Daeuber: Outdoor dining has its moment in the sun during the pandemic

The Forum's food critic gets coffee and dines in downtown Fargo as he enjoyed some al fresco dining, that European thing that is all the rage during COVID-19 and is still an option for now in the Red River Valley.

Sanitizing tables is now part of the outdoor dining experience at restaurants, including at Pounds in downtown Fargo. Eric Daeuber / Forum food critic

People were eating outside long before they ate inside for the simple reason that there was an outside long before there was ever an inside. But the idea of eating outside on purpose is a bit more recent.

Like the history of anything having to do with food, the history of eating outside is unclear. But one thing is certain: the idea of eating outside because it’s safer than eating indoors, is pretty new. Around here it is, anyway. Dining al fresco, as they call it when you do it just because it’s fun, sounds like it’s something Italians do. And they do. But they call it dining all’aperto, which means "dining in the open."

Youngblood Coffee has tables properly spaced outside on the sidewalk in downtown Fargo. Eric Daeuber / Forum food critic

Al fresco means "to dine in the cool air," so it’s more suitable for the Red River Valley. But it wasn’t the Italians who got the idea really rolling. It was the French. And it wasn’t about dining outside. It was about dining down.


The French, some of whom were wildly rich, enjoyed eating like the poor, but not too much like the poor who sometimes ate outside because they didn’t have an inside to eat in. What they liked about the poor was their table manners. Or lack of. So, the rich would sometimes eat inside, but forgo the table manners that made them look rich. Instead, they would serve the kind of food that they would eat if they were rich, which they were, but using the table manners of the poor, which they were not.

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After the rich either lost their heads for being just a little too rich, or ran off to England where they still appreciated rich people, the poor would get together in the private gardens of the rich and party like it was 1799, which it was. And the picnic was born.

Al fresco dining is still an option at Pounds in downtown Fargo. Eric Daeuber / Forum food critic

At one time, it was hard to find a place in Fargo-Moorhead that offered al fresco dining, or even coffee. But that has changed. And while the trend was growing before COVID-19 became a threat, it certainly seemed like a good idea when word got out that one could reduce the risk of contracting the disease if you were A) far away from other people and B) in a place where the virus had other options for a travel destination other than your table. Al fresco dining does both.

The next couple of weeks may be your last shot at al fresco dining in the Fargo area. Some restaurants and taverns have already started shutting down their patios and rooftops. Downtown Fargo still offers some options.

Dinner at Pounds, 612 First Ave. N., on one of their blue picnic tables, will get you decent food but not much sunlight. And Youngblood Coffee, 623 Second Ave. N., eerily empty on the inside, still has tables properly spaced outside.


The inside of Youngblood Coffee is eerily empty these days as patrons instead enjoy their drinks outdoors. Eric Daeuber / Forum food critic

They also have a reminder to patrons, painted on the window, that masks aren’t about politics but about a little respect, and one of the nicest cappuccinos in town — although you still have to take it in a paper cup.

In some relatively cold European countries, dining al fresco goes well into the fall during which restaurants put blankets out for patrons on chilly evenings. Perhaps Minnesotans and North Dakotans aren’t quite so hardy.

But it would be nice if some restaurateurs would continue to allow us to take our lunch at a table on the sidewalk like the Italians and the post-1799 French.

It’s still nice outside. And safer, too.

Youngblood Coffee has a reminder to patrons, painted on the window, that masks aren’t about politics but about a little respect, and one of the nicest cappuccinos in town — although you still have to take it in a paper cup. Eric Daeuber / Forum food critic



Address: 612 Fist Ave. N., Fargo

Cuisine: American

Current hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday


Youngblood Coffee

Address: 623 Second Ave. N., Fargo

Current hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily


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

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