Dine Out Differently

Meredith Wathne, Integrated advertising/public relations and multimedia journalism 

There is nothing better than being outside and getting fresh air. But taking in nature while at a delicious restaurant seems almost too good to be true, right?

Wrong.

Rooftop and patio restaurants have long been catering to the outdoorsy foodie, drawing in patrons with their active environments and captivating views (in most cases), especially in metropolitan areas. The trend has spread far and wide, and as Fargo-Moorhead continues to develop urbanicity, especially downtown, it seems only right to follow suit. Many of the city’s most popular downtown eateries have taken to the latest movement and feature patio and rooftop seating for guests. Before the season ends, be sure to check out three of the must-eat locations offering not only fantastic inside dinning, but rooftop and patio seating as well.

(In no particular order.)

JL Beers:

JL Beers lies in the heart of downtown on First Ave. N. across from the Hotel Donaldson. Nearly four years ago the business moved downtown, and has since set a standard for burgers in the area.  With it’s small, intimate setting and a capacity of only 28 people for indoor seating, patrons get a city bistro experience while enjoying top burgers and beers. You never know whom you are going to sit next to.

The patio in front of the restaurant is small with only two tables, but if you snag one it’s well worth it. First Avenue is busy enough to be exciting, but not too busy and overbearing.  To the north is the Hotel Donaldson, to the east, The Forum and to the west, the strip up 1st Ave., home to Royal Jewelers and the Beef Steak Club. Although it’s out in the open with good views, the buildings around it provide some shade, making it perfect for lunch or dinner dinning

Patrons enjoy happy hour and a burger.

There is a substantial stock of beer on tap that constantly changes, drawing in customers with the opportunity to try a different beer every time they visit. The first of the Octoberfest beers are starting to make their way into the taps.

JL Beers always has a wide variety of beers on tap that constantly rotate out as new beers come in. The bartender, Andrew Suby, pours a drink.

“We try to keep the local favorites on, Bell’s Two Hearted, Summit Saga, they have a following and everyone likes them,” said Laura Mio, general manager.

Ten gourmet burgers complete the menu, typically paired with chips or fries and range from the average cheeseburger to a slawburger or BLT BLU®.

“As far as burgers go the most popular is the “1st Avenue Burger”, and the “humpty-dumpty” with bacon is also awesome,” Mio said.

The “1st Avenue Burger” is topped with a barbeque rub, bacon, cheese and barbeque sauce, while the “Humpty Dumpy” is a twist on breakfast with cheese and a fried egg.

“Burgers are almost as personal as buying a pair of jeans, you find one that’s fits and stick with it,” Mio said.

Mio describes the typical JL Beers crowd as eclectic. An array of fresh 21-year-olds trying it out for the first time to middle-aged regulars make up the typical crowd, creating an atmosphere that leaves customers wanting more.

JL Beers is well known for their burgers on a spread out demographic.

There are a couple customers hat have become regulars due to the juicy burgers and constant variety of beer being offered.

“I love the ‘JL burger,’ but it’s huge,” said Katie Rodke of Fargo. “It’s two patties and its delicious, you need a fork, and I like to try a new beer every time I come. I never get the same thing twice.”

Brenda Kitsmiller of Moorhead, who was sitting opposite of Rodke, also loves the JL burger and the selection of beer.

“I like to get the ‘Slaw Burger’ if I don’t get the ‘JL Burger,’ and I like lighter beers, I always sample a couple,” she said. 

Rhombus Guys:

Nestled on Main Street amongst a cluster of recently opened boutiques and a coffee shop, Rhombus Guys stands in all its glory. Dubbed one of, if not the most popular pizza place in town, it radiates a casual, laid-back vibe with the servers dressed in blue jeans and Rhombus Guys’ T-shirts. A fully stocked bar occupies the left of the establishment with oversized wooden booths lining the wall on the right.

The atmosphere is energetic and echoes off the vaulted ceilings. Large white sheets of paper cover the tables accompanied by color crayons so visitors can get creative while they eat. Toward the back of the restaurant, tall, round tables occupy a dimly lite corner opposite the staircase to the roof.

Rhombus Guys located at 606 Main Ave. is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The bar stays open until 2 and the kitchen closes at midnight. Rhombus serves some of the most popular pizza in town and is great for happy hour after work or a night on the town.

Although people rave about the food, the rooftop is undoubtedly a forte of the shop. Though the rooftop doesn’t have a magnificent view of downtown, its charm is found in the tucked-away appeal. Tenants in the nearby apartments may be able to catch a glimpse of those dinning, but passer-byers can hardly tell the balcony is even there.

Thomas Bacheller of Minneapolis takes in the bar deciding on his next drink. Bacheller was in town for a business meeting and said Rhombus Guys was highly recommended by others at the meeting. “When I travel I like to check out the cool places,” he said. It was his first Rhombus experience.

Many people love to enjoy the hidden rooftop at all times of the day. Complete with a sun blocker and old-timey street lamps it’s an enticing environment.

At Rhombus Guys, there are 24 different beers on tap, which frequently rotate. Many of the beers offered are microbrews from the Fargo Brewing Company and nanobrews from Junkyard Brewery in Moorhead.

“Popular ones are Wood Chipper and Scottish Ale,” said Nick Dickmeyer, assistant general manager. “We also have a lot of craft beers like Twisted Pine and Alaskan.”

Rhombus Guys always has 24 beers on tap and they rotate almost weekly.

Not only does Rhombus Guys offer a wide selection of beer on tap, but they also have 33 different kinds of pizza to choose from. The most popular kind being the T-Rex, a hearty five-meat pie topped with peperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, bacon and beef. Despite popular belief, the pizza is not at all greasy. Rhombus Guys prides themselves on the quality of pizza they create, serving highly topped pizza with more toppings than there is dough, said Dickmeyer.

“Your not paying for a loaf of bread, you’re paying for toppings and flavor, and that’s what we give you,” he said.

The pizzas served at Rhombus Guys come in three different sizes, 12 inch, 16 inch and 18 inch, so it’s a real bang for your buck. Another popular item on the menu is the cheesy bread, which some people call crack bread due to its deliciousness. However, Dickmeyer would like to affirm that there is not actually crack in the bread.

Although the rooftop is the main attraction at Rhombus Guys, there are two patio-seating tables available in from of the building for patrons to enjoy.

Sky Prairie:

The Hotel Donaldson is known for being one of the more upscale, classy hotels, drink lounges and restaurants in the F-M area. At the front of the building, the HoDo Lounge’s big windows present an amazing look at Broadway, contributing to the instantly alluring atmosphere of the lounge. The restaurant is tucked in the back, with open windows looking over 1st Ave. giving a more private, opulent experience.

On the corner of Broadway and 1st Ave., the Hotel Donaldson attracts various customers from far and wide, offering a relaxed drink lounge, an upscale restaurant and the Sky Prairie rooftop to choose from. The Sky Prairie is open 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mon. – Sat. pending weather and private parties.

Sky Prairie; know by many as the “HoDo rooftop,” has been swooning those who set foot on the roof since it was built. After riding up four floors in the elevator and passing through the small bar and workers station, the rooftop emerges, lush with vegetation and glowing with sunlight.

An arbor hanging over a hot tub for hotel guests fills the furthest left corner. To the right, the intimate setting of high-top round tables, and options for groups of two or four are surrounded by a sea of wild grasses, flowers, local artist creations and the skyline of Fargo. It is one of downtown’s main attractions in the summer.

The Sky Prairie seats up to 50 people and is the perfect spot for enjoying the evening while watching the sunset with a delicious meal.

Many people love to enjoy the Sky Prairie in the evening.

The Sky Prairie menu is a hybrid menu of what the lounge and restaurant have to offer, serving meals that travel to the roof the easiest. Some of the most popular menu items are bison sausage, fish & chips and the lamp barbacoa. The delicious food and enthralling set up draw a crowd every night, and there is typically a wait to get into the popular destination.

“We can only hold 50 on the roof and pretty much every night there is a wait to get up there,” said Jason Laub, front of house manager. “There are no reservations accepted.”

The Sky Prairie offers a great view of downtown Fargo.

The drink menu on the rooftop is unique and independent. There are a few drinks from the lounge that are too popular not to offer, but at the start of every summer season, the staff puts together a unique drink menu to offer the rooftop, Laub said.

Some of the featured drinks are the Moonbeam, with rum & ginger beer, angostura bitters & ginger syrup; the HoDito, completed with organic vodka, honey simple syrup and mint and soda; and the 5 Alive, featuring hpnotiq, Chambord and pineapple juice.

The Sky Prairie is one of downtown Fargo’s main attractions.

The Sky Prairie season is very weather dependent. Every year there is a targeted opening date of May 1, but due to inclement weather, that never happens. The Sky Prairie will stay open as late as they can into the fall, but once temperatures drop too low the long wait through winter begins.

(Edited by Madalyn Laske, MSUM multimedia journalism major)

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