Downtown Fargo eatery offers a taste of ChicagoWhile the $6.95 business lunch isn’t actually dead, it’s not feeling very well – especially in downtown Fargo, or downtown anywhere for that matter.
By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM
While the $6.95 business lunch isn’t actually dead, it’s not feeling very well – especially in downtown Fargo, or downtown anywhere for that matter.
It’s nothing new. Most urban centers have, over the years, developed a street food for the common folk, making it possible to dine downtown for less than a mortgage payment.
New York has its pizza. Brussels has its french fries. And Chicago has its hot dogs.
Fargo may not have its own street food yet, but it has pizza and french fry options aplenty. However, finding a good
Chicago-style hot dog between Franky’s in Minneapolis and the West Coast is no easy task.
Fortunately Bertrosa’s is the right place for Chicago’s dogs and for these tight economic times.
Bertrossa’s is in the lower level of downtown’s Black Building, which is, hands down, the most interesting office building in Fargo. The building’s mix of eclectic shops and Elm Tree Square concept – with its sham trees and bogus fountain – give Bertrosa’s a bit of a run-down feel.
But the restaurant has an inexplicable charm with its faux European café windows and vaguely French Quarter wrought-iron rails. It’s worth visiting if you like that sort of thing. I kind of do, but being on a budget gives you a different outlook on life.
The food is good, basic lunchtime street food, and there’s not much like it in the area. As always, the basics are a fine place to start, and at Bertrosa’s it’s the Chicago dog ($2.99) served on a poppy seed bun and topped with what, decades ago, they called a depression salad. This is the topping that this Windy City smorgasbord made so popular. The mixture of mustard, onion, relish, pickle, tomato, medium hot peppers and celery salt turns a hot dog into what can be called a balanced meal all for under $3. Didn’t I say Bertrosa’s was the right place for the times?
The substantial horseradish Italian beef sandwich ($6.49) – large enough to share – gives you the same Chicago experience if you happen to be four times as hungry.
It’s true that it’s hard to get these basic foods wrong. Nothing here makes you wonder if you’ll ever get a beef sandwich as good as this one. But that’s the point of comfort food. It is what it is, and it will always be that way.
What makes this true is the brand name “Vienna.” It has been associated with the All American sausage since the 1893 World’s Fair, where Emil and Sam turned the Austro-Hungarian idea into a stars and stripes institution.
Vienna meat is the mark of the authentic Chicago hot dog and has been for as long as there have been hot dogs.
Bertrosa’s may be our only link to this authentic Chicago cuisine hundreds of miles from the stainless steel carts of Chicago.
And, even if you don’t care, it’s a darn good hot dog. If the beef in the hot sandwiches is a little bland for roast beef enthusiasts, it’s exactly what you’d find on State Street, that great Chicago street. It’s not culinary genius, but it’s miles ahead of fast food and a connection to a culture that you might not otherwise find downtown.
As for local flavor, the soups are excellent ($2.59 and $2.99). They’re made on site and served with bread. The beer cheese is always on and the zuppa toscana is a standout option when it’s available.
The people are friendly and fun and the food is served at your table fast enough to make a short lunch into a nice break.
- Hours: Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Phone: (701) 364-0123
- Reservations accepted: no
- Alcohol: No
- Dress: As you like
- Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover
- Food: Two stars
- Service: Three stars
- Ambiance: Three stars
118 Broadway, Black Building, Fargo
Cuisine: Chicago-style lunch menu
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.