Finding Fine Food at Five Restaurants in Grand Forks, North Dakota

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Awesome Tips   Flight Network Foodie  

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You might not think of Grand Forks, North Dakota as a culinary mecca. But its status as a dining destination is reflected in the Midwest city’s name.

Some deluded individuals, like historians, claim that Grand Forks takes its name from its location at the confluence of the Red River and the Red Lake River. But savvy food critics know better. This 1881-incorporated city with nearly 100,000 inhabitants wouldn’t be called “Grand Forks” if there wasn’t some excellent eating. It would be “Paltry Knives,” or “Insignificant Spoons.”

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s explore five top restaurants in North Dakota’s third-largest city, all within walking distance of one another downtown. The University of North Dakota’s men’s hockey team won the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four championship in April, and you can likewise have a championship-caliber dining experience here.

1) The Blue Moose

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Slip across the Minnesota border into East Grand Forks to chow down on some true local flavors. This two-level venue, decorated with antlers and stuffed bears and beavers, has a log cabin ambience. Signature dishes include the walleye roll (lemon-broiled walleye tossed with mayonnaise, herbs and wild rice on a toasted hoagie roll), which goes down easily even if you’re not a fish aficionado, and the P.B.E.B. Burger, which heartily incorporates peanut butter, a fried egg, and bacon.

A spacious patio overlooks Sorlie Bridge and the Red River. Grab a Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy from the Blue Moose’s Back 40 Lounge (offering 40 tap beer lines) and relax in the sunshine. And no, it’s not just the alcohol hitting you – that really is a blue moose out front.

2) Dakota Harvest Bakers

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Cheery yellow walls, fresh flowers on the table, and the delicious scents of fresh artisan bread create a welcoming vibe at this North 3rd Street institution. Fabulous baked goods like the Triple Chocolate Decadence Cookie, Marble Cupcake, and Caramel Roll go perfectly with a pot of French press coffee.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016, Dakota Harvest Bakers sources 80 percent of its ingredients within 200 miles of the bakery, including wheat, eggs, dairy, sugar, and honey. (Interestingly, the menu notes that cream of wheat was invented right here in Grand Forks back in 1893.) Stained-glass pieces and framed photos by local artists are also for sale if you feel like forking out.

3) Rhombus Guys Brewing Company

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This 2015-launched venture is setting the tone for craft beer in Grand Forks. Housed in a former opera house next to the railroad tracks, Rhombus Guys offers 10 brews on any given day. The vibe is laidback with ZZ Top and the Police on the stereo and a 1970’s Bally Bobby Orr Power Play pinball machine in the corner.

Order a tasting flight and sip the likes of Train Hopper (an India pale lager with unusual tropical fruit notes, 6.2% ABV) and Into the Darkness (a coffee porter best enjoyed on nitro, 5.0% ABV). You can rate the aroma, appearance, flavor, and overall merit of each beer – the staff loves to get feedback. Each Wednesday, they experiment with infusions like grapefruit, pineapple, and lime.

Hungry? Tuck into the house specialty Scotch Eggs (soft-boiled eggs wrapped in house sausage and served with spicy mustard). Or stroll over to the affiliated Rhombus Pizza a block away and wolf down a few slices while sipping your beer on the rooftop.

4) Sky

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For a first date or business meeting, Sky is the grandest restaurant in Grand Forks. Take the escalator to the second-floor, high-ceilinged location, laden with leather booths and adorned with modern art by Grand Forks-born, Brooklyn-based creator Casey Opstad.

The Dakota bison short ribs, braised in red wine and thyme and served with mashed potatoes, glazed baby carrots and truffle cream sauce, is a winning contemporary take on regional fare. Sky also delivers the goods if seafood cravings hit you in the Midwest. Two mouth-watering alternatives are the lump crab cake with bell peppers, chives, and smoked paprika remoulade, and the grilled salmon with charred broccoli, black beans and rice.

Most entrees are under $30. An extensive wine list offers vintages from California, Italy, and France.

5) The Toasted Frog

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The atmosphere at this brick-walled, North 3rd Street restaurant by the Red River is as hopping as its name implies. Fried dill pickles wrapped in Havarti cheese and served with sriracha are the house specialty.

Dessert lovers can’t miss the unique pear pie, dished up on a pizza crust with cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce. It’s big enough to feed three people. It will leave you with the sweetest impression imaginable of life in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

For more information, check out the Visit Grand Forks web site.

About the Author: Lucas Aykroyd

Lucas Aykroyd is an award-winning Vancouver travel writer and public speaker. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and National Geographic Traveler. To engage his services, visitlucasaykroyd.com.

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