In the heart of the upper Midwest where casseroles are king and Jello salads rule, Fargo-Moorhead is sailing against the tide and delighting diners with surprising and surprisingly delicious dishes. From fine dining to food trucks and ethnic treats, the metro area plays host to foodies and wannabe culinary world travelers.
Not sure what to eat? Here’s a quick look:
Much of the fine dining in the area can be found in Fargo’s revitalized downtown area which the Washington Post recently lauded as “a hip scene.” Mezzaluna has been named “North Dakota’s Best Restaurant” by MSN. It also received top honors from Open Table and Conde Nast Traveler which said, “Mezzaluna is an upscale eatery that has the decor and menu of a big-city restaurant, the warmth and familiarity of a small-town joint and the mystique of a 1920s speakeasy.”
The Hodo Restaurant was an integral part in positioning Fargo as a fine dining destination. In 2000, Karen Stoker purchased the rundown Hotel Donaldson and turned it into a 17-room, art-filled boutique hotel, restaurant and lounge. The Hodo prides itself on serving locally and organically grown fresh ingredients in tantalizing ways. Maxwells in West Fargo is a French-inspired restaurant known for its fresh seafood and adventurous cuisine. Rustica is a sister restaurant to Mezzaluna and is located in the historic 1898 Kassenborg Block building in Moorhead. It features American fare with European influences served in a warm, comfortable and rustic setting. Usher’s House is located in the historic Moorhead American Legion building nestled in Davey Park. Foodies can dine on elk burgers or walleye while overlooking the Red River.
When neither the clock nor your wallet will allow for fine dining, or you’re just in the mood to eat while you stroll, Fargo-Moorhead plays host to several food trucks serving classic street vendor fare from hot dogs to tacos and barbecues. Most of the trucks are not parked and open for business all-year or even every day.
The Dog Father serves Chicago-style hot dogs, sausages and Italian beef sandwiches.The Hot Dog Peddler is for people craving a late night dog, including the famous “Cream Cheese Dog.” Luchadores Taqueria has popularized the mini chimi and flauta in Fargo. It serves lunch and dinner and can be found in the parking lot of Fargo Brewing Company. Sweeto Burrito has a storefront on Broadway and north Fargo. Taco Bros features the famous “I Trust You Bro Platter” that allows the cooks to size you up and give you what they think you’d like. Texas Q BBQ asks you to “put some South in yo’ mouth” every weekday for lunch on the 400 block of Broadway.
Residents and visitors wanting to broaden their All-American diet beyond hamburgers, french fries or boxed macaroni and cheese will find a variety of global cuisines. The community is becoming more diverse and it’s reflective in the expanding ethnic food options.
Asian food is among the most popular in town. Kobes is a casual Japanese steakhouse featuring a selection of sushi and teppanyaki chefs cooking on the tabletop. Restaurants featuring Thai food are popping up all over town. Popular choices include Moorhead’s Thai Orchid and Leela Thai in south Fargo which offer delicious curries, vegetable and noodle dishes. One food critic said Viet Palace “delivers on its promise of the freshest ingredients” in its Vietnamese fare. If Chinese buffet is your choice, look around any corner and you’ll probably find one. For those wanting to cook their own Asian food, Fargo is home to two Asian grocery stores as well.
Everest Tikka House is a relatively new Indian restaurant in downtown Moorhead serving popular dishes such as Tikka Masala and Chicken Momo. India Palace in south Fargo gets good reviews for its classic spiced-to-order dishes. Passage to India on 45th Street is also highly rated – a go-to meal might be Gobi Manchurian and Naan.
Cafe Aladdin has three locations in town serving Greek and Middle Eastern food. The lentil rice is a favorite, and the restaurant said it’s home to the “biggest and tastiest gyro in town.” Santa Lucia has been serving delicious Greek and Italian food for more than 45 years with popular dishes including garides, souvlaki and Greek grilled baby back ribs.
Habesha Ethiopian Restaurant in south Fargo teaches locals the tricks of Ethiopian meals – you eat everything with your hands and with the aid of injera, a sourdough-type flat bread. Food critic Eric Dauber said, “Prices are low, people are friendly, and the experience is unique, all to the point where dining at Habesha almost certainly stays fresh after any number of visits.” Home cooks can also buy groceries at the African Market on 23rd Street in south Fargo.
Stepping through the doors of Toscana in downtown Fargo starts you on your journey to Tuscany. Chef Mirco Morganti of Lucca, Italy prepares handcrafted Italian cuisine served upon candlelit tables.
Tony Nasello, of Moorhead, calls himself “The Lost Italian” after settling in the area with his wife Sarah. Their restaurant, Sarello’s, was the first Italian fine dining restaurant in town. But now they’re helping you learn to make Italian food (and other cuisine) through cooking classes and events at Sarello’s Culinary Events and Meeting Center.
Würst Bier Hall is a German-style restaurant and bar in downtown Fargo with 36 beers on tap, bratwurst, mettwurst, schnitzel and other German food. If you’re in the mood for Scandinavian food, check out Fargo’s Sons of Norway restaurant or stick around for the Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival for delicacies from all over the region. Those looking for good old-fashioned Irish pubs are also in luck. Fargo-Moorhead has a few including: Blarney Stone Irish Pub, Dempsey’s Public House, Hennessey’s Irish Pub, O’Leary’s Irish Pub and Three Lyons Pub. Beer is on tap and food from the British Isles rules.
Barbacoa brings “the flavors of the south a bit further north,” but that’s a bit of an understatement when you’re talking about the delicious tastes and aromas of South and Central America to the Dakotas. Mexican restaurants are among the most popular in town. One of the most authentic is the family-owned Mangos, which offers high quality meats and rich flavors for an affordable price. Another choice for fast food dining is La Unica in Moorhead. Stop in for a bite or buy your own groceries at the only Mexican market in a 70-mile radius.
If you’ve wandered out of the Louisiana bayou and into the Red River Valley, you might like Cajun Cafe. Don’t let the unassuming ambiance fool you into thinking this is a boring old American cafe. You can get soup, sandwiches, and omelettes, but why would you when you could get etouffee, jambalaya and alligator? Sazerac Alley in downtown Fargo is the newest restaurant in town offering Cajun and southeastern American flavors, including innovative seafood dishes.
Sometimes we all want to make like Jimmy Buffett and have a “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Fargo might not be paradise to everyone, but it has some pretty great burger joints. Sickies Garage has been voted both Fargo and North Dakota’s “Best Burger.” It won Yahoo Travel’s “Most Over-the-Top Burger” for it’s burger topped with bacon, fried egg, pulled pork, BBQ sauce and onion rings. Other burgers are topped with macaroni and cheese or placed on a glazed donut bun. JL Beers has three locations in town and is a great option as well. People who love rotisserie grilled meats will love Doolittles Woodfire Grill; the aroma of roasting chicken knocks off your socks the minute you walk in the doors of the warm, comfortable dining room. Pizza might not have originated in America, but we’ve made it our own in Fargo-Moorhead by topping it with tater tot casserole at Rhombus Guys or using Dakota ingredients in the wood-fired options at Blackbird Woodfire in downtown Fargo. Natives of Fargo-Moorhead who have moved away will tell you no stop back home is complete without a visit to favorite pizza joints like Duane’s House of Pizza or Sammy’s Pizza.
Beer and Spirits
People looking for a cocktail or brew to go along with their dinner will find a growing number of local breweries and even a distillery right here in Fargo-Moorhead.
F-M Craft Beer
Gone are the days when beer lovers had to go to the liquor store to find their favorite brew. In the past five years, Fargo-Moorhead has seen a boom in craft breweries – many of which offer beers with names indicative of the lifestyle and culture of the Northern Plains – Techno Viking, Prairie Shaman and the Wood Chipper. Frank Clemens, who runs Flatland Brewery, said having more breweries in town actually helps everyone.
“It kind of creates an echo chamber,” Clemens said. “Once people get interested in the local brewery in their neighborhood, they get into going in and trying new things, and that makes them more likely to drive across town to check out one of the other places.”
Here are the eight breweries that call the Fargo-Moorhead area home:
- Drekker Brewing Co., 630 1st Ave. N., Fargo
- Drumconrath Brewing Co., 349 Knutson St., Mapleton, N.D.
- Fargo Brewing Ale House, 4445 17th Ave. S., Fargo
- Fargo Brewing Co., 610 N. University Drive, Fargo
- Flatland Brewery, 3140 Bluestem Drive, West Fargo
- Junkyard Brewing Co., 1416 1st Ave. N., Moorhead
- Kilstone Brewing, 764 34th St. N., Fargo
- Prairie Brothers Brewing Co., 4474 23rd Ave. S., Fargo
If beer isn’t your drink of choice, Proof Artisan Distillers might be what you’re looking for. Located in downtown Fargo, the distillery produces vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon and liqueurs from local products including potatoes, barley and corn. Currently, the spirits are available in 200 stores, restaurants and liquor stores in North Dakota and Minnesota lakes country.
Choices are plentiful in Fargo-Moorhead. Locals and visitors constantly ask themselves “What should I have to eat and drink?” Luckily, the F-M culinary and cocktail scene offers plenty of answers.
The preceding story is published in Impact: The magazine for Fargo-Moorhead business and industry 2016