Saturday, August 15, 2009

When Did Fargo Become A Great Restaurant Magnet?

Not long ago Fargo had a glut of good-not-great places to eat. While there was an Applebees on every corner and a Chili's in between each pair of Applebees and a TGI Friday's in between each Chili's and Applebees, there weren't a lot of choices for an exceptional meal.

Apparently overnight, several really good restaurants sprouted out of the ground around Fargo. Last night Donna and I had a belated birthday dinner for me at Norman's, a new steak and seafood joint. The steak was out of this world. I mean it was quite possibly the best I've ever had. There's nothing quite like a 26 oz ribeye cooked rare. Oh yeah: 26 oz.

Norman's is an ala carte restaurant, which is French for "asparagus costs $8". It's not a place you pack up the family for a night out. I question its long term prospects, because the place is huge (it's a renovated Bennigan's) and seats a lot of people. I can't see that place being full on a consistent basis. Not when you're going to drop a minimum of $40 per person. The overhead costs may sink it in the long run. But while it's here, I'm going to enjoy it; I hope that's a long, long time.

W.F. Maxwell's is another gem in the area. It specializes in the kind of high-falutin' fare you normally only see in reality shows about people who got famous because of sex tapes. Stuff with cilantro and cherry-mango salsa and such. It's excellent. Like Norman's, it's not cheap. The menu changes from week to week, which I love (I don't know why more restaurants don't do this, except they probably don't have the chef to pull it off).

There are not one but two great Italian places in Fargo (three if you count Johnny Carino's, which I don't. It's really good, but it's also a chain). Toscana and Grazie's are both excellent in different ways. Grazie's serves more traditional American-Italian dishes. Toscana has more exotic fare, and mixes in a little French cuisine with its traditional Italian dishes. I've been to both several times and love them.

Monte's is another hoity-toity place where parts of the menu change over time. I haven't been there in several years, but I remember that the food was very good (but pricy) and the Espressotini was incredible. (Ed. note: you don't consider it a real martini, right? Me: nope)

A step lower on the ladder for me, but still very good, are Kobe's, which I've mentioned in this space before; the Thai Orchid, where I recommend the spring rolls; and Lone Star, where you can get a pretty good steak at a pretty good price.

A couple places I haven't tried:

The Silver Moon Supper Club is a new restaurant in the area. It is owned by the proprietor of Monte's. I haven't tried it yet, but I will in the future. Based on the commercials, wherein Monte proclaims it "simply the finest dining experience in the world," I'm expecting it to be something special.

The Hotel Donaldson has a decent reputation. I've stayed in the hotel before and it's very nice; each room is uniquely decorated with pieces from different local artists.

So, who am I missing?


  1. The Winery, Wine and Food Cafe' just east of Cashwise.

  2. The Winery does have the best cheese plate.

  3. Sarello's in Moorhead ... to me is in a tight battle for supremacy over WF Maxwell's and Silver Moon. Silver Spoon is different enough to warrant inclusion as well.

    Monte's ... egh. Go there for a drink after the Silver Moon and call it good. I think the best thing there is the mural on the wall.

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  5. Yeah, forgot about Sarello's; I haven't been there in several years. I'll need to try it again. As for the Winery, I love the place but I've never eaten there and hadn't heard anything about the food. I'll need to try that one as well.

    Silver Spoon? Never heard of it; where is it?