Romo's to momos: Everest Cafe serves up Nepalese lunches in downtown Fargo's Black Building

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FARGO—There's something about momos, at least if downtown's newest lunch option gets its way.

Everest Cafe opened Oct. 12 in the lower level of the Black Building, 118 Broadway N., where Romo's Tacos operated until closing in late May. Building owners Kilbourne Group refreshed the space before the new business moved in, removing an old fountain and repainting the walls for a clean look.

The cafe offers a limited menu of Nepalese dishes and sides 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, with offerings including meat and vegetarian platters, samosas, chai, a yogurt-based beverage called lassi and pakora, or fried vegetables. It will also serve soup in the near future.

Not quite everything is authentically Nepalese—Owner Saru Pokharel admitted she prefers American coffee, and the coffee they serve here is made with Starbucks beans. Other beverage options include cans of soda and sparkling water as well as bottled water.

But the momo is the star of the menu here. Pokharel said the steamed dumplings that are filled with seasoned meat or vegetables and topped with a tomato-based sauce are one of the favorite street foods in her native country of Nepal.

"It's delicious," she said. "It's meat and flour, so it is good."

Everything at the cafe, momo or not, is made from scratch at Pokharel's first restaurant, Everest Tikka House, which opened in 2015 in Moorhead Center Mall. The cafe doesn't have a full kitchen, instead focusing on serving up meals from a small counter in the Black Building.

Momos start with flour dumplings that are filled with chicken, beef or a mix of vegetables depending on the variety. An order of eight sells for $8.95, including a smothering of sauce on top, and most meals at the cafe will range from $9 to $12.

Almost all platters and entrees are gluten-free, though she said they haven't yet been able to find a gluten-free alternative that will work for momo dumplings.

Many patrons are familiar with momos, but she gets asked something else every day—is the food spicy? All dishes are served mild, and Pokharel said it shouldn't be too spicy for anyone who can handle ketchup. Hot sauce is offered on the side to heat things up.

Diners will also notice a lack of plates or silverware because the cafe serves each order in recyclable to-go containers. Customers can eat at one of the tables if they want, though Pokharel said most so far have been downtown professionals looking for a quick, healthy lunch option they can eat elsewhere.

That casual and speedy service is an intentional way to stand out from the cafe's full-service sister restaurant in downtown Moorhead, she said.

"Because we are so close, I want different people to come here than Everest," she said.

Pokharel and her longtime boyfriend and business partner, Nabin Dangi, already had a culinary presence in downtown Fargo, serving up food during the Red River Market each Saturday.

She said they were drawn to permanently set up shop by Melissa Rademacher, business development manager for Kilbourne Group and the future president and CEO of Fargo's Downtown Community Partnership who got to know the couple during her time managing Moorhead Center Mall.

Pokharel said she could expand the cafe's hours to include Saturdays in the near future.

But the Fargo small business owner said her main focus at the moment is to make Everest Cafe into a popular downtown lunch option for the growing number of people who work, live and shop here.

"It's healthy, it's delicious, it's quick and it's filling, so just stop by," she said.

Business profile

What: Everest Cafe

Where: Lower level of Black Building, 118 Broadway N., Fargo

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday

Phone: (701) 478-3333

Online: www.facebook.com/everesttikkacafe