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Published February 02, 2011, 12:00 AM

Restaurant reviews: Two brunches showcase fine dining

WF Maxwell’s, Granite City offer delicious Sunday buffets
Sunday brunch is what’s left over after American-style democracy abandoned the British aristocracy. You still get the silver chafing dishes, but you can wear what you like and hardly anyone cares how you hold your fork.

By: Eric Daeuber, special to The Forum, INFORUM

Sunday brunch is what’s left over after American-style democracy abandoned the British aristocracy. You still get the silver chafing dishes, but you can wear what you like and hardly anyone cares how you hold your fork.

American hotels have offered Sunday brunch for a long time, but brunches haven’t been as common in fine-dining establishments or casual restaurants. But, for once, fine-dining establishments may have an advantage when it comes to value.

WF Maxwell’s puts its best chefs to work in preparing its buffet and, because everyone at the West Fargo restaurant gets essentially the same meal, the time and cost associated with assembling some very good options is less than it would be if they had to fuss over each plate.

At WF Maxwell’s, the buffet line is short, but this means that treats like crème brulee French toast and Parmesan roasted garlic mashed potatoes are put out so regularly that what you put on your plate came straight out of the kitchen a very short time earlier.

Pepper rib-eye, bacon-wrapped pork loin and salmon with caper cream sauce can be had at the chef’s line and, when you add made-to-order eggs, omelets and crepes, the variety of entrees is endless. The chefs are friendly and servers are quick to bring whatever else you need to your table, including some wonderful soup like a broccoli cream that was delightful, simple, fresh, smooth and uniform.

At either end of your meal you can take from the fruit and dessert table as fancy demands. The $17 price tag suggests something less than you might expect from dinner, but all the pieces are there for you to put together a fresh, made-to-order, fine-dining experience. And the basics are the best: bacon, beef and that extraordinarily bright and earthy apple cranberry chutney.

Granite City, near West Acres mall in Fargo, offers a $12.95 no-frills alternative starting with signature caramel rolls that come to your table, but everything else – besides beverages – is at the buffet.

Flavors are the sort you’ve come to appreciate from franchise restaurants – less subtle but satisfying enough. The atmosphere is less intimate. The floor is crowded, but service is excellent. Our server was part of the family by the time we were done, and I half expected to see him bring the horse around for an afternoon of hunting. All the brunch basics are there, including prime rib, eggs Benedict, hickory-smoked bacon and French toast. Most of this doesn’t rise to the level of exceptional, but franchise restaurants rarely do. It’s their job to provide a consistent experience, and these offerings do that.

Two dishes, though, stand out and are worth a visit. The baked Parmigiano-Reggiano hash browns is a good example of the kind of unrefined savory experience they call umami. Something similar happens in the ravioli di ricotta. Both add a little depth to an otherwise basic menu.

Granite City doesn’t hold a candle to WF Maxwell’s when it comes to paying attention to the fine points. And it ignores the niceties that can turn an acceptable buffet into an experience – such as well-selected fruits, cheeses and salads. But it’s a friendly, down-to-earth experience if casual and relaxed mean more than attention to detail.

Certainly it’s this kind of variety that makes the culinary world in Fargo an increasingly interesting place.

Sunday brunch details

WF Maxwell’s

1380 9th St. E., West Fargo

  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays
  • Phone: (701) 277-9463
  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Dress: As you like
  • Credit cards accepted: Visa, Discover, American Express and MasterCard

Granite City

1636 42nd St. S., Fargo

  • Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays
  • Phone: (701) 293-3000
  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Dress: As you like
  • Credit cards accepted: Visa, Discover, American Express and MasterCard


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

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