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Published April 01, 2013, 11:35 PM

Review: Cracked Pepper in south Fargo does home-cooked comfort food well

FARGO - Many restaurants claim the home-cooked label for their own special take on comfort foods. Cracked Pepper doesn’t brand itself as such, but those looking for home-cooked comfort food will find it at the lunch-only restaurant in south Fargo.

By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM

FARGO - Many restaurants claim the home-cooked label for their own special take on comfort foods.

Cracked Pepper doesn’t brand itself as such, but those looking for home-cooked comfort food will find it at the lunch-only restaurant in south Fargo.

While some restaurants celebrate a quarterly change of menu, Cracked Pepper changes every day, as your grandmother’s menu probably does.

The menu includes four categories: a heavy-duty stick-to-your-ribs entree, an entree salad, one or two Panini sandwiches and a selection of wraps.

I can’t say I’m a frequent connoisseur of hot roast turkey sandwiches on white bread with gravy and mashed potatoes. I had one once in a diner somewhere north of Bismarck and I barely remember it. But the one served at Cracked Pepper ($7.95) must have been better or I would have had another one since then.

The turkey is well herbed, properly seasoned and moist with or without gravy. It should be unnecessary to say the mashed potatoes were mashed from potatoes but, sadly, it is necessary. So let it be said that the mashed potatoes were mashed from real potatoes – unapologetically rich and served alongside a scoop of dressing that, had it not come out of the inside of a turkey, simulated it well enough.

These are not subtle entrees. That main spot is daily taken up by dishes like hamburger hot dish, hot roast beef, tater tot hot dish and wild rice and sausage. It may be that not much can go wrong with these dishes, but there is quite a bit that can go right, and generally, Cracked Pepper takes these details seriously.

Sweet, clean salsa and rich, full-fat sour cream dress fresh, crisp greens and tender spiced chicken in the Southwest Chicken Salad ($6.75).

Here and there you’ll find a surprise that might not come out of Gram’s kitchen. The Cuban sandwich ($5.95), with slow roasted pork and a nutty, sweet Swiss, cuts no Key West corners, and even purists could scoff at little more than the Panini press lines on the French bread.

There is only one dessert each day. In my case, it was an entirely acceptable oatmeal cake with caramel frosting.

The shortcomings at Cracked Pepper are a little hard to accept because they don’t seem difficult to address. Real whipped cream would be nice. It would be good if the shredded cheddar cheese were more like, well, shredded cheddar cheese. The truly excellent roast turkey deserves better than prefab cranberry jelly.

But at the price point dictated by the changing menu, the lunch-only concept, and the decor, this little small-town, strip mall hybrid delivers on the implied promise that they’ll give your grandmother a run for her money.

The little space in the residential strip delivers a little of the kind of low-key funky diner you’d find in larger cities. It’s comfortable and the people are pleasant. You pay at the counter and bus your own dishes at the end of your meal. Soup is served in Styrofoam and sandwiches in plastic baskets so you’ll have a little to overlook on the comfort food front.

But for value and a taste of home in the middle of a busy day, there’s a great deal to enjoy.

Cracked Pepper

Address: 4955 17th St. S., Suite 124, Fargo

Cuisine: American

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Phone: (701) 356-0039

Reservations accepted: No

Alcohol: No

Dress: As you like

Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express

Food: 3

Service: 2½

Ambiance: 2½


This review was written exclusively for The Forum

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

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