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Published September 16, 2013, 10:00 PM

Pie Day puts Sons of Norway on dining map

FARGO - There’s always room for pie. But if you wait too long, there may not be any pie left. That’s the cold, hard truth of one of the hottest lunches in town – Thursday, better known as Pie Day at Sons of Norway in downtown Fargo.

By: John Lamb, INFORUM

FARGO - There’s always room for pie. But if you wait too long, there may not be any pie left.

That’s the cold, hard truth of one of the hottest lunches in town – Thursday, better known as Pie Day at Sons of Norway in downtown Fargo.

Just don’t wait too long.

Early birds get the worm, and Sons of Norway patrons who eat lunch when the dining room opens at 11 a.m. get first dibs on pie.

“The noon people get a little upset because it’s kind of picked over,” says Patty Hagen, club manager, adding that sometimes the popular pie will be all gone by 11:15 a.m.

Each Thursday the club serves up slices from about 10 different pies, and when they’re gone, they’re gone until the next Thursday.

Like any mythological event, even one you can set your clock by like pie day, not even the old folks can remember its exact origins.

“Oh, a dozen years ago, or so,” says Kolbjorn Rommesmo, a Sons member for 50 years, when asked when Pie Day started. “Maybe more.”

Regardless of the beginnings, Pie Day is the biggest lunch day of the week.

Last Thursday drew 130 customers, almost doubling a good Friday crowd of about 70.

Sons employees have been baking the pies on-premise since 2008.

“Right now, peach has been hot,” Hagen says, standing in the club’s kitchen.

Summer fruit pies are still on the menu, but she’s hoping for some of her apple suppliers to come through for pies. Last year, Rommesmo brought in loads of apples. So far this year, he’s only brought in two.

The selection is somewhat seasonal, with certain options — strawberry, banana cream and pecan — good all year round. Hagen says soon slices of pumpkin pies will be set out Thursdays.

Something intended as a seasonal taste – rømmegrøt pie – turned into a year-round staple.

“I thought it would be just for the holidays,” Hagen says of the rich, creamy pudding most popular with Norwegians around Christmas.

While most pie recipes come from cookbooks, magazines, friends and club members, Hagen and head cook Phil Hokanson devised their own rømmegrøt pie recipe and nailed it on the first try.

“We’re good,” she says.

Standing in the kitchen together last Wednesday, putting the final preparations on the pies, in this case torching the top of the rømmegrøt pie to caramelize the sugars, Hagen gasps, her eyes get wide and she looks at Hokanson.

“We should do a gjetost cream pie,” she states, referring to the Norwegian brown cheese made with goat milk.

Stoic and stone-faced, Hokanson nods.

“That would be interesting,” he says. “Certainly would be rich.”

Cream pies like rømmegrøt may be in, but chocolate has never caught on, Hagen says. She’s tried French silk pies and a bourbon pecan pie, but they did not grab the taste buds.

“There’s just not a taste for chocolate here,” she says.

She’s learned to not try to anticipate the tastes of diners, saying that when she’s guessed one way, patrons went the other way.

Still, the Sons offers some interesting twists, like a bumbleberry (apples, rhubarb, raspberry, blueberry and strawberry), a cherub (cherry rhubarb) and a sour cream craisin.

The latter was on the menu last Thursday, but by noon it and five of the other 10 varieties of pies were gone, leaving only peach, strawberry, banana caramel and rømmegrøt.

Dolores Normdin of Fargo, a volunteer at the Sons for 12 years, got there early enough for her favorite, pecan pie.

“If it was all gone, I’d go for cherry,” she says.

“This is all good, right here,” says Glenn Moen, sitting across the table. “You put the good ingredients in, you get the good results.”

While those coming in at noon found limited options, they were still happy with the selection.

“This is top-tier,” says Aaron Barth, 34. As the vice chair of the North Dakota Humanities Council, Barth has eaten in all corners of the state.

“This is easily in the top three,” adds Rick Gion, 34. A former communications director for the Democratic NPL Party, he’s also spent a lot of time driving and eating across North Dakota.

“I’ve been coming here for four years now,” says Christian Gion, Rick’s brother and easily the youngest customer at 31. “Their strawberry is really good. But that peach shook my world view. I love a good peach pie, and that was some of the best I’ve ever had.”

By 12:45, only a single piece of rømmegrøt pie remains.

“If the pies sell, we’ll make them,” Hagen says. “This is Norwegian. You can’t go away hungry. We like to send you off with a little something sweet.”

Just make sure you get there early.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533