A Late Summer Trip to the Dakotas and Back
My husband and I just returned from a two-week trip from Milwaukee to the Dakotas and back. Several of you offered advice on places to visit during the trip, so I figured I'd provide a report of our wanderings. It seems that my photo files are too large to be uploaded here, so no pictures, I guess.
We arrived in Fargo after a very long drive, but after briefly settling into our downtown hotel, we ventured out to Wurst Beer Hall
(630 1st Ave. N, Fargo, ND) for dinner. This place is loud and trendy with a beer hall feel, but they have a variety of traditional German-Russian comfort dishes on offer alongside artisan sausages, burgers, and stuff like that. We started with a bowl of their Knoephla Soup, a medium-thick concoction containing potato dumplings and flecked with carrots and other aromatics. After that we enjoyed a rabbit-rattlesnake sausage as well as a jaegerschnitzel entrée. The schnitzel--breaded and fried pork loin-- came with mushroom gravy, braised red cabbage, and spaetzle. All of the food was delicious and went well with a local beer, a Drekker Broken Rudder (Red Ale). Dessert was a slice of Peach Kuchen: kind of creamy, reminiscent of farmer's cheese with cobbler crust.
The following day began with a glazed raised and a blueberry donut at Sandy's Donuts
(300 Broadway N, Fargo, ND), a very popular downtown spot (the original store is in West Fargo). The blueberry was a typical cake donut, but the glazed raised was puffy and slightly yeasty-- a step above the ordinary. There were dozens of donut varieties available, including maple bacon long johns, bismarks (blueberry, lemon, strawberry), various cake donuts with and without frosting, apple clusters, and so on. There was no kuchen ready to purchase, but they do take advance orders for kuchen. Our next breakfast stop was Nichole's Fine Pastries
(13 8th St. S, Fargo, ND) where we enjoyed a lemon curd bar and a slice of salmon quiche. This place has some savory items (such as quiche), but specializes in sweet pastries, with an emphasis on French-style patisserie. Though there are plenty of cookies, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, and other common North American sweets for sale, the attractions are the croissants, fruit tarts, framboise bombes, and other exquisite confections that one more properly expects to find in Paris and Brussels. Nichole's also sells chocolate truffles of various kinds. There are very few places like this in the American heartland (Milwaukee really only has one such place), and Nichole's fills the bill quite well.
Lunch that day was at Kroll's Diner
(1033 45th St. S, Fargo, ND), part of a small regional chain that has been mentioned in several other Dakota trip reports here. We started with the Knoephla Soup, a thinner and weaker version of the soup that we had enjoyed at Wurst Beer Hall. The soup itself tasted bland and salty, compared to the thicker and more potatoey base of the soup at Wurst Beer Hall. The Kroll's dumplings were rather tough and probably had more flour than potato in them. On a brighter note, we tried Kroll's Fleischkuekle, a flaky turnover filled with beef. It was tasty, but unfortunately, it was the only Fleischkuekle we had on the trip, so have nothing much to compare it with. This version was rather greasy, and the beef inside was a thin, spiced patty, but we generally enjoyed it. The semi-Roadfooding Husband ordered a club sandwich, and that was standard fare.
We left Fargo sometime early afternoon, but made sure to stop at the Tower Travel Center
(101 Maiden Lane, Tower City, ND) just off of I-94. While researching stops for this trip, I came across some good press about the Tower Travel Center cafe/bakery. They make baked goods there from scratch, and I read that this was a good place for Sour Cream Raisin Pie, so I snagged the last piece in the display case. We ate the pie later that evening, but it was delicious: the filling was creamy, slightly tart, and slightly sweet, with plump, juicy raisins mixed in. The pie was topped with a proper meringue, too. The next day, at Fried's Family Restaurant in Mandan
(1010 Boundary St. NW, Mandan, ND), the Sour Cream Raisin Pie was also delicious, but not quite as good as the SCR from the Tower Travel Center.
Anyhow, after leaving Fargo, we made good time to Bismarck. Like Fargo, Bismarck has an attractive downtown district, and we spent our evening walking around and enjoying some eats. We highly recommend Humpback Sally's
(510 E Main Ave., Bismarck, ND) for cocktails, if it's cocktails you crave. The staff didn't blink an eye when we asked for boulevardiers and sazeracs-- this is a place that specializes in classic cocktails, and they do them well. They also serve food (they're a full-fledged restaurant), but we had reservations at Pirogue Grill
(121 N. 4th St., Bismarck, ND), a contemporary and kind of pricey restaurant that highlights locally sourced ingredients and creative cuisine. We enjoyed it very much and recommend it if you like this kind of cuisine. We had BBQ rabbit on wild rice pancake, venison sausage with sweet onion relish, sauteed sea scallops with fenugreek curry sauce, and local bison medallions with bordelaise. Dessert was a delicious rhubarb upside-down cake. Not exactly roadfood, but it is good food.
The following day, before we left Bismarck for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we packed in a couple more food stops. Breakfast was coffee and donuts at Bearscat Bakehouse
(1914 N. 12th St., Bismarck, ND), a wildly popular place with a loyal local following. The variety of goods was not as vast as at Sandy's Donuts in Fargo (this place didn't have bismarks!), but there were many good options nonetheless, and the quality is very high. We had a glazed raised and sour cream old fashioned, and both were excellent. The former was light, puffy, a tad yeasty, with just enough glaze to accent the donut itself; the sour cream old fashioned was soft and buttery. These were the best donuts of the trip.
After a tour of the State Capitol, we had lunch at the Woodhouse
(1825 N. 13th St., Bismarck, ND). This place was a King's Host Restaurant many, many years ago; when King's Host went out of business, new owners took over the site and kept many of the unique features, such as the telephones at each table that customers use to place orders. Another feature retained were the frenchees-- cheese frenchees and ham 'n' cheese frenchees-- that King's Host was known for. My husband regularly ate cheese frenchees and tuna frenchees at King's Host in Colorado in the 1960s, so this lunch was a little bit of a walk down memory lane. The cheese frenchee he ordered--reminiscent of a French croque monsieur--was a classic American cheese sandwich that had been battered and fried. Though this version wasn't exactly like what he had eaten decades ago, it was sufficiently similar. King's Host was headquartered in Nebraska, and today Nebraska is still known as a reliable state to find frenchees, but we were happy to find them in their appropriate context in Bismarck, SD. We also had a cheeseburger--nothing too special; more bun than burger. We didn't have a dessert, but they had lemon meringue pie and strawberry pie that day. They also have walnut raisin pie and pumpkin roll every day.
After lunch, we left Bismarck for Fort Mandan, and then from there we drove to Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Unfortunately, the food situation in and around Medora (and later near Devil's Tower, Wyoming) was less than spectacular. We had a reasonably decent ham and sausage pizza at Badlands Pizza Parlor
(3rd Ave., Medora, ND): the sausage was slightly spicy and had some fennel in it, but the crust was pre-fab and forgettable. Also on the plus side: it was the only restaurant still open when we arrived in Medora.
For breakfast one day, we ate at Cowboy Cafe
(215 4th St., Medora, ND) where we had a fine plate of eggs and a decent chicken fried steak. One truly bright spot, however, was a slice of sour cream raisin pie that we had there (made by a local baker). This was not like the kind of sour cream raisin pie typically encountered in other places: the filling was thick, sort of like oatmeal, and was spiced with clove. Instead of meringue, the topping was buttons of whipped cream. When we ate this pie, I remembered that buffetbuster
posted on a similar experience in eastern Montana, I believe. I asked the owner about the pie, and to him this is what sour cream raisin pie is supposed to be. I had never had clove in my SCR before, but the owner was like, "of course, there's clove, that's what you're supposed to put in it." Does it seem that this is an eastern Montana / western North Dakota thing? Perhaps. In any case, I enjoyed the pie very much, even though it wasn't the more "classic" style that I'm used to.
Overall, the pickings for the west Dakota / Wyoming part of the trip were slim--mediocre burgers, mediocre sandwiches, and mediocre Japanese food. These areas are very remote, and food is rather expensive: $13-$20 for burgers and sandwiches. It's hard to find stuff on menus that isn't fried, and produce is scarce. Thank goodness the natural beauty of the area made up for the lack of food options! The food scene improved a few days later when we made it to the Black Hills, though prices remained high and options were still pretty limited. I'll write about that in a separate post.
post edited by quijote - 2017/08/29 01:04:25