It’s no secret that food plays a fairly significant role in Midwestern culture, as it does in many cultures. While most Midwesterners enjoy a variety of cuisines (not just meat and potatoes), many of us have a soft spot for the popular traditional dishes and food items in our region. Much of the traditional food in the Fargo-Moorhead region is influenced by Scandinavian and German heritage. If you’re visiting our area and want to try some regional food the locals love, check the list below.
But first, you may want to watch this video that will help you know how to (or how NOT to) pronounce the names of some of our food.
Unless you live in the Midwest or have visited, chances are you don’t know what on earth ‘knoephla’ is…or how to pronounce it. Essentially, it’s the German version of a dumpling. Knoephla soup tastes pretty similar to chicken and dumpling soup. There are a few restaurants in the Fargo-Moorhead area where you’ll find knoephla soup on the menu. Oh, and in case you are worried about sounding silly when you order it, most people pronounce it ‘nefla.’
The soup is always on at Kroll’s Diner and they sell it by the bucket…literally. You can get a bucket of knoephla soup to go. In addition to the soup, Kroll’s also offers many other comfort food items and has some other German dishes like kuchen (mentioned later in this post) and fleischkuechle (yes, that’s a thing).
It’s America’s national mammal, the mascot for the Fargo area’s largest university (NDSU) and a much-requested food item by people who visit our area. Here are a few restaurants that have menu items featuring bison:
On the Hotel Donaldson’s menu, the Original HoDo Burger or the Hanger & Gnocchi will satisfy your bison craving.
The Bacon & BBQ Bison Meatloaf at Mezzaluna is a great option if you’re in the mood for comfort food.
From the Max Bar menu, the Bison Meatballs with Vermouth Cream Sauce is a good option if you’re wanting to give bison a try, but maybe not ready to commit to having it for a main entree.
Kuchen might be another foreign word to some. It’s a German dessert and maybe the best way to describe it is a combination of cake, pie and custard. It has a crust and usually some type of fruit and custard filling. You’ll find kuchen on the menu at these restaurants in Fargo:
This is the diner mentioned earlier that has the knoephla soup and some other German dishes. They offer a few different flavors of kuchen.
Wurst Bier Hall
Wurst Bier Hall, another restaurant featuring German food, serves kuchen to your preference (warm or chilled) and usually offers a couple different flavors as well.
First off, in these parts, it’s called hotdish…not casserole. It’s a dead giveaway that you’re not from around here if you say you’re craving a good ‘casserole.’ Anyway, hotdish comes in many varieties, sometimes depending on what you have in your cupboards and refrigerator. Tater Tot Hotdish is one of the most popular kinds. Macaroni/Hamburger Hotdish (or goulash to some) is another favorite. Here are a few places in Fargo-Moorhead that serve up the classic comfort food.
Cracked Pepper has a daily special and it’s often some type of hotdish – tater tot, chicken and rice, hamburger and potato, etc.
The Boiler Room
From The Boiler Room appetizer menu, Three Cheese Tater Tot Hot Dish is a very indulgent version of tater tot hotdish – with bacon, cheese and sausage gravy.
If you’re craving a hamburger and hotdish at the same time, Sickies Garage has the perfect solution…the Tater Tot Hot Dish burger.
Ole & Lena’s Pizzeria
Hotdish is a pizza topping at Ole & Lena’s Pizzeria. Add a little cheese to go along with it and you have Lena’s Hotdish Pizza
Another pizza place that has combined two of our favorite things, hotdish and pizza, to make the ultimate comfort food. Rhombus Guys’ Tater-Tot pizza comes with jalapenos on it, so if you’re a true Norwegian (or just someone that doesn’t appreciate spicy food), you may need to prepare yourself or be sure to order the pizza to suit your taste palate.
Lefse is a Scandinavian flatbread of sorts made from potatoes. Spread some butter on it, sprinkle it with sugar (white or brown), roll it up and enjoy! The best lefse is the stuff fresh off the griddle at grandma and grandpa’s house, but here are a few places in the Fargo-Moorhead area that are very good at making lefse.
Sons of Norway
The lefse from the Sons of Norway is as traditional as it comes. You can stop in to purchase lefse and they also serve lunch 11:00am-1:30pm. Occassionally they will do other special dinners too and sometimes they feature lutefisk, another Norwegian tradition and delicacy.
Freddy’s has been in the business of making lefse since 1946 so it’s safe to say they’re experts. You can purchase Freddy’s lefse by stopping in their store in West Fargo. It can also be found at many grocery stores in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Located in nearby Hawley, MN, Carl’s Lefse also gets rave reviews for having lefse that’s almost as good as grandma’s. You can stop by their Hawley shop or call to have some shipped to you.
Once you’ve gotten a taste of this Midwestern food and decided it’s actually quite good, you may want to check out our video series on How To Eat Like A Midwesterner, where you’ll find tutorials on how to make some of these Midwestern favorites.