Down-Low for Downtown Drinks and Dining
Lower Level Doesn’t Mean Lower Quality
BY MARIJO VIK
In horror movies, going down those stairs to the basement is never recommended.
In downtown Fargo, going down those stairs will take you to delightful drinks and dining.
The VIP Room
Anthony and Sara Bachman are a young married couple who recently acquired The VIP Room from Gordy Richardson who owned and operated the restaurant for 24 years.
Anthony, who is the executive chef, worked for Richardson as the salad and sandwich chief eight years ago. When Richardson decided to retire, he contacted the Bachmans.
“It was a time in our lives where we were ready to take over,” Anthony said.
The VIP Room is in the lower level of Block 6, 624 Main Ave., Fargo. The building was the former deLendrecie’s Department Store built in 1894 which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
One of the VIP Room’s hallmarks is its rotating menu. The menu always features a quiche of the day, meal-style salad of the day, and two distinctly “un”diner-like entrees. Wine and beer is available.
Anthony graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Minneapolis in 2008 and served his externship in San Diego in a fine-dining French restaurant. He moved back to Minneapolis and worked at the Town Talk Diner and Gastropub that was featured on the Food Channel Network’s show, “Drive-ins, Diners and Dives.”
“When the economy started to go bad, I moved back home with Mom and Dad for a little while,” Anthony said, “and worked here in the morning and at Santa Lucia at night.”
Sara and Anthony met at Santa Lucia and married in 2014.
He worked his way up to executive chef at Santa Lucia, then opened the kitchen at JT Cigarro’s, and managed a couple of other places. Anthony and one of his friends also operate a food cart when the temperature is above zero. You will find their cart in downtown Fargo, plus the Minnesota State Fair, Red River Valley Fair and summer festivals.
Sara was a nurse at the Sanford Burn Center and will go back to full-time nursing once they’ve completed their transition at The VIP Room.
The Boiler Room
This subterranean hot spot opened June 2014 beneath the newly renovated Loretta Building at 210 Roberts Alley, Fargo.
Entrance to The Boiler Room is made from Broadway before 5:30 p.m. and throughout the day on the west side of the building in the Loretta Alley. Free parking is available 5 p.m. in the city of Fargo parking lot west of the building.
The Boiler Room’s decor and vibe is a mix of industrial and historical, paying homage to the building. General manager Paul McMahon describes the menu as “American comfort food.”
Midwest craft beer is on tap with a different brewery featured on a rotating basis.The on tap list includes Fargo Brewing Company; Drekker Brewing Company (Fargo); Bent Paddle Brewing Company (Duluth); Third Street Brewhouse (Cold Spring, MN); Indeed Brewing Company (Minneapolis); Lift Bridge Brewery (Stillwater); Fulton Brewery (Minneapolis); Summit Brewing Company (St Paul); Surly Brewing Company (Minneapolis); Empyrean Brewing Company (Lincoln, Nebraska); and Lagunitas Brewing Company (Chicago).
The Boiler Room also has a signature cocktail list and fine wines.
Christian D’Agostino is the executive chef and owner with Dan Hurder as a managing partner.
The menu is large and varied. The price range is: appetizers $8 to $15; all-day brunch $10 to $16; specialty brunch on Saturday and Sunday $7 to $12; salads $6 to $16; soups $5 or $7; burgers and sandwiches $10 to $13; all-day entrees $13 to $16; dinner entrees served after 4 p.m. $16 to $26; and desserts $6 or $7.
Stumbeano’s Coffee Bar
If you exit through The Boiler Room’s door into the courtyard of Roberts Alley and look to your right, you’ll find Stumbeano’s Coffee Bar, at 210 Broadway, No. 92, Fargo. You can also enter by way of Roberts Alley.
Regular customer Baird Miltich insists Stumbeano’s serve the best coffee in town. Miltich, an electrician, says he sometimes comes in four times a day and calls himself a “wired electrician.” Barista Taylor Ann Morgan Olson explains the coffee preparation methods that include batch drip brew, espresso, and pour over.
Owners Jenny and Greg Stumbo and their daughter Olivia have been roasting coffee for more than 11 years in Fergus Falls, but this location in Fargo is their first coffee bar.
Their wholesale coffee is sold and used at Nichole’s Pastries, Sandy’s Donuts and the HoDo. The roasted beans are also used by Fargo Brewing Company in one of their craft beers.
Stumbeano’s is now serving toast and bars from Falls Baking Co. in Fergus Falls. However, they make their own batter for waffles.
Artwork displayed was created by Sara Ronnevik, a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and it is available to purchase.
You can receive Stumbeano’s coffee beans with scheduled delivery to your door by paying a monthly fee which starts at $17. You just decide how much coffee you want and how often you want to receive it. Shipping is included in all subscriptions.
Romos on Broadway
Romo’s claim to fame is its low prices and enormous portions, enough for two people or leftovers for one.
This Mexican food restaurant is located in the lower level of the Black Building at 118 N. Broadway, Fargo.
The décor of the restaurant is not fancy and the menu isn’t fancy, either. It’s simply written on a white board which you can read as you stand in line approaching the ordering and serving area.
The portions are large and reasonably priced and most people have plenty to share or take home.
The Yelp reviews were mostly positive with four to five stars in a five-star rating system.
Romo’s has two other locations: 3402 13th Ave. So, Fargo and 1100 19th Ave. No, Fargo.
As an aside: The Black Building’s History of where Romo’s is located
The cornerstone for the Black Building was laid Nov. 17, 1930, and the building which housed the Sears and Roebuck store opened for business in 1931.The new building provided a lower level, balcony and second floor for Sears and six stories for offices. The building was once mentioned in Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” newspaper features because the Black Building was white. The Art Moderne building is constructed of Indiana limestone.
The eight-story Black Building was Fargo’s tallest building for many years. It was also the tallest building in North Dakota for about five years, until the North Dakota State Capitol was built in Bismarck.
In 1975, William A. Schlossman renovated the empty Sears portion of the Black Building into a mixed retail mall called Elm Tree Square in answer to his critics who said that his West Acres Mall development would kill downtown. The space was designed to have a Mid-America small town feel, with storefronts surrounding an open courtyard featuring 30-foot imitation elm trees, and a cascading fountain.
(Marijo Vik is a 71-year- old senior in her senior year as a multi-media journalism student at MSUM. She has been a reporter for the Twin Valley Times, Twin Valley, Minn., since 2009 and will use her education to be a better reporter and editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org)