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Published June 11, 2012, 11:30 PM

Review: Mezzaluna bar serves up 4-star food in a seriously unique atmosphere

FARGO – Manhattan has its Midtown and its Chelsea; Fargo has the HoDo and Monte’s. It takes Fargoans a lot less time to get from one to the other, but it raises the question, where is our symbolic Upper East Side? Mezzaluna might just be it.

By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM

Alleyway Bar at Mezzaluna

309 Roberts St.

Fargo, ND 58102

Cuisine: American

Ratings out of 4 stars:

Food: 4 stars

Service: 3.5 stars

Ambiance: 4 stars

Dining details

Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday. Call for specific bar and dining room serving times and for Sunday brunches

Phone: (701) 364-9479

Reservations accepted: Yes

Dress: As you like

Alcohol: Full Bar

Credit Cards Accepted: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

FARGO – Manhattan has its Midtown and its Chelsea; Fargo has the HoDo and Monte’s.

It takes Fargoans a lot less time to get from one to the other, but it raises the question, where is our symbolic Upper East Side?

Mezzaluna might just be it. The restaurant has opened up in the space formerly occupied by the Silver Moon.

Mezzaluna kept much of what was there, including an upscale menu to match the enormous oyster shell booths. But they’ve done something that may make the difference between a short-term success and long-term Fargo fixture: They’ve taken the bar seriously.

The bar menu gives you a taste of the quality of cooking that comes out of the kitchen you can watch through the Roberts Street window.

The Mezzaluna Burger ($10, $7 during happy hour) is ground on site and includes cuts of meat you’d be hard-pressed to find in most burgers in town.

By itself the sandwich is really a testament to what a burger can be, but dressed up with a little havarti and candied bacon, it’s nothing short of extraordinary. It’s moist, shaped to fit your mouth and easily managed, given its near half-pound claimed starting weight.

The chef dresses the main dish up with garlic asiago tater tots on the side, but frankly, a tater tot is a tater tot.

Much of the bar menu tends toward the sweet side. For example, the sweet corn goat cheese crab bisque ($6) is heavy on the “sweet” and the “crab.”

Perhaps symbolic of the kind of layered flavors much of the dinner menu suggests, consider one of the recipe-is-in-the-name dishes like the tarragon citrus crab cake with roasted garlic and avocado salsa ($13, $7 at happy hour). The ingredients are to produce something striking in flavor and presentation.

Our oh-so-hip waiter, Michael, knew the menu well and advised what we’d get before dropping $8 on what looks on the menu like nothing more than four slices of bacon. On another visit, we were not so fortunate when it came to service, so your mileage may vary.

The happy-hour drink menu can put something mixed in front of you for $7. Three dollars will get you a quality beer. Stella goes with anything; The Fargo Brewing Co.’s Stone’s Throw is a stone’s throw from excellent scotch ale and worth a try before summer demands something lighter.

The bite-size desserts mean you can indulge a sweet tooth for $2 or $3. Try the truffle in a shot glass with cream and berries. It’s stuck to the plate with mascarpone to keep it from sliding around, and I can’t remember the last time I licked the bottom of a shot glass.

The Alleyway Bar menu is a good introduction to this newest incarnation of fine dining in Fargo and, if you manage to get there during one of their happy hours, it’s affordable, too.

Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

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