If all you know about North Dakota comes from Fargo, well, let us help round out the picture. The Roughrider State may have a far-flung population of less than a million people, but we found representatives from the major metropolitan areas: Grand Forks, Bismarck, and – of course – Fargo. It’s all a part of our first-annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, North Dakota cuisine isn’t exactly diverse. Choosing a steakhouse was easy, but tracking down the best taco? We found literally “a taco.” This isn’t a state to go for luxurious hospitality but rather self-sufficient hunting and gathering.
People general know The Parrot’s Cay in Grand Forks, North Dakota, for two reasons. First, it’s a solid place to hang out, watch a game, and/or drink a few drafts. Although it’s located in a less crowded part of town, Parrot’s can get quite busy at times, but that doesn’t stop the staff from being attentive, accommodating, and friendly. The other reason this is such a local favorite is its wings. Served swimming in sauce that ranges in spiciness from a level-3 to a level-15 (13 is supposed to make you sweat), regulars claim the bar is actually willing to go as high as 40. There’s also a famous wing challenge that required contestants to eat seven extremely spicy wings (so spicy that they don’t appear on the regular menu and gloves need to be worn when handling them) in five minutes for the opportunity to win a T-shirt and a $100 gift card. Even those who aren’t into chicken wings will stop by to order one of the specialty sauces by the quart. Get it on something, anything, and stick around for a couple rounds. This is still a bar, after all.
Courtesy of Fargo Brewing Company
MK L. / Yelp
We can’t promise that you’ll find any truly wonderful Chinese restaurants in North Dakota, but Great Wall in Fargo is about as close as you’re going to get. Ingredients are fresh and dishes are made with care, and popular menu items include garlic chicken, kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef, and General Cho’s chicken. Party trays are also available, as is a gluten-free menu.
The perfect cupcake means something a little bit different to everyone. So why not completely personalize the cupcake experience? At Sweet Treats Cupcake Bar & Bakery, you can choose from classic cake bases like vanilla and red velvet, flavored buttercreams, and an array of toppings to make your cupcakes as gourmet as you’d like.
If you have kids and you’re ever anywhere near Fargo, you have to make a stop at Sandy’s Donuts. Kids (and grown-ups, too, if we’re being honest) are more than happy to stand in line and wait to get their hands on a freshly baked Cookie Monster or Oscar the Grouch doughnut.
Facebook/ Dan's Supermarket
Dan’s Supermarket: Although there are reports of outrage over the steeper prices, Dan’s Supermarket is the go-to for the people of Bismarck. There are six locations in the city open 24/7. As this customer review said, “Great selection, no wait to checkout and friendly staff. Yeah the prices might be a bit high but the convenience is worth it.”
Lucca-born chef Mirco Morganti is bringing a taste of Italy and France to Fargo. At Toscana, he’s turning out show-stopping creations like osso bucco, tournedos Rossini, and noisette of lamb in a curry-chive cream sauce, and needless to say he also knows his way around pasta; standouts in that department include tagliolini granchio (shrimp and crab with tomatoes, garlic, and spinach in a light cream sauce); penne ortolana (penne with wild mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, and garlic in mushroom ragù); and gnocchi fattore (house-made gnocchi with chicken, garlic, and mushrooms in a tomato gorgonzola sauce.
Yes, you can find great Mexican food in North Dakota! Arnaldo’s, which also operates a food truck, is open 24/7 and serves some surprisingly good, surprisingly authentic Mexican fare. And we’re not just talking about tacos and burritos, either; you’ll find chicharrones, chili rellenos, red chile-rubbed ribs, sopes, barbacoa, and even carnitas simmered in chile verde. There are also always some solid daily specials, and the breakfast tacos are definitely on point.
40 Steak & Seafood
Each room in this upscale restaurant references a different period in North Dakota’s history, but if you want to dine there it’ll cost you. Daily dry-aged special steaks cost $40, the New York strip costs $34, and the Junior Cut and King Cut cowboy rib-eyes will set you back $40 and $65, respectively.
Yelp/ Nisa T.
“Prairie made. Hell fired” is the motto of Blackbird, which got its start slinging artisan pizza pies from a mobile truck that would cater events on weekends. Its success was largely dependent on the quality of the ingredients used – flour from North Dakota wheat, seasonal local produce and herbs – as well as the years of trial and error that went into perfecting the dough and technique. Today Blackbird is one of Fargo’s most popular restaurants, serving some truly outstanding pizza with creative toppings like béchamel, housemade sausage, Granny Smith apple, and fresh sage; and roasted chicken, housemade sweet chili and peanut sauces, fresh peppers, red onion, snap peas, and cilantro; and béchamel, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, maple syrup, and a sunny side up egg.
In Grand Forks, Red Pepper is a local legend. A local landmark for more than 50 years, this late-night staple serves a simple menu of beef tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and burgers. The signature menu item, however, is the grinder. You can customize yours with ham, salami, turkey, or any combination thereof, but why stop there? Go all the way and get an Everything Grinder, made with just about everything they’ve got in the kitchen: ham, salami, turkey, taco meat, shredded Colby, slices of Swiss, and lettuce. It’s absurd in the best way possible.
Yelp/ Michelle S.
If the word “knoephla” doesn’t ring any bells, then you probably haven’t been to North Dakota, and you definitely haven’t been to Kroll’s Diner, a German-influenced institution that’s been a local favorite since 1972. So what is knoephla? It’s a thick and creamy chicken and potato soup that can trace its roots to Germany, and in North Dakota Kroll’s does it best.
This upscale spot (and the best steakhouse in North Dakota) offers dry-aged steaks that are always surprisingly inexpensive (like a 40-ounce porterhouse for $40), and three of their steaks are available for less than $20: a $19 hanger steak, a $19 petite filet, and a six-ounce flatiron that sells for just $15.
Facebook/40 Steak + Seafood
Each of the five dining rooms at this spacious restaurant represents a different aspect of North Dakota — women of the prairie, cattlemen, governors, oil booms, families — and they each offer different décor and furnishings. USDA Prime steaks offered include boneless ribeye, bacon-wrapped filet, flat iron, and hanger steak with gorgonzola mustard and bacon. But for a quintessential North Dakota culinary experience, splurge on one of their bone-in ribeyes, dry aged for either 90, 150, or a whopping 260 days. That’s certainly something you don’t see too often.
Red Pepper / Yelp
We’re just going to say it: If you find yourself craving a Mexican street-style taco in North Dakota, you’re probably going to end up disappointed. Instead, we’ll steer you to Red Pepper, a Grand Forks institution for more than 50 years. Its “grinders” (ham, salami, turkey, taco meat, and Colby cheese on a soft loaf) are the stuff of late-night legend, and its tacos are the best in the state. Listed on the menu as just “Taco,” it’s a perfect hard-shell taco filled with homemade ground seasoned beef, lettuce, hot sauce, and grated Colby cheese. They’ll put it in a soft flour tortilla for you if prefer, but why mess with perfection? For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.