The service can be a bit distant and it might be hard to get your server’s attention if he or she is chatting behind the bar. The atmosphere is a little sterile and it can feel a little like you are waiting for your flight to leave for Dallas. But someone in the kitchen knows exactly that he or she is doing at 46 North Pints & Provisions.
The gastropub movement in Fargo-Moorhead has been more pub than gastro. To be sure, it has answered the need we seem to have for an endless variety of unique craft cocktails mixed with flair and charged for accordingly, but the “gastro” part of gastropubs has often looked like a dressed-up burger with some deep-fried pickles on the menu and someone’s own take on pulled pork.
46 North, 635 Second Ave. N., has pickles on the menu, and pork, but there is something about how carefully it has put together ingredients that suggests as much attention to gastronomy as it gives to mixology, and possibly a little more.
It’s tempting to say something like “as far as appetizer go, a good choice is…” But, really, one could stop at the appetizers because of the variety of flavors on that menu alone can be enough for an evening. The fried Brussels sprouts ($8) make you wonder why you haven’t eaten these things with mustard before, the little fish and chip sliders ($11) keep fat at bay and make the bun actually worthwhile, the (can I say cute?) lamb pops ($18) with a squash smear to set them off and a reduction to take the place of overused balsamic, all add to your post-5 p.m. festivities rather than simply giving you something to do while you drink.
And one more thing: When it comes to abusive preparations, nothing suffers more than pickles in a gastropub. But here, the fried pickles stuffed with Gouda and wrapped in prosciutto forgives the often heavy-handed deep-frying that can so damage an otherwise adequate pickle.
Of course, these are calorie intensive starters and there is more on the menu that’s more like dinner at Mum’s. Setting aside the bacon and cheddar burger ($12) for a moment, which, by the way, does a really nice job of keeping the cheddar from overtaxing the beef, a better choice for beef, at least for those needing a salad for whatever good purpose, is the Dijon steak salad ($18), which pairs a perfectly done-to-order steak with a mild-and-spicy tomato relish. If you are looking to pair it with an excellent soup, the same blue cheese you find in the salad is in the spinach and blue soup ($4/$6) and makes for a really unique combination of flavors.
Looking for comfort food? Swedish meatballs ($18), the bane of Crock-Pot-lucks everywhere, passes on the heavy cream sauce and, instead, uses a lighter mushroom gravy. It shares the plate with mild chunky mashed potatoes offset by the bite of pickles and onions.
All this points to a marked, if token, nod to people wanting flavor options and, rather than relying on a pick-your-meat approach to the mono-flavor culture of the Midwest, 46 North spends a little time on what others would call side dishes like mashed potatoes, tomato relish, pickles and squash. It makes an appetizer seem more like a meal and a meal seem more like an event.
Service is cheerful, but the staff enjoys each other’s company enough to make it difficult to attract their attention outside the appointed rounds. That atmosphere is a bit antiseptic but it’s a brand-new building with brand-new furniture, brand-new art and lots of brand-new windows. So it’s a little like someone’s brand-new condo, which, I suppose, it is.
But it’s my new favorite place for appetizers and a top choice for entrees. As far as ambiance goes, it’s still a nice window on downtown Fargo.
46 North Pints & Provisions
Address: 635 Second Ave. N., Fargo
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
Alcohol: Full bar
Ratings (out of 4 stars)
Food: 4 stars
Service: 2 1/2 stars
Ambiance: 2 stars
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.