Thursday, May 01, 2008

GF Dining Thread #1

Nothing gets you guys talking more than a discussion of the local dining scene. Why not start up a special category of threads akin to the "open threads" that you're all familar with? I thought it would be fun to give it a try.

Here's a chance for you to share your opinions of the local dining scene. Perhaps you would like to review a particular restaurant? Maybe you have an interesting tidbit of restaurant-related news or gossip that other readers would like to hear?

Go ahead...pretend that you're Marilyn Hagerty.

126 comments:

Local diner said...

Here's a local restaurant-related tidbit...

The days of the Royal Fork being an "all-inclusive" buffet are over. As of April 21, beverages are no longer included in the price of a meal. If you want soft drinks, coffee, or other beverages you now have to pay an additional 99 cents.

I realize that 99 cents for endless beverages is not a bad price at all, but I think it is a little hypocritical for this restaurant to suddenly start charging for beverages. They've been bragging for several years that they are a restaurant where "the extras don't cost extra" (their exact words). I think it is a little odd to see them turn right around and start charging extra for beverages.

I suppose that the Royal Fork is facing increased competition from the new Golden Corral buffet in town and they need to make money. I suppose that charging for beverages is an attempt to make more money. Still, I'm a little puzzled by that kind of "plan" (an established business has new competition and, in an effort to make back some of the money that the new business is taking away from them, the established business simply raises their prices.)

I'm wonder if a business like the Royal Fork should instead actually be LOWERING their prices across the board. Lower prices would likely bring in new customers and would lure back customers who otherwise would be eating at the Golden Corral. Sometimes you have to lower your prices to make more money...I just feel that some businesses don't realize that.

gfyourself said...

In the case of soft drinks and coffee, it costs them almost nothing to provide, so that 99 cents is like 95 cents of profit. That's where restaurants make a lot of their money, so I'm surprised they weren't already jacking the cost of the buffet to include 'free' drinks. I think it might have been smarter to raise the buffet costs by 50 cents and blame it on food and gas prices.

I don't eat there, so it doesn't bother me.

I saw a very nicely done glossy bit of advertising from the Italian Moon yesterday with about 20 different dishes on it. The food looked good and the selection was competitive with Green Mill, at least as far as the pictures go.

I've only eaten at the Moon twice, both times more than 15 years ago, and it was okay. Based on reading and talking with people, things haven't changed much--still okay.

Is the Moon ever going to be better than okay, or is it destined to be a townie hangout for 6th grade hockey players and their parents?

Rhombus Guy said...

This is a fun break from writing my final paper! Ha ha

Well... I cook at Rhombus Guys and we definitely have the best pizza in town. I've lived in a lot of places and have never had pizza this good. If you haven't stopped in yet, you've gotta! You're missing out if you haven't. I suppose I'm a little biased so I'll leave it at that.

Anybody got anything to say about Giuseppe's? I've heard good and bad. Haven't made it there yet, but definitely will as soon as finals are over!

Anonymous said...

When I first came to UND (from New England) in 1987, I was blown away by the "free refills" at most restaurants. This was not a practice, anywhere where I lived.
I still picture my old roommates going back up to the McDonald's counter saying "can I have a refill?" and getting it, no questions asked.
You guys are spoiled in GF and you don't know it!

Anonymous said...

gf yourself - PLEASE don't go into the Italian Moon expecting anything like Green Mill. Granted, Green Mill food can seem a little canned, but the Moon is pretty bad. Save the Moon experience for when you have had a few and need a greasy pizza to soak it up, otherwise, find somewhere else to go.

Anonymous said...

gf yourself - PLEASE don't go into the Italian Moon expecting anything like Green Mill. Granted, Green Mill food can seem a little canned, but the Moon is pretty bad. Save the Moon experience for when you have had a few and need a greasy pizza to soak it up, otherwise, find somewhere else to go.

Anonymous said...

Green Mill food may be a little canned, Italian Moon food will SEND you to the can.

Anonymous said...

I haven't tried Rhombus Guys yet, I will have to do that soon. Do they deliver?

Anonymous said...

I do love Rhombus Pizza, as well as Mike's Pizza... but you must realize either place will not give you a $5 pie that you can have delivered in 30 minutes or less... for me it's worth the extra price to get fresh ingredients (real mushrooms, not canned - yay!).

Other faves include Al's, Blue Moose, Toasted Frog, Dakota Harvest... (notice locally owned theme?).

I have lived here a long time and have never really had great experiences at Whitey's or Italian Moon. We just tried the Northside Cafe, and I wasn't very happy with my order, especially with the hour wait to get it... but I don't think any of these places will miss my business.

Anonymous said...

Al's is the best place in town... no doubt about it. Always consistent, good service, good variety.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Rhombus delivers...

Jimmie said...

Ehhh, last time I was in Al's last summer, the food was okay, but the service was lacking and the restaurant itself was dirty. Lots of uncleaned tables and the carpeted flooring had food all over it. Haven't been back since then, but I will say they have great onion rings.

On a positive note, I would venture to say that the Toasted Frog has the best food and upscale ambience in town. Haven't been in Sanders yet, but walking by and peering in the windows, it appears to be an Applebee's atmosphere with better food. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's just what it looks like. If I'm going to pay $30+ a meal, I want it to at least have some atmosphere to go along with it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Best burger in town- Toasted Frog- never had the intention of ordering a burger there, waiter recommended it, phenomenal
Honorable mention- Al's

Best Pizza- Haven't had rhombus- I'd lean toward's Mike's. i do appreciate the local cheap spots but i don't think they qualify as 'best'-I would classify Mike's as local but not cheap, and i wouldn't be as hard on the moon as everyone else.
I've heard good things about crosstown pizza- somehow this seems odd.

Also heard Grand Junction is being served at Gilly's (TRUE???)- either way, both previous locations for junction were brutal, throw it in a spot downtown (not gilly's), you'll get a lunch crowd, stay open until 2 or 3 am and they will come...and then i can enjoy the sandwiches at lunch again.

Happy Hour--Eagle's Crest, cheap but very good.

Anonymous said...

There is next to no dining in GF...lots of eating, but no dining. Many fast food and bar and grills, no real sit down restaurants which offer a culinary experience. Which is maybe why the dining blog died; the guy only had Arbys, a hospital cafeteria, and a soup kitchen to sample.

Anonymous said...

You got to love Taco Bell guys, really. They have free refills too with adequate seating. The building is modern with clean restrooms.

MattFacingSouth said...

Good thread idea, GFG!

These are my favorites, in no particular order:

Rhombus Guys - absolutely great food with fresh ingredients, friendly staff, and pleasant atmosphere. Can get overly loud and crowded on some nights. I wonder if they've upgraded their sound system as they're killing it with all the clipping.

Green Mill - consistently good food (for a chain), and the staff is always great to us. My wife and I love going there because their service is quick and they do great with little kids.

Sanders - I can't say enough about this place. I may be a little biased because I play there so much, it's kind of a second home to me. But they're a bunch of awesome guys and gals there and Joe consistently impresses me with his cooking.

Toasted Frog - Love it. Great laid-back atmosphere and awesome food (try the seafood lavosh or fish tacos!). I'd like to play there because the atmosphere seems to fit my musical stylings, but it hasn't happened yet.

Blue Moose - another awesome restaurant. This is where we go to hang out with other couple friends. The food is great and service is good. Live music, again, is a plus.

China Garden - best Chinese food in town. Delivery gets to your door before you hang up the phone.

Happy Joe's - closest thing we have to a family amusement center (besides Canad Inn). My son loves the "choo-choo." Good pizza, too.

Pizza Hut (32nd) - I've never been a big fan of PH, but this one is a great place to take our little one. Pizza and service are always good.

And a not-so-favorite, but popular: Paradiso - it's okay. The food is not very authentic, but if you're not expecting authenticity, then you can get by. Chips and salsa are good, but the service is fairly slow. I have a sneaking suspicion, and I may be wrong, that the chips and salsa service has been slowed down recently, probably to recover costs. A little too loud in both volume and decor for my taste, but an okay family spot.

More later...

Anonymous said...

The Golden Coral is by far the biggest barf bag in this town, next to the Red Pepper. I just love how they herd people through like it's a cattle trough with people heaping their trays with the cold slop they try to pass off as food. Disgusting...

On an up note... Al's is excellent, I also like the North Side Cafe across from Al's on Gateway. The little Asian lady who owns/runs the place is a riot. Green Mill is also good, even though it may seem "canned" they make most everything there. If you get wings or most any food from one Green Mill, it will be different at the next. Sanders is good too, I preferred it when it back in the day was even more up-scale though. Toasted frog; good too.

Back on a down note... The Red Pepper on University has turned into a disgusting excuse of a "restaurant". I know it always has been, but it keeps getting worse. I mean come on, at least wipe off the tables and benches, and sweep up the floor. I find it amazing that a health inspector hasn't shut the place down. What's also gross is the fact that their white sauce is left sitting out to get warm and fester bacteria, and that the bottle has been handled by a million drunk people with puke on their hands. This is especially nice since you eat a grinder and taco with your hands. Also, they need to fix their benches, they're falling apart and slope to the floor. Last, and most repulsive, a while back my girlfriend and I thought we'd take a chance during the day (hoping it wouldn't be a mess) to get a grinder. So we ordered and I was impressed with the way the kid laid the bread up his forearm while slathering the meat on it. No gloves and a nice scab on his arm for my bread to lay on. Real nice... Needless to say, we walked out and haven't been back.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Sander's new digs are cheesy. The old location, with its turn-of-the-century, "found-treasure" elegance, was the closest thing GF had to fine dining. The food quality–and prices–are still high, but it's much more casual than before. I guess if you're a fan of David Badman's art, you might feel differently about the ambiance.

Anonymous said...

I like to keep my moeny local. Gramma Butterwicks for me. All you can eat french toast!!!!! Also the red peper is supposed to be filthy. thats how college kids love it. anyone ever go to darvys cafe. That place is awesome too. the steak and eggs are to die for and plus u can bring in mix drinks there and they dont care!!!

Plum said...

Al's has the BEST patty melt in the world. Most other things I have tried there are really just mediocre, but the patty melt is divine.

Sander's is prohibitively expensive for normal people - got a $40 dollar gift card for Christmas and STILL spent $80 on two people - and honestly, had the service/food/atmosphere been a little better, even JUST the food, I wouldn't complain, but as it stands - eh.

Mike's Pizza you can always count on for good food at a good price. They are the best variety of delivery in town, burgers, pasta, pizza - everyone gets what they want. Crappy french fries though.

Whitey's sucks compared to 10-15 years ago - they've lost the things that made them great.

Italian Moon is the DIRTIEST restaruant in the city - I don't care what people say about Red Pepper, the Moon trumps them on nasty by a wide margin.

(Red Pepper on Uni got new benches recently too...)

Giuseppe's is kind of bland, basically ragu, especially for the prices. They also had cans/20oz bottles of pop last time I was there, which I hate at a restaraunt. Fountain pop is such a perk of eating out to me.

Kon Nechi Wa's is the best asian style food in town. They are a thousand times better than China Garden, granted it's not the same region of cuisine, but their food tastes fresher and much more appealing.

GF really can't offer any "dining" - it's all chains and bar or breakfast food. What we offer in international cuisine is a JOKE - we could really use some Thai/Indian/more Asian options/Greek ... really anything other than what we keep getting - Applebee-esque chains. Sad but true, we have no culture!

Anonymous said...

methinks its not that we have no dining/food culture but that the culture we have is not terribly diverse or exciting for many (me included) . . . so how do we slowly change the GF food culture so that a thai/indian/whatever restaurant would open and be successfu

Good posts people digging this thread

Anonymous said...

I don't know if i think it's fair that we say GF has no culture. I think every place has a culture of it's own, it may just be that currently ours is pretty lame! We call the RP mexican, it's not, the italian moon, not italian. Both are good (I know, my opinion) but neither are what they may suggest. They are products of GF- and it's culture! Maybe!

Anonymous said...

Operating a successful restaurant in Grand Forks involves dummying down your concept to match the precise level of mediocrity that appeals to the small and unsophisticated market.

Jimmie said...

I also think we could do a lot better as far as diversifying our dining choices. Coming from a college town in the south (definitely *not* a mecca of international cultures!), we still had a FABULOUS Greek restaurant (open for lunch only and still did a booming business), a couple of decent Thai places, and a plethora of "real" Mexican restaurants.

Interestingly enough, Grand Forks has a much more happening/exciting bar and nightlife scene than we had there...if only we could kick up the dining a notch (downtown would be a great location to start), things would be just great. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: GF peeps get it, for the most part. We travel and we're even kind of diverse for a city this size, because of the U., the Base and proximity to Canada.

But the local business community is way behind. Either they don't "get it" or they think we don't, and won't support anything that falls outside the stereotypical Midwestern appetite.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the Red Pepper.
How is this place not cited by the Food Inspectors? Is there some secret deal?
Those tables have to be 20+ years old. Are they waiting for everyone in greater Grand Forks to carve their name in once, then they'll replace them?
What is actually upstairs from the Red Pepper?

Anonymous said...

Konnechiwa's!! Sub-par sushi-sashimi is better then none at all.

Anonymous said...

According to my older family the food these days have lost the great taste they once had in the 50's 60's and even 70's. Go to the same place and the same hamburger today just tastes terrible compared to the same burger in the 60's. Does anyone agree?

Anonymous said...

You know what would be sweet... If Kon Nechi Wa's moved into the Level 10 location and was open late. I forgot to add that to my Red Pepper/Golden Coral rant above.

Anonymous said...

I love the knoephla soup at 3rd Street Cafe; the half pound hamburger Hub Special; the diverse menu offerings, wood fired oven aroma, and atmosphere at the Toasted Frog; the cushy couches and "fire"places in the Blue Moose Back 40; the big buns and curry tuna sandwiches at Amazing Grains; any plentiful daily special at Darcy's; the chicken dumpling soup at Del's Cafe; the chicken noodle soup at the Italian Moon; and the awesome pizza at Rhombus Guys.

One place I won't visit again is the Golden Corral. It reminds me of a grimey casino buffet. Plates were dirty, too. If you go there (on a dare?), make sure to check the underside of your plate for someone else's leftovers before making your way to the trough.... in a word, yuck.

Tabby said...

I don't think that food has lost its taste. More likely the taste buds have faded. As we age, some senses fade. My mom tried to get me to return perfume I'd bought her, saying it had "no scent." Bless her heart, it had plenty of scent, and so did we all as she sprayed it everywhere to prove her point! LOL!

Anonymous said...

The big SIOUX truck stop has the best food when ur absolutly drunk outta ur mind. but when ur sober, it kind of tastes like pooh.

Coffee Guy said...

"Konnechiwa's!! Sub-par sushi-sashimi is better then none at all."

No it's not. I'd rather go hungry until the next meal.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree. That's one cuisine/style where you don't want to eat last week's catch...although with our landlocked location, a few days is as good as it gets.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 9:40:

Surprisingly, Crosstown's pizza IS good. I wasn't expecting it to be, but wanted something to eat while just sitting around playing pool (and I know alcohol can change your perception of food, I was DD that night) and I was amazed at how good it was. ~$5 for a personal pizza with 5 toppings. Good crust and toppings. Would definitely eat it again.

Best pizza in this town is Mike's easily. But I haven't had Rhombus yet. Are they open during lunch hours? Same with Toasted Frog.

Least favorite locally owned place is Kon Nechi Wa's. I've been to numerous Japanese restaurants and wouldn't put this anywhere near the top. Actually, I'd put it at the bottom.

Dakota Harvest is my favorite place to stop by for lunch. I hate smelling like the panini press when I leave though. :|

Anonymous said...

I heard Level 10's sushi is flown in...can anyone verify that?

Anonymous said...

Google is your friend. By law, ALL seafood to be eaten raw in the U.S. MUST be frozen to kill parasites.

Anonymous said...

the best ever food in grand forks was either grand junction or fire island. omg i could die for a 599 beer burger and fries. or a big dogs junction sub omg!!! im salvating.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the 'we have no dining in GF, just eating'.

Sanders has had the same menu for about 20 years. (yes, I know they have the occaisional special..)
When the ownership changes I bet we see some fresh tastes...

Toasted Frog is awesome, but I don't think of that as 'dining'....great food, good drinks...but that is not dining..

There are tons of "use to be's"

The boot used to be!
Whitey's used to be!
Hunan's, at one time, used to be incredible...


we have waaaaaay tooooo many troughs....and chains

Amy said...

I second anon @ 1:39, The Hub Special is the best burger in town, hands down. I remember my senior high school English teacher saying, "You'll have to wait 3 years to try it, but believe me, it's worth it." Eight years later, it's still true. The 33 oz. frosty mug of Honeyweiss (or your draught of choice) is just the icing on the cake. Order one while watching a Twins game and thank me later.

Anonymous said...

Granted, the Hub has great burgers. Don't discount the East Side Dairy Queen, though: burgers like they used to be at the drive-in, right down to the onions and the wrapper. An added plus---the kids that staff the place are ALWAYS friendly!

Authentic American fare: hard to beat the Big Sioux on I-29. They're most consistent with excellent, friendly service and generous helpings of good-tasting food.

An added thought: I really miss the ribeyes at the River Bend. Now, THERE was a dining experience, time after time!

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:18 if you're referring to the comment above that was me, and I 'heard' this with my ear..not Google! Someone who works there said they did I was just wondering if anyone knew any harder facts about who does it (fly) and where it comes from. Facts, not Google. Of course it would be frozen. I don't imagine that would fly in live fish.

Glass Half Full said...

My personal favorites in no particular order:
Blue Moose - while a couple years ago the food was sub-par they have really had a turnaround. The specials are usually fantastic!
Rhombus Guys - Great pizza and awesome atmosphere. I love coloring on the tablecloths.
Parrots Cay - I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this yet. Nice diversity of food and inexpensive to boot. Hate eating in cigarette smoke but worth it for dollar burgers on Monday nites!
L'Bistro - A new favorite. I have received superior service (which makes up for some other small errors) and have yet to be dissapointed.
Al's - Can you beat red potatoes in white sauce? Really? Great prices, awesome food, period.
The Frog - Great atmosphere but the food; neah...I always leave hungry for some reason.
Sanders - starting with Richie at the bar all the way to dessert, the place is all around class.
ALmost forgot Dakota Harvest - nice addition to downtown. A favorite for lunch and dessert but I agree with someone else about smelling like a panni when you leave!

Kelly Clow said...

Question:

I know I've mentioned this before, but there seem to be new people on here so I figure "What the Hell"?

Would any of you folks go to a Barbecue/Smokehouse restaurant? I've still got this Southern cuisine restaurant idea stuck firmly in my head, but after seeing how GF treats new restaurants, I'm afraid to invest up there.

When I say "Southern" cuisine, I mean a mash-up of several Southern states, like Memphis-style BBQ, Flori-Cuban seafood dishes, Louisiana Cajun, and so on.

I'll bet a lot of folks up there have never tasted fried okra or grits before. I just don't know how it would go over up there.

What's more important for a new concept to succeed in GF, attention to food or attention to atmosphere?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone been to the new cafe/bakery that is located in the former Grand Junction space? If so, how is it?

tabby said...

Kelly, I'd say pay attention, also, to the menu as an entirety. Is there food that children and teenagers will eat? Is there something for vegetarians?

Plus, don't assume that people won't eat something because they're wusses or stupid or cultureless. It may be that they don't eat it for the simple reason that they don't want it. (DUH!) I've never eaten grits but only because they do not appeal to me. Okra--I've eaten it but will only eat it again if forced to. Beignets, on the other hand....well, there's a bit of New Orleans that I adore.

So if you do open House of Grits, well, no. House of Beignets? I'm there.

Anonymous said...

Mean crowd today. The Kegs has great sloppy joes and Red Pepper has good tacos. Olive Garden rules. greenglass4

Anonymous said...

Best sloppy joes and lime-cokes: The Kegs

(also wins best drive-in by default, or is there another in town)

Anonymous said...

oh no! I duplicated my post and agree with greenglass4!

Best Jerky: L&M Meats

GrandForksGuy said...

"oh no! I duplicated my post and agree with greenglass4!"

I took care of the duplicate posts, but agreeing with greenglass on anything is pretty scary. Just don't let that get to be a habit! ;)

I knew putting up a thread like this was a good idea. You people just LOVE to eat, don't you?!?!

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised more people aren't writing about Giuseppe's, since everyone was so excited about it opening. My wife and I went there this week - the service was good and the prices fairly reasonable. She had the pasta with clam sauce and absolutely loved it. My lasagna was good, but not near the best I have ever had. As for the ambience, it was okay, but nothing special. The tin ceiling is beautiful, however. They have a nice space there, but I feel like it could be done up a little more professionally. We were just thrilled to find decent Italian food after a horrible experience at Mama Maria's this fall - our first and last trip there (what is up with that half-finished, disgusting dining room? Maybe it has been fixed since we were there, but I could not believe the owners would serve in that pit.)

GrandForksGuy said...

What was up with the Mama Maria's dining room? I hear they are redoing their space and actually decreasing the amount of seating at the South Washington location. Any word on the new Riverwalk location?

glass half full said...

Kelly - I'd be all over a southern cusine place like cheese on grits. Made right grits are awesome and I love fried okra. Add sweet tea and some really good BBQ to the menu and you would have regular business from the base.
Go for it!!!

GrandForksGuy said...

Comments at 4:40, 4:43, 4:43, 4:44, 4:46, 4:49, 4:50, 4:53, and 4:53...and I thought this blog was going to be "dead in a month!"

GrandForksGuy said...

Speaking of sweet tea, has anyone here tried the new sweet tea at McD's? I'm no connoisseur of sweet tea, but I'm kind of hooked on this stuff. Really very good...especially for 32 ounces @ $1.

Kelly Clow said...

Tabby,

"don't assume that people won't eat something because they're wusses or stupid or cultureless."

Good Lord, no! I DEFINITELY wasn't thinking that! Where did you get that from my post, anyway?

No, no. I'm just concerned that Southern food wouldn't go over well in the winter because it is, by nature, not as hearty as northern food.

As for kids and teenagers, I'd venture that pulled pork or chicken sandwiches would work for them. My menu would include baked mac and cheese as a side dish or, I suppose, as a main dish for kids.

I've found if kids are offered more than the standard chicken fingers/hamburger/corndog stuff they tend to have a healthier relationship with food later on.

Make no mistake, though. This would be a family friendly atmosphere. That's the base point of Southern food!

gfentr said...

Kelly, before you go pouring your life into opening another restaurant in an already saturated market, consider the fact that the restaurant industry has a failure rate of 60-90% within the first 2-3 years of opening. So you have to ask yourself if you're willing risk it for nominal gains and a tremendous amount of work and stress.

Kelly CLow said...

Well, I'd start out slow at first.

My plan would be to buy a mobile smoker/pit and hit the summer events first like the Farmer's market and Catfish Days, Summerthing (Do they still do that up there?), Artfest and the like.

Then, if that works out we'll see from there.

Anonymous said...

When is the Kegs opening for the season, does anyone know? The mention of a lime-Coke has me salivating... Also, are there any more changes in store for the remodel of the place? I'm still not used to the strange-textured orange kegs being replaced by "ordinary" wooden ones, but I'll forgive their assimilation for teaching me the wonders of putting dill pickles on my joes.

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks loves food!!!!
Thats all.
Thanks for your time.
:)

gfyourself said...

I heard on the radio that the Kegs is open, and had quite a crowd today.

Just had a Popolino's Pizza, and it was fantastic, as always.

Also, unrelated to food, I saw that UND finally replaced the plywood on the south face of the new parking ramp skywalk. The plywood was temporary for venting of the HVAC system. The permanent steel panels look much better.

gfentr said...

Kelly, having a mobile smoker/pit set up for a few days during the farmers market and catfish days is not a good judgment of how a full blown restaurant would do. They're completely different markets with a completely different cliental and a completely different business model.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with you on the Popolino's. They seem to get lost in the shuffle with Rhombus/Mike's, but they really do make awesome thin-crust pies.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I have never been impressed with Whitey's food. I've been there a few times since moving back to GF 4 years ago and every time they sat us by a garbage can with flys flying around. It's the only restuarant I've been to besides fast food where I know where the garbage can is. Disgusting. Food didn't make up for the dirtiness either. I think Whitey's stays in business with the bar and people that go there dreaming that it still tastes like it did 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

For the record, GFG: The "dead blog in a month" comment was made with the stupidity of the majority of the posts of the recent open blog. It just wasn't an indication of the adult intelligence that has been shown on this topic.

Please accept my apologies for casting a negative post here; felt the need to explain myself.

It's a great blog, but it's more successful when you moderate the conversations, as you are doing here. (That observation, in full realization that you have a busy life outside of blogging, as well.)

Anonymous said...

Everytime I visit GF, I go to Ground Round. To me, the food and service is consistant. They are one of few restaurants that has survived over the years.

Anonymous said...

The Ground Round - haven't been there for years - but they used to (and maybe still do) have a great happy hour!

Anonymous said...

Went to ground round today. With drinks, you get a wing/chip bar for free*. Their policy seems to change based on the waiter or waitress, however. The first time we went, the bar was free with any drink purchase, even a simple pop. The end result was we tipped the waiter quite nicely given the service required. On this occasion, however, we were informed we needed to purchase at least 3.99 in drinks. Easily done with their happy hour specials ($2.50 teas or $1 Miller Lite bottles), but something for consideration.

Kelly Clow said...

"Kelly, having a mobile smoker/pit set up for a few days during the farmers market and catfish days is not a good judgment of how a full blown restaurant would do."

Well, I guess I don't really know how else to gauge people's reactions to the food. Do you have any ideas? I am VERY open to any ideas you have.

Anonymous said...

Just an in-general comment: Why do so many people open restaurants who are, at best, pedestrian cooks? (I'm not aiming this at you, Kelly! I have no idea how good your cooking is.) I've eaten at so many restaurants where the food is, at best, edible.

I've seen this everywhere I've lived, and I've lived in several states.

My guess is that people like to eat so they open a restaurant--and the two might go together...or they might not.

Anyone else noticed this?

gfentr said...

Kelly, you have some options and asking friends and family is one of the worst. Because they all like you and think you're great, they will be supportive of your idea and tell you it's a great one. I'm not saying that it's not, nor am I trying to kill your idea. However, not all ideas deserve to exist in the marketplace.

I would first try to see if there are any similar restaurants in similar markets. Go check them out and see how they're doing. Before you visit, call and speak with the owner. Tell them that you are from GF, ND and that you're thinking about opening a similar place to what they have. Obviously they will have to be far enough away or they will see you as competition and not want to share info.

Write up a good business and feasibility plan. You need to know how everything is going to work, from the transactional level, to marketing and growth.

Who is your target market? You can't say "everyone" or "All of Grand Forks"... How many people like the type of food you're going to offer, and how many of them will actually convert to customers?

What's your competitive advantage? It has to be something beyond "Great food" "good service" and all the other cliches everyone else is trying to push with no luck.

Also, how are you going to get funding? Debit financing, angel investors, grants, second mortgage, etc?

Commercial rent in GF is easily $10-$15/sq. ft for something decent. An average restaurant is 7,000 sq./ft, thats $70,000 for rent alone.

How many people are going to be on staff and what are they paid?

Also, how are you going to market your products/business? Radio, TV, word of mouth, print? A 30 second ad on 100.3 (Cat Country) runs about $15.00. Run an ad an hour during drive times for a month and you've eaten up over $4,500.

That should get you started...

gfentr said...

Kelly, you'll also have to figure out how you're going to structure your business. Sole Prop, Partnership, LLC, LLP, Scorp, Ccorp, etc... Though it might be tempting, a partnership is one of the worst ways to do it for a multitude of reasons.

Kelly Clow said...

I actually already own a LLC (Nine and Numb Entertainment), and am VERY knowledgeable about how partnerships can go wrong! LOOOOONG story. ;)

Anyway, I've already managed a sit down BBQ restaurant down here in Tampa, and I have fairly good idea on the target demographics for a restaurant of this type, but those are for an affluent Southern metropolitan area, not a semi-rural city in the Northern Plains.

I spoke with the owner of my restaurant, and he was just trying to get me to open a franchise up there. I want to try something different. I remember Hollywood Smokehouse and BJB's up there and how they essentially blew each other off the map, so that has me a bit skeptical on the feasibility of the idea.

I know that Famous Dave's does very well up there, but as a chain, they have the advantage of being tried and true. I want to attempt a "fusion" of sorts: Smoked ND bison brisket and Kentucky mutton alongside the usual suspects of pork, chicken and catfish.

I'm still torn on a number of things, like would I offer gumbo and jambalaya? Would I try to sell Brunswick stew and collard greens? I know how to create all of them, but how would I sell the idea of boiled crawfish to North Dakotans? There is a real cultural gap between the deep South and the far North. I almost made a friend of mine down here throw up when I offered her some cheese curds I brought home with me from up there.

I guess I just want to know if anybody would even EAT Southern food up there, let alone bypass all the other options and eat at my place.

BTW, gfentr, thank you for the input. I really do appreciate the feedback you've given me so far.

gfentr said...

Hey Kelly, It's interesting that you're responsible for The Rocky Horror Picture Show that comes up here. :) Good times... Anyways, I wonder if you could leverage any of your connections in the area and advertise a "Down South Cook Out" or something (not during catfish days etc...) and see what the response is.

Rent the stuff you would need rather than buy for a trial run. If the response is good on a "non-holiday" then you might have a shot.

gfentr said...

Another thought... If you know any restaurant owners in GF or surrounding areas, maybe you could get them to prepare some of your dishes and offer them as a special and see what the response is or if anyone even orders it.

Kelly Clow said...

"I wonder if you could leverage any of your connections in the area and advertise a "Down South Cook Out" or something..."

You know? In all honesty, that is actually the most constructive piece of advice I've ever received on the subject.

God, that's a pretty good idea.

I wonder how much the permits would be for something like that?

As you mentioned, I'm the guy who brings Rocky Horror to town each October, and believe me when I say that putting on a publicized event costs a lot more than one would think. RHPS is a pricey little bugger, and getting pricier every year, and I've only been able to brake even one time in five years of doing it, but it's been a blast every time we put it on.

It's a damn good idea, but I'll have to do some research on it.

Thanks for the idea! We'll see what happens.

Kelly Clow said...

Crap, I spelled break as "brake". I need to go to sleep! :P

Angie said...

Kelly,

It might be a good idea to check with the marketing department at UND, it is possible that they would be able to do some of the research you are looking for as a group project for class.

As for southern cuisine - SIGN ME UP! I personally would rather have the gumbo. If you can find it in New Orleans it's good. It would be great to have something here that can heat up the palate. I think your primary direct competition here would be the Texas Roadhouse - they seem to always be busy.

Good Luck and don't forget to let us know. Maybe you could just have an event open to the people on this blog, I guarantee you would get honest feedback. :o)

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of sweet tea and tried the McDonald's version and couldn't believe how sweet it was. I think they messed up the batch, because it tasted like pure sugar.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Smokey's of Ardoch?
I've been gone from GF since 1992...

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Smokey's of Ardoch?
I've been gone from GF since 1992...

Anonymous said...

Texas Roadhouse- delicious, but I hate the atmosphere. Also, don't touch the peanuts. Are you insane?

Anonymous said...

"but how would I sell the idea of boiled crawfish to North Dakotans?"

I think Parrot's Cay has crawfish on their menu. They also have things like jumbalaya and gumbo. No BBQ though. They seem to keep busy.

Anonymous said...

My favorite places to eat allow smoking. I can't wait until smoking is banned. (Southgate, Bonzer's, Parrot's Cay) I also like Toasted Frog, but that might just be the wood burning oven aroma. Love that! Love Rhombus Guys and Mike's Pizza.

I also love Dakota Harvest Bakery for lunch. I don't notice the Panini smell like others have mentioned!

Has anyone checked out Capone's in McVille? Is it worth the drive?

Anonymous said...

"but how would I sell the idea of boiled crawfish to North Dakotans?"

You can't, you won't. Self indulgent, ego stroking on a blog and running a real live joint are 2 different things. You think buck-beer joints and $5 shows at the Empire are the shit. Blog aawy dreamer, it's cute.

Anonymous said...

Kelly,

I'd also find out how the cuisine would play with Canadians and whether a similar concept exists in Winnipeg. I have a friend at the CVB who tells me Canadians always ask for recommendations for LOCALLY owned, i.e., non-chain restaurants.

MsnDxe said...

Kelly,

We recently moved home from Grand Forks and would have enjoyed the type of restaurant your talking about. We missed home so much we had live crawfish shipped to us when they were in season. Our friends there wouldn't touch them at all, but they did eat our gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, creole, beignets while tossing back hurricanes and dixe beer(which we last had before katrina). I think your restaurant would be a welcome addition to Grand Forks. Don't forget country ham, red eye gravy and chicory coffee!

TLH said...

Kelly,
There is a BBQ place in Williston that has been open for a few years and done very well. When I first heard about it, I actually had a good chuckle wondering how long they would actually hang in there. Well, I am happy to report that they are doing great and the food is terrific. I say that having lived in TX for some time and frequenting several BBQ establishments(it shows, trust me). The food is very simple, but it is terrific, the real deal as far as BBQ and smoking go.
Personally, for what it is worth, I can see your concept being very popular here, trendy even. Good luck, I hope you go for it!

Anonymous said...

I would soooo love a southern/ Cajun/Creole style restaurant here. I picked up a couple of old Creole cookbooks from the late 1800's-early 1900's, and cooked up some wonderful dishes!!! Surprisingly, they weren't overly cayenned.

There also was a food vendor last year from Louisiana at the GF town square and they served up some amazing gumbo. Hope they come back.

Anyway, it would be nice to have a place to give our northern tastebuds a little zip.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, I think your idea would go over very well... judging solely on the line for Famous Dave's bbq at the Arts Fest every year. We get it every year at the ArtsFest, and no matter what time of day, the line is at least 10 people deep.

So yes, try a trailer and do a little lunchtime catering. We see it often in the summer around here with the Hobo Taco trailer parked at various spots around town.

Not sure on how zoning for these type of things work, but you'd do especially well if you were able to park it downtown late night and capture the hungry bar crowd appetite.

Anonymous said...

I'm a southern girl and I miss things like Sonic, The Cracker Barrel - so many things about the Cracker Barrel like chicken and dumplings (almost as good as my Momma makes)turnip greens and cornbread...sweet tea (OH YEAH Mickey Ds nailed it!)Fried Catfish, hush puppies...the list could go on and on. I have traveled around the world and in every place I go I love to eat...guess that is something you just have to do on occassion right? The best food is usually found in a local dive restaurant but you don't really know about them unless you are referred by a local...so this blog is great for that reason. The best food is not always local cuisine...in Korea I ate some really tasty local foods but the best meal of all was the PIZZA at a PIZZA HUT there...it was divine...like the original pizzas that used to taste like someone actually took the time to make them right...I am a HUGE Rhombus Guys Pizza fan, they make pizza taste like a whole new experience...with the price of gas going up its nice to "get away" to find something different without going too far...and everyone eventually has to eat so I don't understand how any restaurant could really fail in this town...I've been to the Corral a few times and its always packed...the food has been progressively worse each time...but its still packing people in...the Roadhouse is another big favorite but the service last visit was tremendously lacking..we had to get our own rolls...but the steak and sweet potatoes are divine! We've been to Ground Round...they parked us right by the kitchen door with a 2 year old and she learned a few new choice words from the kitchen staff that we'd rather not have had her hear...the food was ok and the service was great so we may go back someday...and request different seating. When I go out..anyplace other than drive thru... I prefer to have something more to choose from than what I would normally serve at home...burgers, chicken nuggets etc...when you pay for food I feel you should get something unique and satisfying. Bring on the diversity! We'd eat it up :)

akm said...

Kelly,

I think if you offer a really cool atmosphere and unique, good food at a decent price and cold beer you will have a winner. I love the fusion idea of applying southern principals to local food. This might mean sacrificing crawfish--or flying it in for a weekly special like Sanders does with sushi--but I think it's ok. Weekly specials make your restaurant a destination.

As far as cool astmosphere, the first thing I think of is this awesome place I went to in Columbus, MS. It's called Proffitts Porch. It's an out of the way wood shack on stilts overlooking this pretty lake with bullfrogs. It appears to be an old campsite with a huge outdoor deck (the porch). You sit at old picnic tables and the food comes in baskets. And oh the food--the red beans and rice is to die for. They also have these really great seafood sandwiches on french bread.

I do think it's important for you to distinguish between southern cuisines. Eschew a TX BBQ. If you're going to do New Orleans, just do that (although someone is bound to franchise a Mimi's Cafe here eventually and Parrot's Cay already offers some cajun-type food). I would suggest that a New Orleans restaurant atmosphere can get cheesy very easily unless done right. But a good, Georgia/Mississippi/Memphis--basic down home southern-type cuisine--would be a niche no one is really doing here and people would love to discover. Red beans and rice, collard greens (done right--not Cracker Barrel), grits (also done right), maybe fried chicken, etc. The ideas you gave earlier sound great. I personally will not go to a place that is overly heavy or meaty, so options are critical. This type of cuisine would also be easy to create atmosphere for, without being lame. Make me feel like I'm in Bubba's back yard by a lake with cypress trees, and you might even make me forget when it's winter outside. It would be really cool if you could find a place where we could look over the river.

Finally, at another place I ate in Mississippi I had blackened catfish nachos--OH SO GOOD!

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous post, the BBQ place in Williston is surprisingly good. It's worth the drive out there for the ribs!

rickeroye said...

Kelly, I would love the idea of a Louisiana Cajun/Southern restaurant. I know my favorite restaurant in town is the Parrot's Cay (jambalaya is unbelieveable) but because of the smoking, seems to always be packed, and the fact you have to be 21 or above I often can't get other people to go with me. It would be great to have another option in town.

Does anyone know if Popolino's Pizza has changed something about their pizzas recently. Since moving to GF 10 years ago I've ordered from Pops way more than any other place (not even close). But the last two times just haven't tasted the same, it seems something different with the sauce. Last time I even thought about calling them because I couldn't even finish a slice I thought it tasted so bad. Also I love Green Mills pizza but they keep burning the crust! Have to switch to Mike's/Rhombus.

Anonymous said...

Same burnt crust issue with Green Mill. Plus I used to go to the original Green Mill on Grand Avenue in the Cities and it shocks me how different the quality and taste are. I don't generally go to the one here, not that it's bad, because it doesn't compare to the original GM. :-(

Lynsey said...

What do you guys think about Seasons in EGF? It was the only place who'd take 20 people for UND graduation.I've never been there, so I'd like to know what it's like.

dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have been to Season's quite a few times, and I've never had a bad meal. The service was good last time I was there and the wait staff is very friendly. I think you'll have a nice time there after graduation.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this has turned into the Kelly posting!

Having said that, Kelly,

New York City, believe it or not, is now home to dozens of Southern/BBQ style restaurants and they're always packed with families, couples, all ethnicities. As recently as 5 years ago, there were only 2 such places south of Harlem. You may be onto something.

Anonymous said...

I've been to Seasons a couple times and the food has always been mediocre. Don't order the reuben!!

Kelly Clow said...

Well, everybody.

I've started the permit process with the city for the festival idea, but it looks like anything in 2008 is out of the cards. They are just booked up for the season already.

I'm gonna shoot for the summer of 2009 at the square downtown.

Someone named Cheryl at city hall will be helping me with the process.

Fingers crossed!

Kelly CLow said...

P.S.

I didn't intend for this to become the "Kelly posting".

I apologize for that.

I know I can get on some people's nerves on here with my endless theorizing and out-loud thinking.

Again, I'm sorry for inadvertently hijacking the thread, folks.

gfyourself said...

Popolino's hasn't changed the sauce, but I noticed what you are talking about on a pepperoni pizza. They have been putting the pepperoni on top, which bakes it and creates a smokier flavor.

I kind of like the change myself, but it is a different flavor. I always liked that the pepperoni was under the cheese.

Don't be afraid to call and let them know! The owners are relatively new, and I'm sure they are being open-minded about change right now. It would be good for them to get some feedback if the changes aren't working.

Anonymous said...

What festival, Mr. Clow?

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone else about Green Mill's problem of burning their pizza... I LOVE the Green Mill on Grand Ave in Saint Paul, but the one here in GF has some 'pizza issues'...!

Anonymous said...

Don't even waste your time on capones.

GrandForksGuy said...

"I can't reveal anything specific, but I know of some projects on the burner that will be really dynamic for the downtown area in the future, if they ever get off the ground."

Hey Kelly...can you fill me in on any interesting details? I promise I won't share anything on the blog if that's how you want it...I would just love to know for myself. You know my email address...please! :)

GrandForksGuy said...

And by the way, I think this blog has made a wonderful turnaround in the last week or so. We've been having a tremendous amount of posts and they're almost all constructive. Thanks for a great week, everyone...let's keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Capones has already closed and the spot was replaced by Al's Catering which is very good. I recommend trying it out.

Drew said...

We all know that this thread may not be the best place to be talking about restaurant building, but I know that I would check out a blog (or at least subscribe on a RSS feed) about Kelly's process.

Anonymous said...

I love the Blue Moose because I am in love with their chipotle bbq sauce on their nachos. I also like their walleye strips. There are some places in this town I have only touched once. Like the Panda Buffet,Red Pepper, and Italian Moon.

Anonymous said...

The nachos at Blue Moose are very delicious. I, for one, love the chipotle sauce they have on them. I am quite sad they no longer serve their fried cheese curd things anymore though...

rickeroye said...

gfyourself, thanks for the info on Pops. It was a pepperoni pizza that I ordered so that makes sense. I might have to give it a try one more time before letting them know what I think. As long as they don't change the delicious breadsticks and wings I could probably get used to it.

Disappointed said...

My family and I ate at Giuseppe's last week and unfortunately we felt it was a resounding flop. Some key points:
- Slow service. Seemed like our waitress had better things to do.
- If the menu goes out of the way to advertise "bread and butter", then I expect a little more to the butter than Land O Lakes foil packs tucked under the loaf.
- Salad...where to start....limp greens, only 3 choices of dressing, italian dressing bland and tasteless, carrot medallions and celery chunks (???), and uninspiring plating.
- Sauce...I have to say that I could almost picture someone opening large #10 cans of plain sauce and heating it up. VERY blah.
- Meat filling (lasanga and ravioli) was plainer than my mother's Norwegian cooking.
- Alfredo...good thing this was for my kid who loves everything. Looked to me like it was WAAAY too much flour and a poor roux to start.

Overall I'd have to give it a 3 of 10 at best. Too bad, because I want an Italian place, especially downtown, and unless they get some personality we won't be spending our money there again.

gfyourself said...

Sadly, I have to agree about Guiseppe's. I was excited about it at the time, but after reading the above review, and talking with my wife, I realized my memory was wishful thinking. I hope they can turn it around, because an Italian place is sorely needed in GF.

Anonymous said...

Seems like Giueseppe's is the kind of place where you really have to know what to order. As I said in my review above, my wife absolutely loved the pasta with clam sauce, and she has had A LOT of experience with real Italian food growing up outside of NYC. Hopefully they can tweak things and improve on what they already have going for them.

Anonymous said...

Capone's did not exactly close. They had a fire in the kitchen so they sold the building and moved to McVille instead.

Anonymous said...

SANDERS and AL's are the best place to eat some good tasting food is $$ is not an object... to much.

TEXAS Roashouses steaks & bread are soooo good.

The RED PEPPER on university needs a life- that place is pretty bad, i think the students need to be treated better then that and stop settling.

AL's- I ate there on Mothers day and the food and dessert was all mouth watering. ( they were open from 11-3) with a selctive menue. Good choices tho.

I'm still the fan of the PIT PIT!

Anonymous said...

Italian moon's Hamburger meat in there burritos ect have made a few ppl's stomach upset. I have grew up here and have went there many of times, i have never been happy when i left and i'm not to hard to pls.

The chicken was so dry and the sause for the past was blaaaaaa.

The qeso is one in a million tho..yummy. Still not worth going for supper tho.

Boston's impressed me with there new selections and good pizza but expesive.

Mcd's new Sweet tea is THE BOMB! AWESOME! i'm addicted i think... dang.

Anonymous said...

PARROTS CAY- I had to leave because of all the smoke

When i walked out the door to my car i could TASTE the smoke in MY MOUTH! now that is Thick. They should do Somthing about that... somthing..

Good food and thee WORSTE atmosphere.

M&M said...

Anyone been to The Kegs lately? I usually don't order sloppy joes but this one day I did. I bit into my sloppy joe and before I began to chew, I randomly glanced at where I had bit and found a new ingredient...a curly grayish hair, mmmmmmmmm! I Spit that sloppy joe bite and proceded to gag. Maybe this will make you think twice before you go eat there.

ugh...

JoshTee! said...

... because of a hair? Sounds like a very random occurrence to me, and something that likely happens to EVERY restaurant in town at one time or another.


Some people need to get over the germ thing.

M&M said...

I'm sure it isnt random, no one in that place wears hair nets or gloves while making food...it is quite disgusting. I dont really know about anyone else but the whole "Germ thing" hmm i dont think i would be eating at a restaurant if they didnt wash their hands when they went to the bathroom...but i'm sure you dont mind the extra flavor.

I recently went to paradiso...ordered a taco and the ground beef tasted horrible..I dont think they use any seasonings there....not to mention the bland sides and bad service.
On a different note i have ordered from rhombus guys twice and i have to say they have the best pizza in town...very good apps and sandwiches also.
I know this is about GF but...one of the best restaurants i have been to in ND is Santa Lucia in fargo...Great food...very beautiful in both locations...friendly service..plus very good desserts.

Anonymous said...

M&M, don't go to the Kegs then, they were full today when I pulled in at noon ! Been going there for 50 years, still the same good food ! Great sloppy joes ! They are hard working gals there. Don't slam them , they know who you are ! greenglass4

Anonymous said...

i notice a lot of comments that focus completely on the negative aspects of the gf dining scene. I have lived a multiple cities in my life, and believe that, for its size, gf has a nice selection. i don't believe that it has the size to support some of the more exotic/international cuisines. All things considered gf has great pizza 'rhombus guys', fine dining 'sanders', plenty of chains, and much in between. the subpar places will remain as is. they have their role to fill as well. people without much money will go to the pepper as long as it exists. people with money will go to sanders. personally, however, my favorite is rhombus. it's always a good time followed by blue moon. sooo many beers

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the River Bend? I've been away from Grand Forks for over 15 years (in Texas now), but I remember the River Bend as being a good "dining" experience.

Also, the old Whitey's (back room) and the Bronze Boot used to favorites.