Last week, when I wrote to let you know that Albatross was open for business, I included my thoughts on some of the prices of certain dishes on the new menu. Basically, I said it was a bit too expensive. And a few of you who commented agreed, but others took me to task for even bringing it up without checking the place out in person.
Now, as far as I know, there is no food blogging rule book, So there may be some of these types of observations in the future regarding other places, but in this instance, I was wrong. I should’ve went to the restaurant and tried the food before remarking that it was too pricey.
So today, I went with a friend of mine and we had a great lunch. While the prices were indeed high, the portions were equally as large.
As we went into the former home of Suite 49, almost in the shadow of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the owner of Albatross, Andrew Krauseneck greeted us at the door.
Back when Andrew was in the process of opening the place, I sent him a few Facebook messages. Apparently he’s got a good memory, because he recognized me right away. He’s a tall, former football player-looking guy and I worried he might have a few words for me about judging his establishment prematurely. But no, he shook my hand and thanked me for coming. And to have an owner like Andrew, who greets each guest one by one as they come in, is a good sign.
We were seated and then greeted by the manager, who was very easygoing and knowledgeable. After a few minutes, our server came by and took our orders.
I opted for the habanero burger ($9.49), my friend got the pulled pork sandwich ($9.99) and we couldn’t resist the fried dill pickles ($5.99).
The place is pretty much the same as Suite 49 when it comes to decor. But there have been some changes like the Albatross logo along the back wall and quite a few flat-screen TVs added.
The big draw are the golf simulators. One is near the bar and you can hear the loud WHACK of the driver hitting the ball every now and again, but I really didn’t mind it. It’s a pretty unique feature to have in a restaurant and bar, and to my knowledge is the only place in town to take a swing indoors (although maybe at the golf store in the mall there is a sim).
Beers were priced reasonably at $3.75 to $4.75 for taps and I overheard there are something like 44 bottled varieties available.
The pickles were out quickly and came with a ranch-like dipping sauce. The breading on the outside was thick and very crunchy, with what looked like dill thrown in. They were tasty, and at $5.99, they’re a great pair for a cold beer.
The manager came back to chat with us and I asked her if the menu will be expanded some time in the future. She said there will be a whole meatball section added, with different sauce options and all. This got my interest. Homemade meatballs are one of my vices. To have a restaurant that has a whole section of the menu dedicated to them would be fantastic and something that no other place really does. They’re taking time right now to hone the recipe.
The grand opening should be happening in late February or early March, she said.
After just a few more minutes, our entrees were out. I asked our server if it was possible to get half waffle fries and half chips with my burger, when it normally just comes with a full order of one. She wasn’t sure, but it was a nice surprise to see that the cooks obliged.
The potato chips are house-cut and were expertly fried. Sometimes, with these thicker chips, they can be under-fried and end up soggy and chewy. But these were perfectly crispy and salty. The beer-battered waffle fries were great as well, tasty enough to eat without any accompanying ketchup.
You might think that the habanero burger would be extremely spicy, but it was just spicy enough so that you could still taste each component and your tongue wasn’t set ablaze. If you’re used to high heat levels, just ask them to up the spice a bit.
Atop the burger are fried jalapenos, onion straws and habanero cheese. I was really surprised at the size of the “hand-pattied” burger. It was big and had a great crust from the flat-top grill, something that I absolutely love. The only downside was that I wasn’t asked how I wanted the patty cooked, so it was brought out well done. I would’ve preferred it medium. But despite it being cooked a little too long, it was still juicy.
My buddy’s pulled pork sandwich came on multi-grain bread and was a fairly large portion, too. I tried a bite of it and was happy with the flavor of the pork. It was a bit sweet, a little smoky, but with its original porky flavor, something that is often lost in other restaurants’ versions.
Describing Albatross in one word, I’d have to choose “unique.” Golf sims in a bar/restaurant? That’s unique. A meatball menu section? Fairly unique, especially for Grand Forks. I hope that uniqueness is enough to get people in the door and keep them coming back.
With just a few weeks under their collective belt, those at Albatross have excelled so far at some upper-scale bar food. I can see this place having a fun atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights with sports fans piling in for a pint and heading over to the Ralph after.
I’ll be back for the meatballs.
2950 10th Avenue North / 757-3220 / FULL MENU