Dark Side of the Brew

When I’m writing a post, I usually struggle (and often fail) to come up with a cool sounding, eye-catching title.

Not this time. Dark Side of the Brew, Miranda and Aaron Anderson’s clever little Pink Floyd-inspired joint in Hebron, North Dakota totally took care of that for me.

This place is an oasis of indie charm in western North Dakota, a combination coffee shop, lunch spot and gallery that works on all levels.

Dark-Side-of-the-Brew

Liz and I stopped by pretty late on a Saturday afternoon and found the place still bustling, with families sitting down to a late lunch, regulars getting their caffeine fix and a steady stream of folks grabbing coffee and goodies for the road.

This being North Dakota and all, we struck up a conversation with the people next to us, including Aaron’s dad Andy. He runs Dakota’s Best Gourmet Coffees just down the road and he’s the guy who supplied the beans that made the still-steaming coffee in my cup.

We all chatted about the weather (unseasonably cool, windy and freakishly rainy all over the state), our travel route (from Hebron to Medora and Sentinel Butte, then swinging back through Dickinson and Bismarck on the return trip) and the fact that Liz and I have never seen a rodeo.

Dark-Side-of-the-Brew-Brownie

Liz grabbed a comfy couch by the window and listened to Mumford & Sons as we drank our coffee and chai and tore into this amazing brownie.

Miranda and her staff make a rotating selection of homemade goodies, including some really amazing looking sugar cookie bars, dark chocolate cake and gooey s’mores bars. If they’re even half as good as this incredibly thick and rich brownie was, it’s a good thing I don’t live closer, or I’d be on a constant sugar high.

Dark-Side-of-the-Brew-Reading-Material

That’s when we noticed that the coffee shop reading material in Hebron is a little different than back home. Coffee shops were vital to my development as a writer (and as a coffee drinker and a generally curious person), so I love the idea of a kid coming to Dark Side of the Brew and finding this strange combination of local news, great photography and frontier-style living on the front table.

Miranda brought out our food and suddenly, I was starving. (Liz is right — I never notice I’m hungry until I’m famished. It’s kind of ridiculous.)

Dark-Side-of-the-Brew-Sandwich-and-Salad

I tried The Secret Saucer (smoked turkey, cheddar cheese, an excellent cranberry chutney and mayo on sourdough) with a simple little a side salad of tender greens and thick tomatoes.

The sandwich was really fantastic, with nice, thick sourdough and lots of rich, creamy tastes falling all over themselves to compliment each other. And the salad was simple and fresh. It’s so nice to see a small town place reject iceberg lettuce!

Liz tried the Eclipse (ham, provolone, tomato and pesto on sourdough) and she enjoyed hers as well.

Dark-Side-of-the-Brew-Sandwich

In case you were wondering, the sandwiches are named for song lyrics. Pink Floyd references aren’t limited to the shop’s name; they pop up all over. Dark Side of the Brew’s Kids Menu is titled “Leave Them Kids Alone,” a fact that makes me almost sublimely happy.

I asked Miranda how they decided to combine a coffee shop and their menu focus on fresh salads, satisfying sandwiches and featured soups. “We really wanted to offer food that was different for the area,” she says. “And there really weren’t any coffee shops around.” And with that, she’s back behind the counter, busily making another frothy drink.

Dark-Side-of-the-Brew-Jewelry

Drawn back to her husband’s hometown from Fargo-Moorhead, where they lived for several years (Miranda herself is originally from Montana), the couple wanted the coffee house/cafe combination to complement, not compete with, the other restaurants in the area. And they wanted it to open up new possibilities for local artists as well.

Pieces by local artists line the purple walls and jewelry made by local artisans is available for purchase as well. This set-up isn’t unusual in more urban areas, but for a prairie town like Hebron with limited artistic resources, it offers artists much needed retail and gallery space and introduces the customers (who they call “Dark Siders”…I love that) to artists they might not ordinarily see.

Oh, and Liz wants me to mention that they have one of the best bathrooms we found in the western part of the state. Not only does it look cool, it’s also one of the cleanest and very good amenities. And she should know — she actually has a whole system for rating these things. She’s clearly the analytical side of our road trip duo.

So the next time you’re cruising I-94 — or the very cool Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway between Bismarck/Mandan and Dickinson — pull over and grab a little caffeine and something to eat at Dark Side. It’s absolutely worth a stop.

Dark-Side-of-the-Brew-Counter-2

Dark Side of the Brew
Dark Side of the Brew
712 Main Avenue
Hebron, North Dakota
Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 4:3 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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