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The Backyard Grilling Company finds a home at Moorhead's American Legion

Chef Judd Eskildson and post officials see the arrangement as a win-win situation: "He's not only a good cook, he's one hell of a cook!"

Chef Judd Eskildsen displays a rack of ribs at the Coteau des Prairies Lodge in Havana, N.D., in this undated photo. Eskildsen now operates his own restaurant, The Backyard Grilling Company, at Moorhead's American Legion Post 21.
Judd Eskildsen / Contributed
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MOORHEAD - Judd Eskildsen has wanted to run his own restaurant for a while, starting with writing a business plan back in 2019.

He's finally getting his chance.

The Backyard Grilling Company is now open, with Eskildsen leasing the kitchen at Moorhead's American Legion Post 21 at 303 30th St. N.

"I've been waiting to do this for a long time!" Eskildsen said Friday, Aug. 12.

“We got it all signed up and we’re opening up on Tuesday (Aug. 16)," Eskildsen said.


He has worked as a chef for two decades, but this will be the first restaurant where he calls all the shots.

“Throughout the years of being an executive chef, you’re putting in all the work that an owner might put into (a restaurant). Why not take that next step to be the owner and the chef?” he said.

Eskildsen said the Legion club will be a good place to get his vision off the ground.

“The parking lot was always full and I almost have guaranteed customers," he said. “After talking to everybody and after it all was confirmed … there was a huge welcoming by customers and the staff and the board members.”

American Legion.jpg
The Backyard Grilling Company will now operate the kitchen at Moorhead's American Legion Post 21 at 303 30th St. N.
Angie Wieck / The Forum

Post members are looking forward to the arrival of Backyard Grilling Company. The post hasn't had a regular lunch and dinner provider for its members and the general public since spring. Jay's Smokin' BBQ had been leasing the kitchen up until then.

Post 21 Manager Scott Moen said club members involved in the selection process were impressed by Eskildsen's enthusiasm and experience. It didn't hurt that his food is good.

“From the little bit that I’ve tried, it’s very good. And actually everybody I’ve come into contact with, who know Judd, said he’s not only only a good cook, he’s one hell of a cook!" Moen said. "He’s going to cater to what the Legion clientele has been used to in the past.”

Reese & Riley's Olive Oil and Bistro Bar provides food for bingo nights. But lunches aren't covered, other than the weekly Moorhead Business Association meetings, Moen said.


The latest offering in the metro area's restaurant scene has begun its soft opening. "It's a long time coming," Executive Chef Ryan Nitschke says.
The last full day of business for the homestyle restaurant will be Oct. 16, co-owner Jan Ness says.
The hours for the time being are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a book signing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 8.

“It was finally nice to give people a date (for the opening). This coming Tuesday you’ll be able to walk into the Legion and have a good lunch," Moen said.

Eskildsen is starting with a limited menu - a mix of burgers and other sandwiches, as well as some barbecue and shareable dishes.

“We’re starting off pretty small, and fairly simple. … I wanted to make sure that every item had my special little touch to it and something that’s exciting for people," Eskildsen said. He will expand the menu in the fall.

“I want to embody the backyard cookout and family get-togethers and whatnot. Something you would see at something like that is what you’re going to see on the menu in the future. My love of cooking goes back to family and friends and providing for them. Hanging out and having a good time together. That’s what the vision behind The Backyard Grilling Company is," Eskildsen said.

Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Dinner is 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Anybody can dine at the club, Eskildsen said. Door Dash will also be available.

“He’s just very energetic, (ready) to get his stuff out there and anxious for people to try it. And, yeah, we’re excited about it too. It sounds like it’s going to be a win-win situation," Moen said.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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