AAA’s help arrived 20 minute later, they kept calling the wrong phone number. I guess I had accidentally entered the wrong area code when I registered Jake’s membership. The man who arrived was incredibly nice, all things considered. He also looked like Bradley Cooper, albeit a tad shorter and scruffier.

    Jake hadn’t eaten all day and ordered the mussels steamed in “white wine and saffron broth, roma tomatoes, pine nuts, & grilled bread” ($14) and the Roasted Chicken and Basil Pesto Flatbread ($10) to begin.

    Our server brought us a bread basket with soft butter shortly before our appetizers arrived. I especially liked the salty flat bread coated in Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

    The roasted chicken flatbread was as good as our first visit. It’s one of those simple concepts done well. Fresh mozzarella, moist pulled chicken, salty olives, and tart balsamic vinegar.

    The portion of mussels was generous. However, they were the smallest I’ve seen and tasted slightly more briny than what I’m used to. A few mussels were closed and a good number were opened just a crack. I refused to eat these. Jake theorizes that if a mussel is only cracked but can be pried open without too much effort, it just means it put up a good fight. Neither of us has ever gotten sick, but I don’t subscribe to this theory. More mussels for Jake. The shredded Parmesan cheese combined with the shellfish wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be. I found it unnecessary, but not terrible.

    As highlights, I liked the garnishes of what I’m guessing were fried green bean strips and pine nuts. Pine nuts cost plenty, so I fished all of them from the bottom of the bowl. Maxwells also provided a generous amount of charred bread with which to absorb the flavorful broth. The broth was the best part of the appetizer and the closest I have found to Meritage’s, except that it did not contain smoked pancetta.

    I liked my entree of Poached Salmon in Artichoke-Caper Cream Sauce ($29) better than Jake’s. The salmon was moist and the sauce was intense. It was thick and silky and tasted of mustard. I liked the Thai purple rice’s texture and the char on the sweet bell peppers. As a critique, I felt there were too many capers, given that the artichokes were also briny.

    Jake’s entree of Pecan Encrusted Pork Tenderloin Medallions was served with “apple brandy caramel sauce, chili roasted sweet potato and golden raisin chutney” which made for a sweet combination. The pork medallions were small and sliced very thin. The breaded exterior was nicely crispy, but the pork was dry.

    In Closing:
    The service was warm and appropriately attentive. Atmosphere was cozy.

    Maxwells puts a lot of attention and whimsy into the plating of their dishes. The menu items are creative and intricate, though I think some may be overwrought.

    Blogger and pianist Jihye Chang provides her thoughts on Maxwells in a post written when she used to live in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Her documentation about local dining is spot-on and I have referred to it time and time again She feels their dishes can tend to lean towards the salty side. I have a relatively high tolerance for saltiness and found the seasoning on much of the food to take me to the brink of almost too salty. I’m fine teetering on this edge and enjoyed that many of the flavors struck me with more intensity than many other restaurants.
    We ordered two of the least expensive entrees which cost $29 each. Because of the cost, we wouldn’t return for another full dinner unless it was designated as a special occasion. And we would certainly not order the pork again. However, we wouldn’t hesitate to return to the Max Bar for beverages and appetizers, especially during happy hour. Jake would be happy as a clam with just a beer and that roasted chicken pizza. Our friend specifically recommended the restaurant’s elk entree and bison meatballs in vermouth cream sauce served in the bar. Personally, I’ve been eyeing their Tuesday happy hour special of Beef Tips served with bourbon for $20.

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