By Rick Gion
My new venture as a master’s degree student has got me thinking…again about food. Although I’m in an online program with the University of North Dakota, I thought it would be handy to list and describe some affordable and unique food options for students attending classes here in Fargo-Moorhead.
Most of the locations highlighted below are economical and fairly close to the metro’s colleges and universities. I’ve made a list of a baker’s dozen establishments for your reading and eating enjoyment.
The prevalence of restaurants in Downtown Fargo is obvious these days, so it’s a good place to start. For students, I would definitely recommend five - Bernbaum’s, Drunken Noodle/Slurp Ramen, Little Brother, Sons of Norway and Wurst Bier Hall.
Bernbaum’s is a Jewish-Scandanavian fusion deli. The food is scratch made and the prices are reasonable. It’s also a neat place to meet people for coffee or to sit and work on a paper in the morning. One of the owners is a James Beard Award nominee, proving the cuisine is top tier. That’s the Oscars for food for those not acquainted. The staff at Bernbaum’s also deserves a special shout. They are some of the friendliest restaurant workers in town.
Drunken Noodle and Slurp Ramen are basically the same restaurant located on the 400 block of Broadway. Most days, you can smell hints of sweet soy and Thai basil wafting from the vents. You know you’re close by if your nose picks up on it. At this restaurant, you’ll find a variety of affordable noodle dishes. Most are Thai-influenced, but some have an American flair. As the name implies, there are also hot bowls of fresh ramen soup available there. The broths vary in ethnicity and flavor - all great for cold winter days.
Little Brother is just a few blocks south on Broadway and also has a lot of Thai-inspired dishes. They also make Korean-style items. They are known for their crispy chicken wings, however, the beef bulgogi and Thai basil chicken bowls are also very good. The prices at Little Brother are very reasonable for the quality and portion size. The owners are also very friendly. They have an interesting story as well.
The Sons of Norway Kringen Lodge 4-025 is a great place for a very affordable lunch. Many of the savory items are homemade, but are still under $10. It’s home cooking at its finest. Also, the retro atmosphere in the dining room is a throwback to the 1970s. The bar portion of the building, the Troll Lounge, is also a great hangout. The Sons of Norway is a Fargo must visit for all.
Although Wurst Bier Hall is best known for, well, barley pops, they do serve up German-influenced goodies such as currywurst and jager schnitzel. They also have great sandwiches like the chicken cordon bleu or porketta Fargo. Be sure to try the knoephla soup and spaetzle mac & cheese. You’ll be glad you did. Your wurst experience may be the best.
Way up in north Fargo is The Shack on Broadway. It’s quality diner fare. This restaurant usually wins best breakfast competitions from local media outlets, year after year. Although the breakfasts are great, the lunches and dinners are also quality. Prices have stayed fairly even there over the years, making it an affordable option.
Working back down south, be sure to check out Jade Dragon on Main Avenue in Fargo. The most affordable items are the lunch specials. These plates usually include a stir-fried protein and vegetable choice, fried rice and a Vietnamese-style egg roll. The lunch specials cost around $10. It’s a heckuva deal. And, don’t forget that they have some of the best pho soup in town. This soup hits just right on a cold day.
Also on Main Avenue is Mango’s Mexican and American Grill. It’s a funky Mexican joint with a large menu. The prices at Mango’s are downright cheap, especially during lunchtime. You can get a huge plate of food for less than $10. It’s a great place to go if you’re on a budget. You’ll probably have extra to take home for later, too.
If there are still actual facts these days, one may be that many college students enjoy their time in a bar. I’m not gonna go down the road of promoting drink specials, but I will discuss some places with great economical eats.
Adjacent to North Dakota State University, The Bison Turf has some of the most affordable and substantial lunch specials around. And, if you’ve been out late the night before on a weekend, be sure to check out their brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The breakfast platters are impressive. The Turf is a staple for NDSU faculty and students, and they thankfully accept everyone else too.
In downtown Fargo, Dempsey’s Public House weighs in heavily on Wednesdays and Thursdays. You can get tasty tacos for one dollar on Wednesdays evenings and free gourmet hot dogs with the purchase of a beer on Thursday. Yes, you read that right. And there’s more… Italian beef sandwiches are just $9 on Thursday evenings. You can eat your heart out and then hang around for a game of bingo, too. Dempsey’s is one of the best bars in the metro, and the owners are also some of the best people around.
If you find yourself over in Downtown Moorhead, stop into Mick’s Office for one of their specialty burgers. There are many varieties to choose from featuring unique and tasty toppings. On Wednesday evenings, burgers are only $1.50. If you order some fried stuff to go with your burger, you won’t be disappointed in the portions. The chips, curds, fries and rings come in abundance. Mick’s burgers are delicious and are very popular around here. It’s a destination location if you’re a student at any local campus.
For events and venues with multiple food vendors, a trip to both Brewhalla and the Red River Market is a must. Although food prices are a little higher, the unique offerings are worth checking out. Brewhalla is Fargo’s palace of cool and the Red River Market is a three-block food fest. Both are incredible destinations that highlight the local food scene.
Thunder Coffee is a good stop for students visiting Brewhalla. Grab a cup of Joe and spend the morning doing your homework upstairs. Brewhalla has free wireless. It’s a great place to hang out.
The Red River Market is located outdoors in Downtown Fargo through late October. They also have some indoor events in the winter and spring. The Market is almost always on Saturdays only – don’t miss it.
Well, I understand that this is a large list of places to eat. However, I could add at least another baker’s dozen to this column. If you’re a student, a stop at some of these places will be worth your time and won’t be too hard on your wallet. Look these eateries up on Facebook and Instagram for updates.
Although I’m now a student again and currently working toward an actual master’s degree, I know that I could be considered a master of eating at affordable restaurants in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Now you will be, too.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Bernbaum’s - 402 N. Broadway in downtown Fargo
Brewhalla - 1702 1st Ave. N. in Fargo
Dempsey’s Public House - 226 N. Broadway in Downtown Fargo
Drunken Noodle/Slurp Ramen - 414 N. Broadway in Downtown Fargo
Jade Dragon - 1015 Main Ave.
Little Brother - 117 N. Broadway in Downtown Fargo
Mango’s - 2901 Main Ave. in Fargo
Mick’s Office - 10 8th St. S. in Moorhead
Red River Market - Broadway Square in Downtown Fargo
Sons of Norway - 722 2nd Ave. N. in Fargo
The Bison Turf - 1211 N. University Dr. in Fargo
The Shack - 3215 N. Broadway in Fargo
Wurst Bier Hall - 630 1st Ave. N in Downtown Fargo
Rick Gion administers a Facebook food group called “Fargo-Moorhead Eats” that’s dedicated to the area’s great cooks and cuisine. The page now has nearly 25,000 followers. Check it out, join, and feel free to post items about your local culinary adventures and home cooking. And, while you’re at it, also join the Instagram page!
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