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Published October 09, 2012, 11:30 PM

The Eatbeat: High-end HoDo offers adventurous dining experience

FARGO — Forget the diets; don’t fret about the cost. It’s full speed ahead when you go out to dinner with the pros.

By: Marilyn Hagerty, Forum Communications, INFORUM

FARGO — Forget the diets; don’t fret about the cost. It’s full speed ahead when you go out to dinner with the pros.

The pros — people who make their living in restaurants — don’t hold back when they order. They don’t twit about calories. They are generous with their tips.

That is why I was pleased to join some of the staff from Sanders and the Toasted Frog restaurants in downtown Grand Forks. It was on a recent Monday, when Sanders is closed.

They chose the HoDo Restaurant in downtown here because several of the current staff members have been associated with that establishment. It’s a sleek and high-ceilinged in the refurbished old Hotel Donaldson.

I made it my business to sit beside Joe Hanson. He’s the longtime chef at Sanders. He has a keen sense of taste and appreciation for blending of flavors and knife work done by others.

Most days, Joe is working in the kitchen at Sanders long before the evening customers. He wants everything in order when dinner orders start flowing to the kitchen.

He told me how much he has learned from Kim Holmes, a chef who owns Sanders. Joe has been in the business 23 years. He started at the old Village Inn on Columbia Road. He has mastered the skills of a chef under the tutelage of Holmes. He said his goal is to always stay calm when the orders are flowing in.

“But,” he said, “I fail at that.”

Joe ordered a grilled beef tenderloin entree ($32). And after conferring with him, I decided to try the market-cut lamb with sheared sweetbreads ($32). Others tried the pork tenderloin, farm duck and a curry barbecued chicken.

This was after the starters that indeed could — and often do — make up a meal for customers at the HoDo. Our group was adventurous, and we shared a fresh seafood crudo of the day and pan-roasted Manila clams.

The menu was short, sweet and easy to understand. John “Sky” Manske, the manager of Sanders, said he likes keeping a menu simple and spare the diners from having to look … and look … and look.

The menu at the HoDo is adventurous. It features locally grown produce and meats from area suppliers. The HoDo is pricey by my standards but is worthy of an occasional trip to Fargo, although there are several other top restaurants that beckon in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Our food was at least a B or B-plus, some an A level. There was a feeling of contentment around the table. I enjoyed my lamb, but while the presentation was A1, the meat was only room temperature.

Our group also included Jon Lindvig, longtime server at Sanders, and John McNamara, also a server. James Hein, the sommelier who calls himself the “cork dork since 1999,” was with us along with Sarah Erikson, a server and bartender at the Toasted Frog for the past 10 years.

We finished off our dinners at the HoDo tasting desserts including a Salty and Sweet Trio ($12) made up of chocolate-covered caramel, white chocolate and peanut butter ice cream. And not to be outdone, someone ordered a St. Pete’s Bleu and Black Sambucca Cake with black pepper ice cream and blueberry coulis ($9).

We all pitched in when the check arrived. We were well-sated. I was interested to hear Joe say he never overeats. And I realized how he paced himself and savored the tastes through the dinner.

It isn’t always the high end when restaurant people go out to eat. Sometimes, they seek out places where the food is good and the ambience inviting. One of their favorites is the Parrot’s Cay on 36th Avenue South, in Grand Forks.

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