Taking the dive

Story and photos by Ben Karkela
MSUM mass communications major

Sometimes after a long day, a strong drink sounds very, very good. The local dive provides a place to sit down and have well-deserved drink at a reasonable price.

This is not to say a "dive" is a bad thing. A dive can be classified as a bar with no dress code, casual atmosphere and cheap drinks. They are not the fanciest establishments in town, but that’s not the point. In downtown Fargo-Moorhead, three bars come to mind: The Empire Tavern and the Bismarck Tavern in Fargo and Mick’s Office in Moorhead.

Beer, and plenty of it

Need a beer to go? Just go next door to the liquor store on the way out.

The Empire Tavern and Liquor store opened in 1932, originally as a diner that also served liquor known as the Empire Cafe. In 1943, the liquor store opened and it became the establishment seen today in 1964.

This combination attracts thirsty patrons from all over. The crowd is lively and approachable. A combination of college students and middle-aged patrons make up the clientele.

The booths are uncomfortable and the service is good, not great. This is the perfect place to spend the evening drinking and wash away all worries.

"There’s kind of a trend that the farther north you head on the strip (in Fargo), the grade of the bar goes down," Kyle Olmstead said. "It can be fun and it can be more relaxing."

The Empire Tavern and Liquor lights up Broadway.

An old-school feel

On the north edge of the revitalized Fargo downtown sits the Bismarck Tavern. It seems to have missed out on all the renovations going on around it, but it remains true to itself. Despite the smoking ban, it stills feels smoky inside. Pull-tab tickets line the floor and a beat-up pool table sits in the back.

"It tends to not get too crowded so it can be a good time," Casey Thielges said. "For what you get the price is very reasonable, it’s definitely worth your money."

The Bismarck Tavern generally serves an older crowd who are friendly, but wary of newcomers. College students usually stop by on weekend nights and a place at the bar or tables can usually be found without waiting.

The booze here will make even a seasoned drinker pucker up after taking sip. Often times the drinks served at a dive bar are notorious for their strength.

 Patrons line the bar at the Bismarck Tavern.

If these walls could talk

Mick’s Office fits snugly between the railroad tracks and Taco John’s in downtown Moorhead. This bar also serves a mixed crowd from anyone 21 years old and up. The college students most likely attend Concordia or Minnesota State University Moorhead.

At Mick’s, the writing is on the wall, literally. The ceiling is covered with graffiti from years past. Visitors could spend the entire night reading all the signatures on the walls and get a good idea of the social history of Fargo-Moorhead.

Mick’s Office also cooks up delicious cheeseburgers and fries, served until 9 p.m. They are simple and straight to the point, much like a dive bar itself.

Mick’s Office serves up beer, burgers and fries.

2 thoughts on “Taking the dive

  1. This story is over a year and a half old as I write this. Don’t know if you’re old enough to remember or maybe ask someone that might know, but I remember when in college at NDSU in the late 60s that Mick’s Office was a place called the “Rolling Keg”. It was a neat little place with a club-like atmosphere and live rock bands on the weekends.

    I think they only served 3.2 beer, but you could bring a date or someone with you under 21 into the place but they couldn’t drink. So you could drink 10 beers to get a buzz and your under 21 companion would sit and drink their Coke.

    It was a neat place and I think they changed it to some type of German sounding name later….like the Brautwursthaus(I know that’s not it). I don’t know when it became Mick’s, but I was last in there in the late 70s and at that time it was just an ordinary bar. Don’t what it’s like today.

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