It wasn't too long ago that fine dining made its way to Fargo-Moorhead and, when it did, it felt it had to compensate for our inexperience with fine cuisine by including upscale takes on Midwestern comfort foods like meatloaf and hotdish. But Asiago tater tots and manchego mac and cheese were often a disappointment because of a price point beyond how far up the upscale they really were.
What's nice about Rosey's Bistro and Bar is that it could call its interpretations of the common grilled cheese sandwich a panini, and it could tag on another 30 percent to do that. But it doesn't.
Instead, it unashamedly puts together creative combinations of good quality ingredients to deliver predictable and interesting entrees in a corner of American cuisine that could easily go wrong - the grilled cheese sandwich.
It's not surprising that cheese is central to the menu, so a good place to start is the Gouda cheese fondue. With a mild to medium smoke, it sits as lightly as a cheese fondue can, and the herb and garlic on the toast steps back a reasonable distance from "too powerful" as far a flavor goes ($5 for a happy hour serving and $10 for a full serving).
After that, the selection of sandwiches is complete. There are basic grilled cheese options from the rudimentary to the intricate. All are well-designed, all well-made and, something of a surprise downtown these days, all reasonably priced.
Case in point: The crab melt uses a familiar sharp cheddar to allow a carefully dressed, authentic small "c" crab to find its place on cranberry wild rice bread. It's a Midwestern seafood compromise without the condescension at $12.
On the other end of the scale, the barbecued brisket is matched nicely with a mild provolone and pickled onions ($11). And, in a bacon, Gouda and roasted tomato creation ($11), the sweet, smoky bacon finds a companion in a nutty, buttery Gouda.
The point here is that you can expect a substantial meal at a reasonable price with little pretense and a commitment to finding the best ingredients to go with the good cheeses.
Soups are excellent, with a sweet French onion soup made with sherry and pepper, and an authentic, if you can use that word for soups your mother made, knoephla soup added to the sandwiches for $2.
My roasted asparagus served with my entree was overdone.
The unique chevre cheesecake ($6), made with fresh blueberries down to the blueberry syrup, is another pointer to Rosey's commitment to quality ingredients.
On a side note, something in the Fargo culinary scene seems to make it nearly impossible for even high-end restaurants to whip genuine heavy cream to go with their deserts. It's weird. Some peculiar dietary regulation, maybe. I don't get it.
In the expanding local gastropub scene, Rosey's stands out as having a unique concept, free of pulled pork and comfortable in its choice of ingredients and presentation. The atmosphere is laid-back, warm and relaxed, and service is pleasant and attentive without being intrusive.
On the bar-to-restaurant scale, it seems as comfortable with its role as a diner as it is with its place in the bar scene. That speaks well to its priorities as Fargo's downtown takes shape.
Rosey's Bistro and Bar
Address: 212 Broadway N., Fargo
Food: 3.5 stars
Service: 3.5 stars
Ambiance: 3.5 stars
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Reservations accepted: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards accepted: Yes
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.