How to shop specialty markets

For some of us, shopping at the growing number of specialty shops may be a daunting task. In Fargo and Moorhead, there are quite a few Asian grocery stores, at least one Halal market and a new European market.

But if you don’t know what some of the items are, how are you to know what to do with them?

Alicia over at the super, fantastically awesome blog, Prairie Style File, explored that problem and offers quite a few great tips, some that I plan to put into practice.

I love seeing more and more of these places. They’re great to find exotic ingredients at unbelievably cheap prices. And the owners and workers can provide a vast wealth of knowledge. You just need to ask.


Altony’s Italian Cafe

The weekend after Valentine’s Day is usually when couples catch up on the holiday, going out for dinner if they were too busy on the actual day. I assume that was why Altony’s in Moorhead was so jam-packed that Saturday.

I was forced to go to the nearby Fryn’ Pan and had a pretty awful experience.

But a few days later, I headed back over to Altony’s and got a tiny little table for two in the also-tiny dining room.


Altony’s is actually a converted Taco Bell. The owners have done quite a bit of work in the cramped space, putting in a small wine bar where you’d normally order your chimichangas and churros. It looks pretty nice, considering.

But, from the small two-top tucked in right next to the hostess stand, I felt like I was in the way, nearly getting elbowed in the eye by our server. Other than that, my first experience was fine. Unfortunately, (don’t judge) I was trying a no-gluten thing that night, and the Pasta Alla Toscana was unavailable. They had run out of the gluten free noodles.

Instead, I got the new appetizer of steak medallions ($8.95), and my dining mate got the mushroom ravioli ($9.95 half).


The medallions came out with a delicious gorgonzola sauce that I would buy if they bottled it. And the steak pieces were cooked nicely, to a medium-rare, although a few of them were unevenly cooked.


So while I didn’t really tasted all that much of the menu, I wanted to let you know about this tiny, local place. I highly recommend it as an alternative to massive, corporate Olive Garden. If you want to support a family business in town, try out Altony’s. I’ll be back… and eating up the gluten.

Red Pepper has ‘soft opening’

There are till a few hours to get your grinder on.



The Red Pepper is holding a “soft opening” for its “unpretentious Mexican” food at their new Fargo location at 1115 19th Ave. N. in the Happy Harry’s Plaza.

“The Pepper” has been a mainstay up in Grand Forks, mostly for inebriated college students.

Fellow blogger Jeni Flaa went to check the place out for the first time, but unfortunately had to turn back due to the extreme wait and slow-moving line.

In line, people were yelling to keep the door shut. Despite the publicity for the restaurant, the owners did not provide any way to guide the long line so it was a crowd of people struggling to keep any semblance of a line. Lots of people letting their families in so the line never seemed to get shorter. Waited for 20 minutes and moved ahead but only a few steps. Puzzled that hardly anyone seemed to leave the restaurant with their orders. Heard the ding of the microwave-also puzzled how it takes so long to put together food that mostly needs to be assembled and nuked.

Jeni said she’ll try again when the initial buzz dies down.

The Red Pepper Fargo will be fully open starting Monday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Airport barbecue

Airports get a bad name when it comes to food. Most travelers, tired and haggard, usually opt for what’s cheap and filling. But some airports are bucking the trend of terrible eats.

For instance, the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport has some great options like the French Meadow Bakery Cafe, Shoyu and Volante. You can get a pretty spot-on Chicago-style hot dog at either of that city’s main airports. And in Memphis, TN, a city known for great barbecue, you can find some pretty tasty stuff.

Interstate BBQ pork half-slab

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F-M’s Celtic Festival

I had a great time at the 10th annual Celtic Festival in Moorhead today. It was my first time at the festival, too.

The best thing, to me, was the “meal deal,” a plate of corned beef and cabbage, “colcannon” potatoes, root vegetables, soda bread and a shortbread cookie. Oh, and lemonade.


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Get your lobster roll fix at Stella’s Fish Cafe in Minneapolis

I was in the Twin Cities a few weeks ago with some people who had visited Stella’s Fish Cafe in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. My mind immediately went to lobster roll.

photoIt’s pretty much a perfect sandwich, with a generously buttered split-top bun, crunchy bits of celery and tender pieces of lobster slathered with mayo.

Stella’s has a cool vibe, with a ton of seating on the main floor and upstairs. You can get fresh fish, whole Maine lobsters, crab, oysters, sushi and more.

We started with a side of Stella’s mac and cheese. It’s a four cheese cream sauce with applewood smoked bacon. I thought it was alright, nothing overly special.

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I had the lobster roll that came with some delicious and crispy fries. Another got the fish and chips.

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I thought the roll was great, having everything that a proper lobster roll has (see above). The fish and chips, though, were not all that great.

But Stella’s is definitely a good bet for seafood lovers stuck in ocean-deprived Minnesota.

‘Red Pepper’ Fargo location opening very soon



The Red Pepper, a staple for inebriated college students in the northern Red River Valley, will open its first Fargo location in the next week or two.

The restaurant, announcing on its Facebook page, will open up shop “in a week or two” in the Happy Harry’s Plaza in north Fargo right next to the NDSU campus.

I’ve let you know my thoughts on the place before.

I imagine it’ll be extremely popular. It’s good drunk food, in that it would be nearly disgusting to ingest while sober.


Lucy’s North China Cuisine

It seems that, again and again, the best places to eat are in strip malls. Cafe 21 and Leela Thai are recent examples I’ve tried in the area. Another one I was thoroughly surprised by was Lucy’s North China Cuisine on 32nd Avenue South in Fargo.


It’s an unassuming place with an easy-to-overlook small red sign on the front. It’s been open for a little over two and a half years.
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More ethnic grocers, please

I say the more we get, the better. 

Good news.

I noticed a bunch of Asian grocery stores on Main in Fargo. Have yet to check them out, though. 

Are there any you frequent? Don’t be shy.