Story and photos by Ashley Wirtzfeld
MSUM Mass Comm Major
The building sign seen from First Ave. N.
The building at 700 First Ave. N. in Moorhead has gone through a few businesses in recent years. It has been the Red Bear Restaurant and the Broken Axe Bar. The building is now the home of Usher’s House fine casual dining. This past week I dined at Usher’s House and found it to be a great date restaurant.
The Building has a long history
The building was built in 1936 as part of the Works Progress Administration, which was set up under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal plan to get people back to work during the Great Depression, said Aaron Duma, Usher’s pub manager and events coordinator. The building was specifically built as a site for an American Legion. The building was the site of the American Legion for more than 50 years before it eventually closed.
“You can actually see the Moorhead American Legion initials over the front door where the hooded fellow with the candle is located,” stated Duma. “Another unique aspect of the building is the four heads that are carved into the four corners of the structure. The four heads are said to be the architects and engineers responsible for the building," said Duma.
The front of the building.
Another interesting aspect of the property deals with a bear cage in Usher’s “backyard.”
“The Red River Valley Zoo used to be located in the park … in the early 1900s,” Duma said.
The building sat vacant for most of the ’90s before renovations for the Red Bear began.
“The Red Bear functioned for about five years, the Broken Axe would then follow for nearly two years,” said Duma. “We have been here for just over two now.”
The building on the banks
The building itself is within sight of the banks of the Red River. The view from the dining room overlooks the river, adding an extra feeling of romance to the already romantic atmosphere. Usher’s dining room offers a quiet dining experience to meet with friends or to go to on a date.
If you are feeling less romantic and more casual, Monk’s Pub (the bar) might be the place for you to sit back to relax and enjoy some food. The dining room closes at 9 p.m., however the pub stays open until 1 a.m. A private space in the basement is called the Hunt Club.
A view of the river seen from the dining room.
This food is not what I am used to
In general, I tend to eat fairly simple. I grew up on meat and potatoes and I still eat my fair share of meat and potatoes. My tastes have evolved a little from those days, but I don’t tend to stray from the usual. Since I found myself in my first fine dining establishment, I decided to push the envelope a bit. I quickly skipped over their selection of sandwiches and burgers and focused on the dinner menu.
I spied the pork tenderloin and I was sold. The description in the menu reads: “7 oz. pork tenderloin seared & cooked to temperature with chorizo purple Thai rice, baby carrots & arugula topped with a blueberry peach chutney.” I didn’t think I could go wrong.
Pork Tenderloin at Usher’s House.
The blueberry peach chutney was an explosion of fruit mixed in with the meatiness of the pork, which added a delightful touch. The baby carrots were a little undercooked for my taste but added another layer to the dish. The rice was the only thing in the dish that confused me. Perhaps I am not versed well enough in the art of food to know what Thai rice is supposed to taste like, but I think it was extremely undercooked. The harsh crunch of the rice wreaked havoc on my teeth. The rice remained on my plate.
My guest for the evening loves mushrooms and decided to go with the Wild Mushroom Strudel. The menu describes it as, “mushrooms, leeks, spinach & raclette cheese in phyllo dough with a port wine reduction and micro greens.”
The mushroom strudel served at Usher’s House.
I am not one for mushrooms, but I took a bite, wanting to enjoy the full experience. The flaky crust of the strudel melted in your mouth and was divine. The mixture of mushrooms, leeks, spinach and cheese almost made me forget I wasn’t eating any meat. Almost. Too full for dessert we thanked our server, paid our bill and left.
A Second Chance
Usher’s House, while a bit on the pricey side for the average college student, is a restaurant I would go to again. The atmosphere was enjoyable, the view beautiful and the food tasty.
Before going next time, I will check out Usher’s House website and study the menu. However, the second time around, I might stick to the sandwich and burger section.
The dining room at Usher’s House.
Usher’s House also offers a variety of beverages.