Helpful ReplyHot!Happy Birthday North Dakota!!!

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2014/08/23 20:11:43 (permalink)

Happy Birthday North Dakota!!!

Looking to take one more long weekend trip before the summer was over, I found a reasonable flight in and out of Fargo.  This was especially appealing since out of the 49 states I have visited, North Dakota was by far the one I have spent the least amount of time.  This will also hopefully give me an opportunity to indulge in multiple slices of my favorite pie, sour cream raisin!
 
Friday August 15, 2014
 
Arriving in Fargo at 8:30 at night, you wouldn't think there would be much in the way of dining options.  Luckily, Kroll's Diner is open 24 hours and also carries some of the German-Russian foods that North Dakota is famous for.  Besides the Fargo location, there are others in Bismarck, Mandan and Minot.  Well, if Kroll's Diner had to be a chain, at least it is a North Dakota only chain.
 
Pulling up in front, I was blown away by the sensational neon. 



Just great stuff!  The interior,

with the retro look, was also impressive.  The first Roadfood place that came to mind was 66Diner in Albuquerque, another great showcase for neon.
 
Above the counter seats, they had a menu board

that included their available pie.  As the young hostess was leading me to my booth, I asked her if they happened to have sour cream raisin.  She said she would ask in the back and what was that flavor again, sour cream what?  This really surprised me, since I figured scr pie was omnipresent in North Dakota.
 
Even if the neon didn't win me over at Kroll's, the menu would.  Apparently, these two ladies

are the mascots for the place, including appearing in commercials.  They sure look like the type of ladies I would want cooking for me.  And I love the grudgingly approved line.  There are several other funny lines throughout the menu

and specific recommendations from the ladies, extolling their favorites.  I asked my waitress if they hang around the restaurant and she told me she has never met them and thinks one of them has even recently passed away.
 
Also on that menu board, they mention having knoephla soup.  Having no idea how to pronounce this word, I figured I would get the waitress to say it first.  When I asked her what soup they had, she replied, "corn chowder".  Figuring this most likely isn't how the word "knoephla" is said, I asked if they had any other soups.  She said, we always have the NEFF-LA soup.  Okay, I got it now. 

The color of the soup is a little off due to the interior lighting, but it indeed had a yellowish tint.  Knoephla soup is a chicken soup, that typically contains dumplings and potato.  Here, there was no potato.  And the dumplings were all a spongy pre-formed rectangle.  The only time the dumplings varied in size is if two of them stuck together.  I was glad to finally try this unusual regional specialty, but there was absolutely nothing homemade about it.  No doubt, there will be better versions ahead in this trip.
 
For the entrée, it was the hot roast beef sandwich. 

It was cut in half, with two big scoops of mashed potatoes in between.  On the positive side, the wheat bread was very good and held thick slices of lean roast beef.  On the negative side, the potatoes tasted like they came from a box and the gravy looked and tasted like a gloppy mess.  I wouldn't order this again.
 
For dessert, I eschewed the pie to try another North Dakotan regional favorite, kuchen.  Feeling confident, I asked for the apple KOO-CHIN, only to be corrected that it is pronounced KOO-GIN, with a hard G.  I would have never guessed.  This dessert

is definitely pie-like and it came out heated up from the microwave, which made the custard filling way too soft.  The crust was definitely not pie like and almost reminded me of an undercooked pizza crust.  Surely, there must be much better kuchens out there, too.  Interestingly, instead of fork, my waitress gave me a spoon to eat the kuchen.
 
Speaking of the waitress, her name was Brittany.  She was loquacious, unfailingly polite and a real delight!  I know one of the young guys sitting at the table next to me was trying to work up the courage to ask her out.  I remember thinking, if everyone in North Dakota is as friendly as Brittany, then I am in for a great trip.  We'll see how that turns out......
 
As for Kroll's Diner, I loved everything but the food!
 
Kroll's Diner
1033 45St S
Fargo, ND
1-701-492-2319
 
I checked into my hotel for the night, hoping to get an early start.    
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/08/23 20:27:50
#1
wanderingjew
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/23 23:11:35 (permalink)
I am sitting here in my little dinky motel in Salina KS after  I was out enjoying an English Style Ale out of Hays KS and then a sampler of the local brews offered at the Blue Skye Brewpub in downtown Salina, reminiscing about those hilarious commercials that I've seen on youtube of those old  German ladies that are the representative mascots for Krolls Diner. Great start so far. I'm wondering if the waitress had the "straight of out of central casting" accent.
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buffetbuster
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/24 07:28:41 (permalink)
WJ-
So glad that you mentioned it, because I never thought to go on youtube and to watch the commercials.  And they are everything I could imagine and more, with this being fairly typical.  Very enjoyable!
 
Here in Pittsburgh, the Eat 'n Park chain has the lovely Sarah Marince, who is a country singer from nearby Coraopolis, in all of their commercials.  Although her appearances make stop what I am doing and watch, Kroll's commercials are much more interesting.
 
I was going to bring up the accents later in the trip report, but since you brought it up.  I did hear a few that sounded straight out of the movie Fargo, but for the most part, it was hardly noticeable.
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buffetbuster
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/24 07:50:27 (permalink)
Saturday August 16, 2014
 
It should go without saying that before any trip, I do research on where to get the best pie.  And in North Dakota, one of the names that kept coming up was Tower City Truck Stop, just 40 minutes west of Fargo, right off of I-94.  The timing was perfect as I pulled into their lot just as they opened at 6:00AM. 

One employee was icing caramel rolls before putting them in a big industrial oven, which was a good sign. 
 
The pie case

out front had slim pickins, but who knows, maybe they have more in the back.  Unfortunately no, what was in the case was it.  I had to settle on a slice of lemon meringue,

which actually looked fairly good.  The meringue was wonderfully light and airy, but the filling was old and separated in wet chunks.  Not good.
 
The waitress said that if I came back in a few hours, the fresh pies would be out of the oven, but that just wasn't possible with my schedule.  Despite the early hours, there were quite a few people here, with several tables being taken up by groups of truckers and one more holding weekend motorcyclists.
 
Tower City Travel Center
101 Maiden Lane
Tower City, ND
701-749-6000
 
Back on the interstate, the drive west towards Bismarck was made difficult by very thick fog.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/24 11:28:32 (permalink)
Approaching Bismarck, the fog gave way to dark clouds. 


I live in an area where we get frequent thunderstorms, but I had never seen clouds as dark as these.  It was raining so hard that many had pulled off to the side of the road.  By the time I had reached the city, the rain had stopped.
 
My first stop was The Little Cottage, which appeared in the very earliest Roadfood books.  In his excellent epic trip report a few years ago, WJ stopped in here and had a less than satisfactory meal.  As soon as I pulled in,

I knew right away what happened.  Obviously, WJ accidentally ate at Big Boy instead!
 
Once reaching the front door, I noticed they were open until 9:00pm, which is not what my research indicated.  Knowing I now had all day to make it back, I turned around drove to Fried's Family Restaurant

in Mandan, which is open only for breakfast and short lunch hours.    
 
First order of business, I told my waitress to get a slice of the sour cream raisin pie, which I had noticed in the pie case

as I went by and set it on the table.  Often a waitress will give funny looks at this request, especially at breakfast, but this lady was a real pro.  Even though Fried's specializes in the German from Russia foods, which was evident on their big menu board

in the dining room, these aren't available this early.
 
But, that didn't mean I couldn't order something truly North Dakotan, a homemade caramel roll.  Just about every restaurant I visited during my time here offered their own version.  While the cinnamon rolls you see in Iowa (and to a lesser degree in Oregon) are usually enormous, there doesn't seem to be that one-upmanship here in North Dakota to see who can make the largest caramel roll.  Fried's version

was modestly sized, flaky, with a generous portion of gooey caramel icing on all sides.  I was curious if it would have nuts and like all the caramel rolls eaten during this trip, this blissfully did not.  The interior was where the cinnamon could be found,

but at no time could this be mistaken for a cinnamon roll instead of a caramel roll.
 
The main dish was something called trucker's hash,

with crispy hash browns, mixed with diced sausage and onions.  Very satisfying!  Two eggs came with it, which were ordered over medium.  You also get either toast or pancakes and here is where they made their only misstep.  I thought the pancakes

were too dry.
 
Finally, back to that sour cream raisin pie. 

The crust was buttery and flaky, the meringue dense and irresistable.  The filling leaned more towards the sour side.  While I would prefer one with the right balance between sour and sweet, a little on the sour side is much better than it being too sweet.  Overall, this was a fine slice of pie!
 
Besides being a comfortable family restaurant, Fried's also has a bakery, gift shop and general store, all of which I ignored.  This place was an early highlight of the trip, although I wish I could have tried some of the German specialties they are known for.  Don't be surprised if you see WJ and I working together to write an official review for Roadfood.
 
The restaurant is practically at the end of a dead end street, with what looked to be an impressive view.  I saw that there was a path leading down, with people walking their dogs.  Here is the view.

 
Fried's Family Restaurant
1010 Boundary Street
Mandan, ND
701-667-1127
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/08/24 11:30:19
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leethebard
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/24 12:39:11 (permalink)
Enjoying your trip...and oh, that hash!!!
 
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/24 12:54:42 (permalink)
All looks terrific and I'm looking forward to the rest. I always think it's a shame how German, German-American, and Midwestern cuisine is often overlooked in popular culture. You and Dale have shown proof it isn't all meat and potatoes and vegetables. And when it is, so what's wrong with that! Mmmmm-mmmm.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/24 12:57:30 (permalink)
That hash does indeed look wonderful!  I've never had scr pie but I'll have to try it one of these days.  Next time I'm in North Dakota. 
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/24 15:57:31 (permalink)
buffetbuster,
 
That trucker's hash looks great. I may just have to make that soon. Now, about that hot roast beef sandwich. Your description of the gravy's appearance is spot-on. Around here they make their hot roast beef, hot turkey and hot meatloaf sandwiches the same way -- cut in half with a scoop of mashed potatoes in the middle. But here they call that a Split instead of a hot (whatever) sandwich. By the way, Henry's calls theirs a Split, too.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/25 08:17:39 (permalink)
We have a Kroll's here in Minot.  It's the go-to spot for German/Russian home food.  Comfort food to the T.
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wanderingjew
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/25 11:02:40 (permalink)
Visiting the Little Cottage Cafe was frustrating. It seems like I missed all the cool specials or they were out of the current ones. If I recall the only special available was BBQ Ribs and I was going to be in Kansas City within the week so I didn't bother. 
 
I was ready to do a review of Frieds a couple of years after my visit, but then discovered that they had just changed hands and the original owners took their Knoephla Soup recipe with them so I decided against the review but it appears based on buffetbuster's assessment that they've kept the same offerings and quality.
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buffetbuster
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/25 15:10:23 (permalink)
mlm-
There's nothing fancy or trendy about this type of food, but maybe that is why I like it so much!
 
WarToad-
What do you usually order at Kroll's?  I had the feeling there were good dishes to be had on that menu.
 
WJ-
I would have been frustrated, too.  There no way I would be ordering the ribs at Little Cottage.  It's just not that kind of place.
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/08/25 15:12:17
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/25 15:31:08 (permalink)
Saturday April 16, 2012
 
Always on the look out for more good pie, I swung over to Ohm's Café,

also in Mandan.  The place has a great look and I wondered whether I should eat a full meal here.  Two ladies were just walking out the door, so I asked them about the food.  They both shrugged.  Once said it was just okay, while the other said not bad.  Ok, just pie then.
 
The lady who waited on me was very nice and happily boxed up a slice of sour cream raisin pie to go. 

I shouldn't have bothered.  The filling was shockingly sweet, the crust too dry and the meringue seems to be liquefying, which is never a good sign.  This was clearly the worst pie of the trip.
 
No matter, I had a long list of restaurants for the day that either specialized in pie or German food, so better meals were ahead.  It was time to head north, along the Missouri River to Washburn.  Initially, the road was a torn up mess,

but it eventually got better, leading to some pretty scenery through the raindrops.   

My goal was to try the pie at The Lewis & Clark Café, home of some highly regarded pie.  I had a little bit of trouble finding the place, but that gave me a chance to find this lovely mural. 

When I finally found L & C Café, they were closed,

with a For Sale sign in the window.
 
I had another place on the list even further north, up in Turtle Lake, but not wanting another disappointment, I decided to call ahead to see if they had any German foods that day or homemade pie.  Well, the lady who answered the phone could not have been any ruder.  Even if they had what I was looking for, I still probably wouldn't have made the drive.
 
All wasn't lost though, as there were some worthwhile sights nearby to check out..... 
#13
Michael Hoffman
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/25 15:41:25 (permalink)
I would try to resist Ohm's.
 
Sometimes I just can't help myself.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/25 16:00:20 (permalink)
Michael Hoffman
I would try to resist Ohm's.
 
Sometimes I just can't help myself.

Michael,

You do have potential.

jrp
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/25 17:07:26 (permalink)
Michael Hoffman
I would try to resist Ohm's.
 
Sometimes I just can't help myself.


It's times like this that I miss Pastrami on Wry
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buffetbuster
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 08:02:44 (permalink)
Nicely done Michael!
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 09:06:10 (permalink)
JRPfeff
Michael Hoffman
I would try to resist Ohm's.
 
Sometimes I just can't help myself.

Michael,

You do have potential.

jrp

Oh, that Hertz....
 
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Howard Baratz
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 09:13:21 (permalink)
The Travelin Man
 
It's times like this that I miss Pastrami on Wry




Who??????????????
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The Travelin Man
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 10:14:35 (permalink)
Ooops.
 
Some guy.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 11:46:09 (permalink)
buffetbuster
WarToad-
What do you usually order at Kroll's?  I had the feeling there were good dishes to be had on that menu.
 


I don't usually order off the menu.(Which is fairly typical mid-west diner)  Usually there's a small sheet of paper clipped to the from with daily/weekly specials and they're almost always German/Russian dishes.  Handmade spaetzle, Fleischkuechle, Pichelsteiner, borscht, knefla soup, various smoked sausages diced and fried with potatos...  usually 4-5 ever changing options.  Always good.  But hit and miss as to what's available or IF it's available.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 11:56:47 (permalink)
WarToad-
Oh man, that's sounds excellent!  I wish they would have had that during my visit.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 12:02:27 (permalink)
I wish they were a little more consistant with it's availablity.  It must be related to who exactly is in the kitchen.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 13:32:53 (permalink)
WarToad-
Okay, that makes sense.  There were no specials that I saw during my visit, but it was already after 9:00pm on a Friday.
 
BTW, did you ever eat at The Lewis & Clark Cafe in Washburn or Bev's Cafe in Turtle Lake?
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 15:58:17 (permalink)
Bev's cafe.  Was duck hunting and stopped in for some of the best knefla soup I've had in a long while.  I like to think I make a pretty solid knefla, but hers beats mine.  Had a slice of pie and coffee too.  Would recommend as solid simple home style food, easy on the wallet.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/26 16:01:06 (permalink)
WarToad-
Thanks for the response.  Now I am really kicking myself for not going there, despite how rude they were on the phone. 
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/27 08:19:15 (permalink)
Fort Mandan, right outside of the town of Washburn, is where the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1804-1805.  The fort is a reconstruction, since the original burned down a short time later.  And the site where they think the fort stood is now covered by the Missouri River.  Nevertheless, it did have an authentic feel.
 
Before going to the fort, I went over to take some photos of a statue,

which represents Seaman, a Newfoundland that accompanied them.  Now, Newfies are big dogs, but this statue is six foot tall.
 
Just as I finished taking a few photos, the skies really let loose and it started pouring.  I paid my ticket and ran to the fort

to join a tour that just started.  Actually, there was only one young couple on the tour and the guide said he was going to make it quick so we wouldn't get too wet.  There was at least a half dozen different rooms, representing sleeping quarters. 

It was interesting that the guide said that even though L & C never specifically mention having playing cards with them,

they assumed they carried them for entertainment.  The guide also said at this portion of the tour that he didn't believe in sugarcoating history.  If there are no kids on the tour, he tells visitors that the men here spent part of their spare time with the women from the local Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, their trading partners throughout their stay.  This crate

represents all the goods they brought with them to trade with the Native Americans they met along the way.  And among the weapons they had for protection, was a blunderbuss.

 
Despite the fort being small and the rooms being close together, I still got absolutely soaking wet. 

This was because the tour guide asked when we left each room, if the last person out would not only close the heavy log door, but if we would stretch the rope from one side to the other across the entryway and attach it to hooks.  And the only way to do this was to stand outside the door and lean inside.  No avoiding my back being drenched, despite the fact that the other man and I took turns.
 
Before leaving, I took a look up the road towards the river where the statue was and I was glad I got the photo early, because there was no way to do it now.

 
Next up was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, which was more of a museum.  Lots of interesting displays



and I learned quite a bit, including the fact that this is where they first met Sacagawea.  They included many passages from their journals and this one about their first encounter with grizzly bears

was one of my favorites.
 
All together, I spent a very enjoyable 2 1/2 hours at the fort and museum and highly recommend them to anyone traveling in the area.
 
Heading back to Bismarck, it was time to start thinking about lunch.  A place called Country House Deli gets great reviews for their beer cheese soup, but once again, the Roadfood gods have abandoned me.
 
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/27 10:31:04 (permalink)
Lest anyone think otherwise, I was nowhere near here when all of this went down.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/27 11:04:54 (permalink)
TTM-
If you were going to stowaway on this trip, you could have at least helped with the driving.
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Re: Happy Birthday North Dakota!!! 2014/08/27 12:11:24 (permalink)
The fort looks very similar to Fort Clatsop which I visited and was the end of the line for Lewis and Clark.  It, too, was very interesting.  Fortunately for me it was not pouring when I visited.
 
About the "employee shortage"  that is just about the most absurd thing I have ever seen!!!!!  It's happened to all of us.......you just work harder and faster!!  Sheesh.
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