I've had the second installment of my Moderna vaccine. I have my mask tucked into my back pocket for when I arrive and when I leave and when I talk to my server, go to the restroom and say hi to people I know.
I am wearing my “What Would Fauci Do?” bracelet. The Big Map shows that the COVID-19 risk in Clay and Cass counties is "Very High" which is, admittedly, worse than "High" but less than "Extremely High" and quite a ways away from "Whoa! What Are You Thinking, Man?"
Fargo and Moorhead are starting to reopen and I’m going out. For a little while. With a couple of members of my immediate family. Whom I recognize from pictures I saw once.
It has been a year since I could talk about dining out without the very comment being subject to moral scrutiny. Since then, much of the new normal has become just plain normal. And some other parts of the new normal turned out to be not normal even then.
Remember when we were wiping down everything we saw, including cardboard cereal boxes we picked up from Hornbacher's? Apparently, that level of hygiene turned out to be unnecessary, albeit the box of Lucky Charms is way cleaner now than it used to be, although a bit more ironic.
The government declared some of us to be unessential, which a few of us have known for years, but came as a surprise to enough people that they developed real self-esteem problems.
What to do? Happy hour. For two reasons. First, who can’t stand to be happy for a bit these days? Secondly, it only lasts an hour, so you can be home binge-watching "The Lost Pirate Kingdom" before being in a restaurant feels even weirder than watching "The Lost Pirate Kingdom."
And one of the best happy hours can be found at 46 North Pints & Provisions in downtown Fargo. There is a wall full of ducks that make you feel outdoors, far away and safe. There are big windows that make you feel less claustrophobic after a year in your kitchen, and there’s one guy wearing a mask on the patio with a dog proving that, even on a cold April afternoon, some are still staying as safe as they possibly can. Thumbs up to the guy with the dog.
We stick to the half-price appetizer menu mostly because it’s a great sampling of some very excellent versions of at-home comfort foods like in-house fried potato chips with 46 North’s own dip and cheese sauce ($4.50 during happy hour), tailgate crowd favorites like ground beef sliders (three for $5.50 at the reduced price), and high-end, dinner-out splurges like two lamb chops served with chimichurri and carrot puree that comes to a reasonable $9.50 at happy hour.
In other words, from a culinary perspective, you can simulate a fairly ordinary social life all in one hour just to get your feet wet again in normalcy. And with a couple of beers, root or otherwise, you can do it for around $40.
The servers are smiling, maybe. Good friends are talking to one another. Business associates are putting aside the deals and disagreements and laughing a little.
And it starts to look a little like Fargo might, once again, one day, be happy, if only for an hour.
46 North Pints & Provisions
Address: 635 Second Ave. N., Fargo
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.