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Published February 03, 2010, 12:00 AM

Restaurant review: Pub food goes posh

Gastropub offers fine bar fare
The Gastropub’s jalapeño poppers are awesome.

By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM

RESTAURANT REVIEW

Fargo Billiards

and Gastropub

3234 43rd St. S.

Fargo

Cuisine: American

Ratings:

  • Food: three stars
  • Service: two and a half stars
  • Ambiance: two stars

The Gastropub’s jalapeño poppers are awesome.

I’d hazard to say that I have never written that sentence before in a restaurant review – or anywhere else for that matter. But it’s true.

These poppers aren’t your typical bar-room fare, they’re substantial pieces made with cream and cheddar cheese and wrapped in bacon. And they represent the care that goes into much of the food served at the Gastropub inside Fargo Billiards.

For people still stumbling on the word “gastropub,” it’s a British term used to describe a pub serving food that’s of a higher quality than the typical pub grub. And if you ask about gastropubs in London, you’ll get a mixed reaction, as the pub is a near-sacred institution in England and people don’t like it messed with. Here in America, where pub food is almost always deep-fried and only rarely sophisticated, the bar is lower.

In Fargo Billiards, where the floor is full of pool tables and little lounges that look a bit like executive airport clubs, the food is a bonus with an extensive menu, large portions and creative recipes. Two starters are seriously recommended; the previously mentioned jalapeño peppers and the three-alarm chili.

Though it’s closer to an alarm and a half for heat, the chili’s flavor was a pleasant surprise heavy on the beef with a rich tomato base. A $4 bowl is close to a meal.

Some dishes seemed nearly perfect. The roasted portabella and Guinness marinated steak salad ($10) was bright, fresh and medium rare as asked for. The pizza ($13-$15) was made with freshly prepared crust, hand-tossed and presented with thoughtfully prepared toppings.

The attention to detail carried over into other dishes with fresh basil and beautifully roasted tomatoes in the pilsner chicken piccata pasta ($13.50) and nicely glazed carrots served with an enormous rack of pork ribs ($14.50). But our chicken was sautéed until too dark and the ribs seemed bland for such a carefully prepared dish with such thoughtful sides.

Still, you can’t go wrong with the Gastropub’s burger menu and most everything I tried showed some inventiveness.

There is coffee and pastries. But there’s no real wine list and I haven’t seen Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers on a menu for quite some time. But the place has an excellent selection of beer in bottles, and on tap, and a nice annotated menu to help you make a good selection.

The service was pleasant enough, but the facility is enormous and snagging your server for anything special can be a chore. The menu is available anywhere you choose to be, whether in the pub or at a pool table.

Overall, Fargo Billiards has a sleek-packaged setup that pairs together a truly sophisticated menu with a pleasant way to play.

Pub-like? Not really. But a very nice option while out for an evening.

Dining details

Fargo Billiards and Gastropub

  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday
  • Phone: (701) 282-4168
  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Alcohol: Full bar
  • Dress: As you like
  • Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express


The Gastropub


Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com.

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