MOORHEAD—David Hoffman knew he'd be excited to open a restaurant after decades of thinking about it, but he wasn't prepared for how excited Moorhead residents seem to be about the new business.
Hoffman and his husband, Wayne Sander, opened i.d.k. Contemporary Fine Dining on Wednesday, July 5, at the site of the former Sarello's, 28 Center Mall Ave.
Their goal, according to Hoffman, is to have a "warm, inviting place" that serves casual lunches as well as more upscale dinners.
"Everybody that I've talked to, they're happy that we're here," he said. "Everybody is excited about it."
Moorhead doesn't have any specific policies or incentives to draw new restaurants to town, according to Mayor Del Rae Williams. But she said residents often approach her with a wish list of new eateries they want in town or just say they'd like more choices, and the addition of a new place to go for lunch and dinner is sure to get local foodies talking.
"I think in Moorhead, we have a tendency to be pretty loyal to Moorhead restaurants," she said. "Not that we don't venture across the river or anything like that, but we like them in our town."
The opening of i.d.k. was decades in the making for Hoffman, a Casselton, N.D., native who has worked in the local food service industry for more than 30 years. He completed his culinary training at Moorhead's Minnesota State Community and Technical College in 1986.
"Now that I'm older, it's like, why wait?" he said.
Hoffman said the timing was right to open the restaurant with the help of Sander, his husband of the past year and a half, who will manage the financial side of things while Hoffman oversees the kitchen and bar.
Neither of the Moorhead residents got the chance to eat at Sarello's, which closed in June 2015 after 15 years, but Hoffman said they knew the space was a perfect fit for their plans. They're leasing for now, and they plan to buy it in two years.
They're still using the same tables that were at Sarello's, but new tablecloths, updated carpet, fresh wall colors and local art give the dining room and front lounge a revamped atmosphere.
Hoffman said it was buzzing for the first lunch rush on Wednesday, drawing nearby professionals looking for a new place to get burgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers.
Economic Development Authority Executive Director Cindy Graffeo said Moorhead is "always welcoming" of new restaurants—and this eatery's lunch hours could be an especially attractive part of the mix.
"I think what's really going to be important or really be a key to success for i.d.k. is the downtown Moorhead lunch option," she said. "We're very excited for that aspect of their business."
The lunch at i.d.k. is more casual, according to Hoffman. While there isn't a strict dress code, he said he'd like patrons to come to the more upscale dinner hours in dress attire.
Dinner guests can expect a mix of American cuisine, with highlights including the house specialty soup, chicken wild rice, as well as entrees like walleye almondine, maple pecan glazed salmon, blue cheese crusted filet and lamb chops.
The full bar specializes in martinis and offers a wide selection of wine, he said.
Despite a local worker shortage that can be especially pronounced in the food service industry, Hoffman said i.d.k. hasn't struggled finding employees and already has a full staff.
He hopes to add more features in the coming months, including a Sunday brunch buffet. He also said the menu will change each season.
But the overall goal of Hoffman and his staff won't change as they focus on serving up good portions of food with a fine dining flair, he said.
"We want them to have the best experience possible," he said. "We're here to cater to them, and we will make sure they're happy."
What: i.d.k. Contemporary Fine Dining
Where: 28 Center Mall Ave., Moorhead
Hours: lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Phone: (218) 227-5041