By Rick Gion
Egg bake is about as North Dakota as knoephla soup. You betcha! Two local breakfast bests serve different versions of this dish. Let’s taste which restaurant’s bake is the most eggcellent.
On the menu, it’s labeled as the “daily egg bake” here, and to regulars, it’s called “egg of the day.”
Bernbaum’s egg bake is similar to a crustless quiche. It has a custardy texture that’s achieved by adding cream to the eggs and cooked at a more moderate temperature. There are usually some blanched or roasted root vegetables added to this bake and a sharp cheese such as creamy goat or parmesan.
Bernbaum’s egg bake is usually placed over a slathering of zhug, which could be described as a middle-eastern chimichurri. Flake salt is placed over the top, but sometimes a little too liberally for my taste. The bake is always served with a lightly dressed side salad, which gives nice balance to the rich eggs.
Just a little background on Bernbaum’s: the Downtown Fargo restaurant specializes in East European and Middle-East cuisine. The co-owner/head chef was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2020. This award is like the Grammys or Oscars for food. It’s a BFD.
And, the national recognition doesn’t stop there. The restaurant was featured on Cooking Channel’s “Man v. Food” in 2020. This writer actually made an appearance in that episode eating Bernbaum’s lingonberry blintzes with show host Casey Webb. The restaurant’s slot on that show was huge for the owners and for Fargo. Another BFD.
This unique, local joint on South University features scratch-made dishes, and they’re really good at it. CJ’s has a true small-town diner vibe. The restaurant's menu consists of all homemade breakfast and lunch fare.
CJ's egg bake was chock full of cheese and other ingredients like sausage, peppers and olives. It was loaded, and came out with a golden cheesy top. I also enjoyed the freshly made biscuit that came with it. It was a high-quality tall biscuit that was stacked with layers. However, it should have been warmed a little. That would have made it easier to slather an ample amount of butter.
By the way, you need to know that the biscuits and gravy at CJ’s are probably the best in the area.
One well-known feature of CJ’s is that the owner has an attitude. It reminds you of sassy wait staff often on duty at a big city diner. I think it’s a good attribute, actually.
On a different note, with the upcoming demolition of the nearby strip mall, I’m really hoping that CJ’s can keep their current location. It’s a local icon, and its success needs to continue. Last time I was there, it was at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. It was really busy, which is very telling that CJ’s is a mid-town neighborhood favorite.
All things considered, I preferred the egg bake at Bernbaum’s. I enjoyed the side salad and the unique flavors. Bernbaum’s makes some world-class cuisine so this is actually a challenging comparison. It’s just that both establishments are known for their egg bake, and it’s good at both places.
If you want more of a local diner vibe, then CJ’s might be your favorite. I really enjoy that sort of restaurant as well.
Both places are worth frequenting. There are reasons it’s hard to get a seat at each restaurant, especially on weekends.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Bernbaum’s egg bake is $8.49 and comes with a fresh side salad
Address: 402 N. Broadway in Downtown Fargo
CJ’s Kitchen egg bake is $9.95 and comes with a flaky biscuit
Address: 1601 S. University Dr. in Fargo
The hours are unique at both restaurants so be sure to check their social media pages.
May 18th 2022
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