Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Marilyn Hagerty Effect

Grand Forks, ND....

Normally when I watch The Travel Channel, I get frustrated with all the shows on there that are about places to eat.  If I wanted to know more about food, shouldn't I turn to the The Food Network? I get it, when people travel they want to know where the best places to eat but it would also be nice to at least occasionally know about other things to do when on vacation.  We are not constantly eating on vacation. I don't need to know every place Anthony Bourdain has eaten.  That's been my beef, my soap box, my pet peeve and it's one I am going to freaking swallow in this post mostly because I have been inspired by our local "food critic", Marilyn Hagerty.

If you haven't heard about her, she became an internet sensation virtually overnight when her Olive Garden Review received much attention.  One person replied to the write-up saying it was pathetic but with that, many more came to her defense (including Anthony Bourdain).  This 85 year old woman was swept up by national news organizations from Good Morning America, the Today Show, The New York Times, and Anderson Cooper.  She ate at a couple of the finest restaurants in New York including Dovetail and Le Bernardin (thanks to Bourdain once again).  On top of that, Cooper is sending her to Italy so she can taste some real Italian food.
Now inspired by this little old local lady, I've decided to write about some of the better places to eat right here in Grand Forks.

Hungry for Italian?  Grand Forks/East Grand Forks not only has The Olive Garden but two other restaurants that are little more locally owned.   Giuseppe's Italian Ristorante is a small, quaint bistro in downtown Grand Forks that serves excellent classic Italian dishes from spaghetti and meatball to tortellini Alfredo.  For an extra treat, try the penne & sausage and you wont be disappointed (or hungry).  Sorry, no reservations and they are only open from 5pm to 9pm so arrive as early or as late as you can.  Another good place to try on the east side of the river is Mamma Maria's.  From classic Italian to sandwiches to pizza, this local eatery has something for everyone to enjoy.  I would particularly recommend the Mammarita but I don't think you can go wrong with any of the pizza choices or the classic dishes for that matter.

The Forks also offers a surprising variety of Asian food as well.  I am a big fan of teppanyaki grill and Fuji's does not disappoint. Their prices for lunch are surprisingly affordable considering you get a show along with you lunch.  I went after only three days of operation and while the wait staff was a little slow at the time, the chefs provided and good, fun loving show that filled us with great food in the end.  They also offer a great variety of sushi items.  You will not walk away hungry from this great place.

A new place on the map in East Grand Forks is the The Drunken Noodle.  Offering a variety of Asian style dishes with egg noodles or rice with a few dishes on the spicier side of things.  I particulary loved the dish called, of all things, Drunken Noodle.  Don't be fooled by the little flame warning of spiciness.  If you are a fan of some spice, you will not need a fire hydrant to cool you off but it does have a little kick to it.  This dish comes with flat rice noodles stir fried with basil, broccoli, tomatoes, iions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapenos, and hot Thai chili.  Very good food.

Finally, on the Asian side of style, is the Little Bangkok in East Grand Forks.  Mostly known for it's sushi and Thai food, it is a neat little place with nice ambiance.  As one person put it, they didn't care for fish so they tried the steak and it was mistake. Go and be adventurous and try the dishes they are good at, namely the varieties of sushi.

For the more "American" type of food, I recommend three other places. If you are in the mood for a good steak that includes a baked potato, soup AND salad and a bread basket for affordable prices, stop at the Bronze Boot Steakhouse and Lounge.  They boast over 50 years of "fine dining" and if you are lucky enough to sit up near the grill you can watch them cook your steak right in front of you.  Of course they offer seafood, ribs, and chicken which are all very good but like I said before, I recommend sticking with what they are good at, steak!

For some more "off the cuff" type of cuisine, you might want to try The Toasted Frog.  It is a bar so you have to be over 21 but they serve some unusual eats such as Wood-Fired Open Faced Pheasant Melt, Crabby Patty, or the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Burger.  They also have a wide variety of martinis.  I never was a martini snob until I had one there and now I love going back for their martinis.  In fact, when I do go there, I go for martinis and Fried Cheesy Pickles off their appetizer menu.  Seriously, the pickles are the best thing on the menu and would almost just as soon eat those as a meal for itself they are so good.

Finally, some excellent "Cajun" type of cuisine, go to the Parrot's Cay.  Again a little hole-in-the-wall bar so you have to be 21 to enter, it offers po'boys, lavosh, crawfish, jambalaya and OOHHHH their award winning buffalo wings that come in heat ranging from 3-15 but if you are really daring, you can try their heat that they rate as 40.  It comes complete with goggles, gloves, and a stomach pump.  Many people also love their french fries.  They have good drink specials with an abundance of good beer but all the locals know about this little place so you may have to wait for a while until a seat opens up.  With that said, it makes for good atmosphere because you can roam around and meet people that way.

So there you have it!  Coming to Grand Forks and need some food ideas, I would definitely try the ones mentioned to start.  Yes we do have plenty of the chains like Olive Garden, IHOP, Green Mill, as well as plenty of fast food from Wendy's to the Subways that are in every little corner of the town. If you care for any more advice, give me a shout.  Or better yet, if you know of another good little eatery, clue me in!!!

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