Finding the Best Breakfast in Grand Forks

I usually skip breakfast, but you know the old adage that’s it important. That’s why I’m looking to find the best in Grand Forks. It’s not going to be easy. There are quite a few choices.

I want to hear from you about your favorite place. Then I’ll try to hit it up and maybe review it and come one step closer to finding the best.

Now, strong contenders have to be the Big Sioux Cafe and Roadhouse Cafe. Their menus are nearly identical (the same?) and they’re both open 24/7. Are they owned by the same people? Somebody comment if you know and help me out because I couldn’t find the info.

Breakfast at the Big Sioux (COURTESY NEW YORK TIMES)

Don’t look for any gourmet breakfast items but just the basics. But the basics are good. Both restaurants have been go-to places for the after-bar crowd. It’s a good idea after perhaps drinking nearly too much to sop it up with some greasy dishes that really hit the spot.

I like the interior of Roadhouse better than Big Sioux. But they’re both pretty simple. Service is usually good and food comes out quick unless they’re backed up, which can happen if they’re slammed with customers.

In 2006, when the New York Times featured Grand Forks in its “36 Hours in…” series, they visited the Big Sioux and found the portions to be “lumberjack” and big enough to feed Paul Bunyan. I can attest to that.

What is apparently popular and sounds really good is the Trucker Special at the Big Sioux. It’s onions, green peppers, cheese, mushrooms, ham, bacon and sausage atop hash browns and covered with two eggs. That’ll start your day off right (or end it).

Also try the waffle fries. Really tasty.

I hear from some that Del’s in the Grand Cities Mall is good. And Gramma Butterwick’s on South Washington definitely has its following.

I used to hit up a place just south of the Roadhouse Cafe called the Emerald Grill that served the same sort of food. It was just as good or maybe better, but I haven’t been there for a long time. Hopefully it’s still open.

There’s also Darcy’s Cafe and the Northside Cafe that offer breakfast. I know the Northside has a following. I’ve never set foot in Darcy’s.

When your stomach’s rumbling as you stumble home or if you’re looking for some eggs, toast and your morning coffee, stay away from the chain places like Ihop and Denny’s. You’re likely to have a better experience at a local place.

What’s your favorite?

Don’t Want to Venture Out in the Cold for Your Whopper? Why Not Have it Delivered?!

When the mercury dips below zero, the cold north wind is howling and your stomach just won’t stop grumbling, it’s a sorry situation. Suit up in your parka, mittens, hat and scarf of make something with what few ingredients are left in your fridge?

Well, the good folks at Burger King have the solution: home delivery.

Whopper Combo

USA Today reports that the restaurant chain is testing home delivery at four restaurants in Maryland and Virginia. They’ve even developed a state-of-the-art  ”proprietary thermal packaging technology” that ensures your whopper and fries stay hot.

You have to live within a 10 minute drive of the restaurant and no breakfast is delivered as hours run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Now I think nearly all fast food should be avoided, with a few exceptions, but this is pretty crazy. We can’t even get off the couch and drive a few minutes to shovel meat and fries into our faces?

They’re looking to expand the home delivery, so it might not be so long before you see little Burger King cars zipping down the road.

What do you think?

Dios Mio! How I Miss ‘Mi Mexico’

Mi Mexico closed its Grand Forks location on July 25, 2011 and I haven’t stopped missing it since. It took the long-vacant Hardee’s location at one of the busiest intersections in the state at Demers and Washington, so I don’t know how it didn’t survive.

Mi Mexico Closed

It was crazy popular when it opened in 2010 with cars spilling into the Leever’s lot. The restaurant featured hand-painted murals by artist Ezequiel Escobedo and colorful wood booths. I didn’t care for the harsh fluorescent lighting though.

Mi Mexico was my long-awaited alternative to the American-style Mexican food at Paradiso down the road just a few blocks. I know there are many fans of Paradiso out there, but it is nearly an insult to quality Mexican food.

News flash: red or green “gravy” and gooey yellow cheese topping almost every dish are not authentic Mexican ingredients. On that gravy, there’s really no flavor at all and it’s pretty nasty looking. It usually forms a film as it sits under the heat lamp.

Don’t get me started on Mexican Village.

But Mi Mexico was a shining light of authentic Mexican food. I’d go probably two or three times a month, salivating over the extremely flavorful (and pretty spicy) grilled  jalapeños.  I thought about trying to make them myself, but knew I would never be able to get the spice mixture the same. They were reason enough to come.

The menu was huge, filled with fajitas, chimichangas, quesadillas and more.

I remember I had the Especial Dinner that comes with a taco, tamale, enchilada, chile relleno, chalupa, rice and beans. It was enormous and really good. I didn’t much care for the relleno, though. I’ve had it at other places and found the Mi Mexico version lacking.

The Minot location is still open and if I’m ever there, I’ll definitely be going.

I hear from Reggie that El Metate in Crookston is very good. Check out his review. Hopefully I’ll get there soon.

I want to hear from you about your dining experiences at Mi Mexico or your rebuttal to my views on Paradiso.

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‘Drunken Noodle’ Menu Sneak Peek; Likely to be Late-night Hotspot

I was able to get my hands on the new menu at the Drunken Noodle in East Grand Forks and it looks very promising. WDAZ reporter Melanie Orlins got a first-hand look at the place today and says the owners are planning to open between January 23 and 30.

Melanie tells me they’re going to be open until 3 a.m.! I can definitely see this being incredibly popular with those strolling down the boardwalk or in downtown Grand Forks. Grab some drinks at one of the many bars and sidle in to the Noodle to combat the alcohol that is likely sloshing around in your stomach. A little spice is good for that too.

Menu Front

The restaurant is pretty large, seating about 120 diners. There will be a full bar and a stage for karaoke (great).

Menu Inside

Because of the type of food they’re offering, dishes will fly out of the kitchen. In southeast Asia, these noodle dishes are sometimes even eaten at breakfast. You can get them from little street vendors. The most common dish is called Pho. A tasty broth covers beef, noodles, bean sprouts and basil. Tasty.

They offer a selection of small plates with small prices. What sounds really good is the Little Mermaid. It’s “shrimp marinated in herbs, wrapped in rice paper and fried.” It sounds like a crispy delight.

BBQ Pork Ramen

Another item I can’t wait to try is the BBQ Pork Ramen. The pork sits atop snow peas, carrots, mushrooms, green onion and a hard-boiled egg. Anytime you put an egg with anything it’s good.

Pho

If you just can’t get enough meat, there’s the Three Musketeers. A huge bowl is filled with shrimp, grilled pork, minced chicken, fish cakes, bok choy, wonton chips and egg noodles in an extra spicy broth.

So needless to say, I’m ready for this tasty Fargo import. I’ll be there on the day or shorter after it opens. When I get a more concrete date I’ll have that for ya.

‘Drunken Noodle’ Opening Soon; WDAZ to Tour Friday

Yet another thing from Fargo we’re finally getting: the Drunken Noodle.

It’s from the owners of Little Bangkok in East Grand Forks, Thai Orchid in Moorhead, and LeeLa, Wasabi, and two Drunken Noodle locations in Fargo.

I haven’t written anything about Little Bangkok in EGF, but I am a huge fan. Not for the sushi, as I can’t stomach it, but for their curry soups and Pad Thai. Anytime there’s Pad Thai on the menu, I order it, and it’s always been good. It’s a noodle dish with your choice of meat and some peanuts among other things. Now if they could just change the name of the place.

Pad Thai

But I am extremely excited to hear that Drunken Noodle will fill the vacant Applebee’s on the East Grand Forks boardwalk and will be opening in the next few weeks. I expect to get an actual date of opening on Friday. WDAZ reporter Melanie Orlins will be taking a tour of the place and will have the first look inside on the news Friday night.

Anytime we can get rid of a chain and get a local (or regional) restaurant in its place, it’s a good thing.

They’re throwing out the old round Applebee’s bar and are revamping the entire space.

The owner says the menu will be similar to the Fargo location’s, but more extensive.

Drunken Noodle

What looks tasty to me off of their Fargo menu are the Gyoza (vegetable dumplings), spring rolls and the restaurant’s namesake, the drunken noodle. It’s “wide, flat rice noodles stir-fried with basil, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapenos and hot Thai chili.” Perfect to warm up with as this winter has finally turned bitterly cold.

What’s out of place on the menu is a number of American or Italian dishes. I guess for those not feeling the Thai dishes or for kids who aren’t adventurous eaters. You can get mac and cheese, primavera, fettucini alfredo or spicy cajun pasta.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll post more about Drunken Noodle’s opening and hopefully have a date for you.

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Wowed in Winnipeg

When one thinks of a culinary hotspot, Winnipeg is not it. That doesn’t mean, though, that there are a few gems to be found. That’s just what I was looking for when I drove the short distance to our big Canadian sister to the north.

First, I’ll let a photo tell you everything you need to know:

Sushi at Ichiban - How Good Does That Look?

I was also in town with a friend for the UND hockey game at the MTS Centre. It was just like a home game, with the full band, colors and tons of UND fans. You could see them everywhere downtown, with their bright white and green jerseys.

I’m sure most fans stuck with the chain restaurants, or maybe just the hotel’s. But if you look for them, you can find some top-notch eateries. There’s an abundance of Asian food, which goes along with the large Asian community in Winnipeg.

Now, you never hear someone say “Dang, I’ve got a hankerin’ for some authentic Canadian food!” When I was in Nova Scotia earlier this year, I found a place called Good Luck Restaurant. No joke. Good Luck Restaurant, as if you’ll need plenty of it to eat there and not have a horrible day after. But under the ominous sign was “Canadian and Chinese Food.” I had to think to myself, ‘what is Canadian food?’ Bacon and moose jerky?

So as we came into town, there was one place I knew we had to go from previous experience. It’s called Elephant and Castle (which I believe is a chain, but not too big). It’s a nice quiet British pub with pretty good food. They serve beers in the branded glass, a Newcastle glass for a Newcastle and so on. I thought that was cool.

I started with the onion soup. Pretty good.

Onion Soup

I had the fish and chips, as I am on a never-ending quest to find the best. My friend had the British staple bangers and mash, which is mashed potatoes, gravy, two plump sausages and some onion rings on top. The rings were quite fried, taking on a deeper brown than normal.

Bangers and Mash

Fish and Chips

My fish was cod (surprisingly) and it came with thick-cut fries, a below-par cole slaw and an amazing tartar sauce. I was dipping my fries in the stuff.

I’ve had better fish and chips in eastern Canada. You can’t beat the freshness of the fish, normally Halibut, and the different types of batter makes all the difference. Splash it with vinegar and salt.

We headed to The Forks on the banks of the Red River. It’s a big shopping market, with fresh produce, a nice variety of stall-type restaurants and some local craft shops. It’s worth a visit just to see the place. It looks like a European-style market. You can ice skate in a courtyard, and in the summer, sit near the river and it’s actually nice, compared with the muddy banks in Grand Forks. On a previous visit, I had a potato roti, which is basically a burrito with chick-peas stuffed between the thin tortilla.

Ichiban Interior

We still had more to eat before the game, so we quickly headed back to downtown Winnipeg to Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse. It’s a Teppanyaki style of cooking in the main dining room. You’ve seen this before, with the chef juggling knifes, banging on the scorching iron grill and wowing tourists with his speedy knife skills. This is not exactly for me, although I have done it once. I try to avoid anything that draws a tourist, even when I’m one of them.

At the Sushi Bar

Luckily, it being 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday, they were booked full. But we were able to sidle up to the sushi bar. A quick perusal of the menu and we ordered. Friend had (I think) three sushi rolls, all expertly prepared, and nigiri scallops which he said were amazing.

We had our food in no less than 20 minutes and the service was impeccable. We were asked by two people how everything was and our waitress was extremely attentive.

They also didn’t offer us silverware, which we humbly took to mean they knew that we knew what we were doing. It could’ve just been a mistake, but we chose to believe the former.

Feeling not as adventurous, I got the terriyaki chicken and filet mignon. I know, I should have gotten sushi, but I’ll let you in on a secret, one I am not proud of. I hate sushi. I like fish, but hate sushi. One taste of the fishy, squirmy roll and I’m ready to hurl. I have in the past had to choke down a roll or two and it’s not fun. Needless to say, I didn’t try them at Ichiban.

Amazing Looking Sushi

My dining experience was saved, though, with a piping hot plate of chicken and filet, which is enough to get me to make the drive across the border for it alone. The filet mignon was unbelievably tender. You could cut it with a chop stick. The chicken was tasty, too, with a slightly sweet sauce. Throw in mixed vegetables like red pepper, bean sprout and other things and it’s a meal I’d have every day.

Tasty Terriyaki and Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon

We had to have some sake, too. I had one bad experience with sake before, but this made up for it. It’s a Japanese rice wine that can be served hot or cold. Before, I had it cold, but this time we had it hot and it made a world of difference. The taste is hard to describe and unlike any other beverage.

Sake and Cucumber Salad

I also ordered some pork and vegetable Gyoza (basically a potsticker), that came with a salty sauce. They were good, but nothing great.

Pork Gyoza

After dinner and just before the game, we hit up Moxie’s, an upscale Applebee’s. I had a Red Bull margarita, which sounds disgusting, but was really good and actually better than the energy drink itself that can be a bit too sweet for me.

Red Bull Martini

We cheered on the UND men as they won 3-1 and more than a few beers were consumed. They’re around $8 so we racked up quite a bill.

After the game, we headed to a sports bar across the street from the MTS. They have theater-style seating where you can catch your favorite game just like in a movie theater. You can even order drinks in the comfortable black leather chairs. Something I’d never seen before.

The bar crawl continued with a stop at the Regal Beagle, in the basement of our hotel, The Marlborough. They’re both pretty crappy. The hotel looked like it was once a really nice place but not anymore. It was cheap and relatively safe, so there’s that. The Beagle is nothing special, but the guys singing karaoke were actually good.

Breakfast was at the hotel’s restaurant. It was nothing different from what you can get at Perkin’s or Denny’s, but was free, so we ate.

And a trip up north is never complete without a stop at Tim Horton’s, Canada’s version of Starbucks, although they have them too. Tim Horton’s is an institution, with fresh donuts and pretty darn good coffee (I’m informed by a commenter that there are indeed locations in the eastern US). A great send-off down I-29 back to Grand Forks.

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A Few Spots Available For Sanders 1907 Winemakers Dinner

There are still a few spots available at Sanders 1907 for the Goldschmidt Winemakers Dinner on January 26. Call 746-8970 for a reservation.

Sanders Logo

The restaurant at 22 S. 3rd St. is  the best in town. There aren’t really any serious contenders, it’s that good. They should be considered for a Michelin star (not the tire company), if they haven’t already, with a menu that includes stuff like blackened ahi tuna with Chinese mustard and a beure blanc sauce. That’s on special until January 14.

The winemakers dinner menu sounds spot-on. What really jumps out at me is the New Zealand lamb loin.

Appetizers

Smoked Salmon Mousse Puff Pastries
Wild Mushroom Filo Cups
Cranberry and Pecan Chicken Salad Crosstini
Goldschmidt Boulder Bank Pinot Noir
Soup
Italian Bean and Sausage Soup
Chelsea Goldschmidt Alexander Valley Merlot
Seafood
Fresh Seasonal Fish to be prepared according to availability
Forefathers Sauvignon Blanc
Entrée
Grilled New Zealand Lamb Loin with Garlic and Rosemary Jus
 and Roasted Winter Root Vegetables
Goldschmidt Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
Desert
Chocolate Decadence with Cabernet Macerated Berries
Katherine Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon
___________________________________

I won’t be able to make it, unfortunately.

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Wait For GF Olive Garden Almost Over! Get Out Your Sweatpants

Friday brought news that the Olive Garden in Grand Forks officially has a general manager, Manvel native Donald Szutenbach.

The restaurant will open Monday, January 23. It sits where the Columbia 4 theater used to, on 32 Ave. S.

Now, I know nearly everyone who lives in the northern Red River Valley is beyond excited about the opening, but I’m not exactly.

For those who’ve actually had Italian food, this isn’t. It’s American Italian food, or fast-food Italian. Any time you add the word American to a type of food, you make it worse. American Mexican, for example. We destroyed pizza up until a few years ago when people started waking up a finding out you can actually make a good pizza for not much money.

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

When we weren’t exactly nice to Pizza Ranch, we definitely heard from those of you who are fans. But bashing Olive Garden? Uh oh. Maybe I should tread lightly.

I just don’t see the extreme attraction. I’ve heard of people driving to Fargo to chow down, usually waiting in line for a while. Waiting waiting waiting for that little disk to glow red and vibrate, signaling it’s your turn to stuff your face with breadsticks and veal scallopini.

‘Sir, why not try our new Alfredo sauce injection station. Just have a seat and we’ll hook ya’ right up. Why eat sauce when you can have it injected right into your veins! It’s much more efficient and cholestoral-inducing!’

Where were we.

Fettuccine Alredo

Don’t get me wrong, I like Italian food and have, in the past, enjoyed myself at the OG. I’m just saying, like with most anything, we could have it better. Why not support a local Italian place like Giuseppe’s in Grand Forks or Mamma Maria’s in East Grand Forks. I’ve only sampled Giuseppe’s once, but a friend says the manicotti is pretty tasty. The one time I was there it was dead, so try it out for me.

By the way, that fettucine alfredo that you love so much? It packs on 1220 calories, 75 grams of fat, 47 grams of saturated fat, and 1350 milligrams of sodium. Maybe just the lunch portion?

And that soup and breadsticks you just can’t have enough of? 26 grams of fat in the “Garden-Fresh” salad and 1930 milligrams of sodium. Breadsticks are OK, if you only have a few. They come in at 150 calories and 400 milligrams of sodium.

The food is most likely prepared in advance and heated when it’s ordered. I have no official experience to back that up, but it is what many chains do to make sure the same quality is seen across the board and also to make preparation simple.

Quality Italian food should be made with fresh ingredients, from scratch and made to order.

The restaurant will no doubt bring some business to the area south of Columbia Mall. The old Grizzly’s location will soon be booming with a Noodles and Company and an Erbert & Gerbert sandwich shop. Add the new Scheels location in the old Target space and it will be busy, to put it lightly.

If you feel differently than me, and you likely do, leave a comment and let me know what you like at the Olive Garden. Maybe I’ll give it a try. A review should come soon.

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Eating at Every Pizza Joint in NYC; Plus a Rundown of GF’s Best

Chalk this guy up as my hero.

He successfully ate at every pizza place in New York City. When you take out all the chains, that means an astonishing 362 slices in a bit over two years.

28-year-old Colin Hagendorf has been profiled by the New York Daily News, Washington Post and the Huffington Post, among others. He chronicled his sauce-filled quest at his blog, Slice Harvester.

Pepperoni

Here’s a sample from an 8 out of 8 rating at a place called Pizza Suprema.

“The ratios on this slice were superb, there was ample grease, and the whole thing was moist without being sloppy. The sauce, which [Big Brother Chris] thought might be the best part (though none of us could consense on a BEST part of this delectable slice), was integrated very nicely with the cheese, (which was absolutely delish), so that they were slightly discernible from one and other in flavor, but still totally enmeshed, creating a wonderful texture atop the crispness of the crust. And the crust’s flavor, it was unstoppable!”

Now, I doubt I’d be able to finish anything like this. It would be fun to try, though.

Tasty looking pizza at Rhombus Guys

As for pizza places in Grand Forks, you can do no better than Rhombus Guys on Kittson. As I’ve said before, it’s the best in town, possibly the tri-state area that I’ve had at least. Pizza Ranch is open for the buffet lovers, but I find most times you plop down multiple pies under a heat lamp (or any food for that matter), it’s not good. There are definitely Ranch fans out there, though, and they’re quite vocal.

White Cheesy

Opening soon in south Grand Forks is a Marco’s Pizza location. I hadn’t heard about this place until it was announced. First one in ND, too. What looks good to me is their White Cheesy: four types of cheese, bacon, onions, tomatoes and a garlic butter sauce.

They also offer a meatball and sausage platter. Just for good measure: a meatball and sausage platter. I will probably order one all to myself, grab a spoon and dig in. You can also get a meatball pizza.

A guilty pleasure pie for me has to be a pepperoni stuffed crust from Pizza Hut. I’m ashamed. It’s a monstrosity, but a delicious one.

What’s really exciting for any pizza lover is the soon-to-open Old Chicago. As far as I know, they’re still looking for a location south of Columbia Mall. I thought they would try to get in the former Grizzly’s location, but no.

If you don’t know, real, Chicago-style pizza is a huge, thick pie that’s almost made in reverse. You’ve got the crust which is pretty big too. Take slices of mozzarella cheese and put them on the crust, and then layer on pepperoni, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, black olives and sausage. Ladel in the sauce and top it with Parmesan cheese. So I’ll be sampling that (finally) in Grand Forks soon.

I’ve had it a few times in Chicago and it’s been good every time. But the best I’ve had is at Lou Malnati’s. It’s a local chain with quite a few locations in and out of Chicago. Amazing. And filling.

If you’re up at 2:30 and have a hankering, call up Deek’s on N. Washington. Get the extra extra large and they throw in breadsticks and a soda.

There’s my favorites for pizza in Grand Forks. What’s yours?