Review: Fargo Brewing Ale House still all about the beer
Fargo Brewing Company has never been about anything but the beer. With the addition of an ale house and a compact menu and cozy atmosphere, it's still about the beer. And being about the beer means being about the pickles. So that's where you need to start when it comes to exploring Fargo Brewing Company's Ale House in south Fargo.
The menu is small, so items are thoughtful and by that I mean that they are not indiscriminate. The great weakness of Fargo's long list of gastropubs is that they tend to be bars first. They are short on the gastro and heavy on the final bill. Hard liquor fuels the party. The Fargo Brewing Company serves only their own beer, so each item on the food menu can be considerate of the beer menu. It's as close as we have to a European beer garden. The beer part is self-evident, but what sets it apart is the quality and kind of food it serves.
Beer and pickles are consorts, and most dishes will at least recognize this if not favorably exploit it. The pickled eggs come three to a bowl, each with its own brine ($5). They're colorful, inviting, and they help you remember the big glass jar back of the bar. Light on vinegar and long of flavor, they come in beet, bloody mary and garlic, and this is not just another shot at cheap exotics. They are subtle in their reflection of their brine and easy on the palate.
The meal menu is small and ideally so. The Brewery Board ($15) is a must for long conversations over beer, and the beer is ideally suited. Pickled vegetables and a couple of nicely selected cheeses, including a French blue and a paprika cheddar, plus a couple of spicy meats round out what the Bavarians call a brettljause. It may not mean much if it's just something to do while you talk, but this is the beauty of this sort of food.
German beer gardens have been doing this for a very long time. The beer comes first and the food fits. Hot sandwiches like the chicken satay ($12) take their relationship with beer to its own surprising conclusion. This sandwich, based on the far eastern grilled chicken dish, is finished with slightly salty peanut sauce, and who doesn't like peanuts and beer? Once again, it seems almost too far reaching, but it's not. Complete it with a cup of bacon and potato soup, a Bavarian barnyard classic, and it all just feels right.
The sodbuster brownie ($4) is baked with its namesake brew, and the ice cream ($2) is made with a dark beer, too. It keeps the culinary promise made by its name, something desserts called Better than Sex and Death by Chocolate never do.
Service is excellent. The minimalist catalog-metal interior is appropriate, if a little sterile. The feeling is comfortable. You need nothing more.
Fargo Brewing Company Ale House
4445 17th Ave. S., Fargo
Hours: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday
11 a.m. - midnight Friday and Saturday
Phone: (701) 205-4188
Reservations accepted: no
Food: 4 stars
Service: 4 stars
Ambiance: 3 stars
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.