Dishes To Die For: What To Eat In Fargo

People often ask me where to eat when they visit Fargo. Getting requests like this from other writers, travelers and complete strangers is one of the best things about this job, because I get to show off where I live. This city has an excellent, constantly evolving food scene and there’s no shortage of choices.

I love it when visitors ask me to recommend a few dishes I really like, because that’s a totally different list — and one I don’t get to share often.

All lists are subjective, but this one is especially, unapologetically customized. These are my favorite things, the dishes I crave and the menu items I keep coming back to. As a result, some categories (Indian food, pizza) show up twice. Some of my favorite restaurants don’t show up at all. And the list is random, including everything from udon to hummus, burgers to pancakes. And that’s okay.

So if you ask me what dishes and sides you should try in Fargo, here’s where I’ll tell you to start. Here’s where and what to eat in my town.

Hummus at Blackbird Woodfire

My writer friend Sarah turned me on to this hummus and it quickly became my go-to menu item at Blackbird. You get all the creamy, hummus-y goodness, crispy flat bread and the chewy woodfired bread that makes this place a carb-lovers paradise.

Arroz Con Pollo at Acapulco Mexican Restaurant

The juicy chicken! That luscious sauce! Those fat, delicious mushrooms! I’ve tried at lot of menu items at this authentic Mexican joint, but the Arroz con Pollo is my absolute favorite. I keep coming back for it again and again.

Humpty Dumpty Burger at JL Beers

You will probably have to wait for a seat or belly up to the bar next to strangers at JL Beers. The Fargo-based burger chain’s slogan is “Seating for 1,000…47 at a time” and the long, narrow restaurants (there are few in the F-M metro and in surrounding cities and states) don’t include much more than a grill for burgers, a French Fry fryer, a few tables and a long bar that looks upon the equally long line of ever-changing taps. (As the name would suggest, JL Beers offers one of the best craft beer selections in town.)

This is the only place in the world where I always order the same thing. The Humpty Dumpty burger, topped with a fried egg and gooey cheese, is my favorite burger on the planet. I’ve never been tempted by anything else.

Toast at >Young Blood Coffee Co

I’ve been rolling my eyes at this stupid toast trend for months. Like, it’s just bread, people! Get over yourselves. Then I had the toast at Young Blood Coffee Co. and realized I was an idiot.

This is no wimpy slice of Wonderbread. Instead, you score a fat slice of freshly baked bread slathered with jam. It’s amazing. And filling. You should probably just buy an entire loaf of bread, because you’re going to want to keep eating.

Vegetarian Curry at India Palace

Okay, I kind of cheated on this one, because I didn’t name just one menu item. But that’s honestly because I can’t! Everything at my favorite Indian restaurant in town (located dangerously close to my house) is good, but the veggie items are especially transcendent. The Chana Masala (chickpeas with ginger and garlic) and absolutely anything with their handmade Panner cheese (as shown in gorgeous photo above, taken at my friend’s wedding reception there) are my current favorites.

If you’re new to Indian food, this is a great place to start. India Palace is run and staffed by the nicest people ever. They’ll walk you through the menu, encourage you to ask questions and let you customize as needed. (My friend Liz still orders her food “White Girl Mild.”)

Pancakes at The Shack on Broadway

I’m always looking for pancakes that taste great on their own. My search for the perfect recipe hasn’t paid off yet, but when I need perfect pancakes, I head to the Shack on Broadway.

Located way up north, this is a locals-only spot that is always packed on weekends. The pancakes here are consistently voted as the best in the city and they deserve the accolades. No syrup needed.

Chicken Udon Izumi Sushi and Hibachi

I once went to Japan with the sole goal of eating as many kinds of noodles as possible. (A worthy goal if ever there was one.) Fat, chewy udon noodles are my absolute favorite.

Other people come to this sleek spot for all you can eat sushi, but when the weather cools, you’ll find me in a booth, sipping a steaming hot bowl of Chicken Udon Soup. It’s the ultimate comfort food.

Fried Cheesy Pickles at The Toasted Frog

The Toasted Frog is an upscale restaurant that actually got its start just north of Fargo in Grand Forks. (There’s a location in Bismarck as well.) The menu and ambiance are smart and sophisticated and everything is made from scratch with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.

But whether I’m dining on wood fired pizza or walleye, I always save room for the Fried Cheesy Pickles. The fat dill pickle spears are wrapped in Havarti cheese and fried so they’re light and crispy. They don’t photograph particularly well (you can see my attempt here), but they taste amazing.

Bagels at BernBaum’s

This little neighborhood joint is a newly relocated downtown gem. It’s always packed with locals popping in for brunch on the weekends or grabbing to-go orders and bags of fresh bagels to take back to work.

The Midwest doesn’t always do bagels well. (I’ve had a lot of fluffy, carb bombs in my day.) But these are the real deal — chewy, fresh and fabulous. Fargo foodies have been following Chef Andrea Baumgardner and Brett Bernath since their days at the HoDo and Green Market and their blend of Jewish and Scandinavian food (think lox, pickled nibbles and matzo ball soup) totally works.

Guacamole at Vinyl Taco

Confession alert: I’m not really crazy about avocado in general and I can take or leave guacamole. But my guac-loving friends got me into this creamy, rich guacamole, packed with plenty of delicious pico de gallo and lime, served with just made chips.

Don’t let the restaurant name scare you. (Vinyl refers to the records on the sound system, not weird, plastic-y Mexican food.)

Knoephla Soup at Kroll’s Diner

A huge portion of North Dakotans have German-speaking ancestors and the dishes they brought with them show up on the menu at Kroll’s. This 24-hour diner is a throwback classic, all blinding chrome and glittery booths and hand-scooped shakes and malts in the 1950s atmosphere.

The German grandma spokeswoman (“Sit down und eat!”) tempts patrons with German dishes, including super satisfying knoephla soup, packed with fat little dumplings. These aren’t the pillowy, soft little dumplings like grandma makes, but that doesn’t stop me from craving this when I’m cold or sick or when I’m feeling nostalgic and just want to curl up by a fire and a good book. I’m apparently not the only one. They sell this stuff by the bucket.

Breakfast Pizza at Pizza Patrol

Topped with scrambled eggs and savory sausage, this isn’t exactly high brow food. But it’s delicious. Especially at 3 a.m. after a particularly epic night out. Current and former Fargo-Moorhead college students and bar flies have the 241-9000 phone number permanently imprinted on our brains for good reason.

The Tuscany pizza at Rhombus Guys

Look, all of the pizzas at Rhombus Guys are great. And they have a ton of vegetarian and gluten free options, which means this laid back pizza spot, where you can color with crayons on the butcher paper table covering or sit on the rooftop patio in warm weather, has something the whole crew can enjoy.

But the Tuscany, heaped with chicken, onions, red peppers and tomatoes, lightly seasoned with oregano and garlic and topped with mozzarella and pillowy bites of ricotta cheese is always my first pick. It features a sweet, mild mustard sauce instead of red sauce, which makes it over the top good. (I kind of want to put the mustard sauce on everything!)

Reel Deal Fish and Chips at Deep Blue Seafood

This thick, flaky, beer-battered Alaskan cod is the star of the best fish and chips I’ve had outside of London, where fish from a take-out joint got grease all over my jeans on the Tube and pretty much blew my mind. The fish and chips (fries, in Midwestern speak) at Deep Blue Seafood aren’t any tidier to eat, but they’re just as delicious.

Portions are humongous, so come hungry. Don’t forget to grab the vinegar to enjoy fish and chips as they’re meant to be eaten.

Scotch Eggs at The Boiler Room

Wrapping hard boiled eggs in sausage and then deep frying them does, admittedly, sound a little weird. But these deliciously unhealthy appetizers are absolutely addictive. I first tried them when I made them in high school Home Ec class with my friend Adam, using a recipe in an out of print international cook book (that I’ve since tracked down on Amazon), and I’ve been into them ever since.

They’re a little labor intensive, so it’s just easier to head to the Boiler Room. The restaurant is (as its name suggests) cleverly hidden in the bowels of a building just off Broadway. If you go on the weekend, you’ll have to enter through the main entrance on Roberts Street alley.

What about you?

Which restaurants on this list have you tried?

What do you order when you go?
Which dishes do you want to try next?

What foods do you keep coming back to?

What’s your favorite restaurant or your favorite dish?
Tell me about both!

Alicia Underlee Nelson

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