15 July 2021
With Grand Forks being a hop skip and a cruise away from Fargo-Moorhead, our neighbors to the north have some great dining options. Whether you’re planning on spending a weekend or planning a day trip there are a couple of spots that are worth the drive.
Ely’s Ivy in Grand Forks boasts “Chef-inspired food and fresh local ingredients,” and it may or may not have one of the best patios I’ve come across in a long time. In fact as I walked up to it, I was instantly reminded of the cobblestoned streets and ivy-covered brick that one would come across in a European courtyard.
In fact this patio was just around the corner from the infamous Arbor Park, a small urban sculpture park nestled among the brick and shaded small gardens. It was nicely shaded and the smell of elder flowers permeated the air. Talk about picturesque.
The menu was mighty impressive too, with items such as seared duck breast, a camel burger, frog legs and smokehouse plates with three varieties of meats and accompaniments;
though for one who doesn’t eat a lot of meat, there were plenty of options, from their housemade “Hoppin’ John” veggie burger to a variety of salads and pescatarian dishes.
My eye was drawn to the vegan “scallops.”
I always enjoy seeing a creative vegan option on a menu and this was it. I think it adds insight on the creativity of the chef. The “scallops” consisted of seared oyster mushrooms that had a very similar texture and looked like a scallop. It was topped with smoked almond gremolata which provided some additional texture and protein to the dish. They were served with a pea and lemon risotto and green beans.
What was nice about this dish is that it was filling but didn’t make you feel too weighed down afterward.
I opted for a cup of watermelon jalapeño gazpacho, which was first and foremost cool and refreshing on a hot day on the patio, gazpacho of course being a cold soup. The watermelon and cucumber had a refreshing sweetness that balanced well with the fresh basil and heat of the jalapeño.
The cocktail menu was just as impressive, filled with Tiki-inspired cocktails, as well as signature and classic cocktails and an impressive list of beers from throughout the region on tap.
I opted for an ROK Beet Sour, which was the winner of the Grand Forks Herald’s People’s Choice Award, and after one sip I could see why. Not everyone is a fan of the earthiness of a beet, in fact, that’s one thing I like about them. Though with the combination of roasted beets, Far North Roknar rye, Mathilde Peche, Ginger and Lemon, it was a well-balanced cocktail with a sweet yet complex flavor profile.
If i hadn’t read what was in it, I would never have detected beet. The rye and peche rounded out the earthiness quite well.
My one foodie regret was not ordering the Minnesota cave-aged cheese plate. Needless to say, I have a handful of reasons to return.
Ely’s Ivy is open Monday - Thursday from 11 am –10 pm and 11 am – 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. 22 S 3rd St, Grand Forks
Sky’s Cloud 9 Lounge
Sky’s Cloud 9 Lounge is another great dining option in Grand Forks. It's upscale yet casual, situated on the second story so each table has a nice view of downtown Grand Forks. Their menu can accommodate a variety of appetites, whether you’re looking for filet mignon, herb-crusted prime rib, or if you just want to split a lavosh with friends over cocktails.
For an appetizer I opted for the escargot in a garlic bouree rouge, which is a red wine butter sauce and was served with garlic bread. Yes, escargot are snails, and this may seem a bit intimidating for a midwest palette, but to best describe their texture, I’d compare it to a cross between a mussel and a mushroom.
I also opted for the cheese plate which presented three types of cheese of the chef’s choosing, served with an apple chutney, fig jam, candied pecans, grapes and sesame crackers.
For an entree I opted for their “Vegan friendly vegetarian plate,” which according to the menu was squash, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, cilantro and apple chutney served over rice with a coconut curry, which I would heartily recommend, It had a nice but not overwhelming heat to it and was a healthy portion, in fact I wound up taking part of it home with me and had a chance to enjoy it the next day.
My dining regret here was that I didn’t save room for dessert. Sky’s had some very impressive dessert options such as the Chocolate Decadence, a chocolate torte with raspberry puree and a chocolate brandy sauce. Again, another reason to come back to Grand Forks. The dessert menu also had a variety of dessert cocktails that were hot or cold, a variety of tawny ports as well as a healthy list of cognacs.
In fact their cocktail menu had a beautiful whiskey and wine list, as well as a list of Tiki drinks, classic and signature cocktails.
I had the Fallen Star as a pre-dinner cocktail. It was made with The Botanist gin, sparkling wine, Yellow Chartreuse, Limoncello, Cointreau, started out with an absinthe wash and was garnished with star anise. Full disclosure, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I loved how herb-forward it was, plus I’m fascinated by absinthe and love to see how mixologists choose to incorporate it into their craft.
Sky’s had two kinds of absinthe on their menu and two methods of serving it. One method was the traditional French, which involves placing a sugar cube on a perforated spoon and dripping ice water slowly over the cube as it dissolves into the absinthe. Once served it has almost a milky or pearlescent quality.
The second method is the Czech, the difference being that the sugar cube is flamed to caramelize the sugar. I opted for the French method and it proved to be the perfect after-dinner digestif.
The Dining Room is open Tuesday to Thursday, 5pm to 9:30pm. The Lounge is open from Tuesday to Thursday 4pm to 11:30pm. Happy Hour is Tuesday to Saturday 4pm to 6pm. Sunday Brunch is from 10am-2pm.
Sky’s Cloud 9 Lounge
322 Demers Ave, Grand Forks
October 16th 2021
July 13th 2021
November 14th 2020
October 21st 2020
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