FARGO — Food fans asked for it and they got it: Drekker Brewing Co. is serving up a second installment of its Fargo Hotdish Festival.

Just like last year’s inaugural event, this Sunday, Feb. 16, the brewery will dish up helpings of comfort foods from 15 Fargo-Moorhead eateries, each with their own take on the Midwestern fare. And just like last year, the event is sold out.

The festivities have a down-home feel, with red checkered tablecloths and guests receiving a commemorative dish towel. Just don’t expect any church basement casseroles here.

Last year, Luna Fargo took home the People’s Choice and Most Creative awards for it’s Bánh Mi Tater Tot Hotdish, mixing the classic regional delicacy with Vietnamese flavors.

Wahpeton’s City Brew Hall took home the Uff Da Grand Champion award for its Swiss Mountainside Hotdish, featuring braised beef, potatoes, homemade cream of mushroom topped with deep-fried Rice Chex and a drizzle of lingonberry jam.

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“We wanted to put on a Scandinavian twist, so we put on a lingonberry jam,” says Britt Belquist, City Brew Hall's co-owner.

The team from Wahpeton's City Brew Hall shows off its award from the 2019 Fargo Hotdish Festival at Drekker Brewing Co. Photo courtesy of Tomi Thompson / Special to The Forum
The team from Wahpeton's City Brew Hall shows off its award from the 2019 Fargo Hotdish Festival at Drekker Brewing Co. Photo courtesy of Tomi Thompson / Special to The Forum

International flavors won’t be hard to find this year. BernBaum’s (Icelandic/Jewish), Suna’s Egyptian Eatery, Everest Tikka House (Indian/Pakistani/ Himalayan/Nepali) and Würst Bier Hall (German) will spoon up their savory dishes. Other participating eateries include Blackbird Woodfire, Blarney Stone Pub, Blvd Pub, Brew Bird, Chef’s Table Catering, Crooked Pint, Luna Fargo, Mezzaluna, Spitfire Bar & Grill, The Tavern Grill and Toasted Frog.

Belquist says City Brew Hall won’t be there this year to defend its crown, err, casserole dish, due to scheduling conflicts.

Each outlet will serve up 3-ounce samples, and guests can grab as many as they want and vote for their favorites

Judges will award the grand champion, with jurists including Food Network star Molly Yeh, voice of the NDSU Bison Jeff Culhane and Drekker’s lead brewer and in-house foodie, Tom Knowlton.

So what’s the key to a successful hotdish? Crunchy texture is a must, according to Belquist.

“For sure. That’s something I grew up with hotdishes so I wanted to be sure last year that was something we included on there,” she says, referring to the Rice Chex on last year’s winning dish.

“It’s the maximum amount of comfort and the minimum amount of aesthetic appeal,” Yeh told The Forum last year.

“Above all things, people like meaty, cheesy potatoes and lots of it,” says Allison Kenninger, manager of the Kringen Klub for Fargo’s Sons of Norway, which recently held a hotdish buffet that featured seven different dishes.

“Tater Tot always goes well, It’s a reminder of mom’s cooking and home,” Kenninger adds.

“I always think Tater Tots with hotdish,” says Jane Radske, who recently won the Honor Flight Hotdish Cook-off with her Tater Tot Taco Hotdish.

“It’s a meat-and-potatoes food and around here, you really can't go wrong with that,” says Belquist, who occasionally serves it at City Brew Hall, though it always sells out fast. “You’d think people would have enough of it in the Midwest, but, nope.”

Chef Ryan Nitschke of Luna Fargo tops servings at the 2019 Fargo Hotdish Festival at Drekker Brewing Co. Photo courtesy of Tomi Thompson / Special to The Forum
Chef Ryan Nitschke of Luna Fargo tops servings at the 2019 Fargo Hotdish Festival at Drekker Brewing Co. Photo courtesy of Tomi Thompson / Special to The Forum

If you go

What: Fargo Hotdish Festival

When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16

Where: Drekker Brewing Co., 1666 First Ave. N., Fargo

Info: Tickets are sold out