Diners, Burgers, and Bars – Oh My!

Traveling can be such fun and such a chore…especially when it comes to where to eat while doing it.  We ran into this on New Year’s Eve when the fam traveled from Grand Forks to Minneapolis on the last leg of our Christmas triangle from home to Aberdeen, SD, to Grand Forks, ND, and then home again.  The triangle is a thousand miles (literally) of family, board games, presents, and a hockey game.  We have done this every Christmas since moving to Minneapolis.

But back to the food…We left Grand Forks in the midst of round two of the “weather” (aka bad weather) that we experienced much to the contrary of the weather.com forecast the week before of sunshine and warm temperatures.  Instead we had freezing rain turned to slush.  Gross. We had hoped to make it to Alexandria before eating lunch, but after the 70 miles of white-knuckle drive on I-29, we decided to stop in Fargo instead.

Choosing where to eat is so much fun (insert the sarcasm sign here)…The question, “Where should we eat?” was followed by the usual answers of, “I don’t know” or, “it’s up to you.”  This frustrating dance can go on for hours until the huz finally makes a decision.  Fortunately, the boy now has food desires – typically for burgers – and he willingly makes them known.  Burgers it was again on Saturday.  While the huz white-knuckled it, I did the google search for the best burgers in Fargo.  We chose the place that had many recommendations, set the phone navigation toward downtown, and found an adequate parking spot in the midst of slush.

JL Beers has a super menu of beer and burgers.  Oh yeah – and for dessert – they have a root beer float. This sounded great to my family who all love burgers and root beer floats. The burger names were extremely intriguing to everyone – including me. Can you guess what the Humpty Dumpty burger has on it?  And wouldn’t a Rajun Cajun be a great way to clean out the pipes?  Their website claims that they are, “kind of a big deal.”  And I’m sure that it is true.  Even their prices were amazing.  Unfortunately, due to one little rule that they do not put on their website – no one under 21 is allowed at all – our family did not eat there.  The kids probably could have passed for over 21, and it wasn’t like any of us were going to order a beer – no carding would have been involved. But a rule is rule, and that rule is clearly posted on the door.  We did double check with the bartender, so that sort of gave us away.  I could go on and on about how I disagree with this policy, but I respect that it is the way they want it.  I respect it, but it is still dumb.

So we were on our way.  Returning to the interstate is not hard from downtown, but the route is not exactly filled with the number one burger joints in Fargo either. We toyed with just continuing onward, but that did not satisfy any of us either.  We drove down University Avenue in hopes that fine dining would pop out at us.  Instead we saw tattoo parlors, comic book stores, and pizza shops.  Although getting a tattoo for Christmas like last year might be fun again in the future, I planned to skip that this year…and there was no food there!

Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and try something that does not look like it will satisfy.  Sometimes you have to throw away your preconceived notions about restaurants attached to motels just off the interstate to discover a place that you will return.  Sometimes you have to go to a place that you have driven past several times and not given a second thought.

Randy’s is a place that you try…sometimes.  At first, Randy’s reminded me of Perkins, Denny’s, and Baker’s Square.  It had the standard menu, the breakfast all day thing, and the motel right next door. Once we were there more than ten minutes, though, I realized that Randy’s is nothing like the chain restaurants that one tires of while traveling.  Instead, Randy’s is a place that one might intentionally time travel in order to include it rather than to miss it.  The owners are in the building – one behind the cash register while another ensuring that the coffee stays fresh.  The wait staff is on top of things – getting the order right and making sure that our beverages stayed full.  The restaurant was hopping, and the smell was great.

Our family members have diverse tastes, and Randy’s met each one of us right where we needed to be met after a disappointing experience with JL Beers.  The boy wanted a burger; Randy’s had a Cheese Cheese Hamburger that exceeded his expectations.  The huz wanted something different and good; Randy’s had several skillet choices…and the server allowed him to make multiple substitutions in order to make the meal exactly what he wanted.  The girl wanted good food; Randy’s had a philly cheese steak sandwich, and we added swiss cheese to it and subbed hashbrowns for fries.  Yummy! I am a soup fiend – especially in slushy weather; Randy’s beer cheese soup hit the spot!

Would we go back again?  In a second!  Someone send us to Fargo!

The only thing that we did not sample was the pie which, by the way, is not made in house unlike the hollandaise on the huz’s skillet.  We have another favorite haunt that we frequent on almost every visit west…if not twice – once each way.  If you travel I-94 at all, a stop at Charlie’s Cafe in Freeport (Exit 140), if only for one of their homemade pies, cinnamon rolls, or caramel rolls for dessert, is an absolute must.  The girl has their number on speed dial so that she can call ahead to ask them to set aside a piece of coconut cream pie for the huz.  Sometimes we stop in and leisurely enjoy their fare, but Saturday was just a weather nightmare with the storm-that-caught-me-by-surprise on our heels.  We took the pie to go and headed back toward home.

We rang in the new year together as a fam – well…the kids rang in the new year while the huz and I snored – regardless, we were home and happy about the food that we had eaten on our travels.

And I learned a lessen about going to a bar in North Dakota: call ahead and ensure that my children can eat there.


1 Comment

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One response to “Diners, Burgers, and Bars – Oh My!

  1. Becky Hackenmueller

    CHARLIES!!!!! We’ve eaten there, but only once. Had a cinnamon roll…Y.U.M.! Let me know when you’re up for a road trip! We can bring huz and hubs, too 🙂


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