I’m a self-proclaimed foodie. Some people might call me a fatty. Either way, I enjoy food, and I’m not ashamed. When I had cable, my TV was on Food Network at least 80% of the time because I find it interesting, and because it’s relaxing background noise for doing homework. Now, I have to resort to planning my workouts around my TV schedule, and end up being “that girl” who’s watching Food Network while she’s running on the treadmill.
If you watch Food Network semi-regularly, you’ve probably seen a pretty popular show called “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” It’s one of my favorite shows on the channel, along with “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” That’s probably because these shows pick out awesome little restaurants around the country and feature them for making fantastic food. I’ll totally stop at restaurants featured on the shows if I’m ever near any of them on vacation. (North Dakota doesn’t really get a whole lot of airtime.)
In fact, I would make a road trip out of it to go to some of the nearby places. It’s nothing to me — In high school, we used to drive 45 minutes to get a Whirl-a-Whip in Stanley, ND. (It’s kind of like a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, but known around the state.)
Although North Dakota (specifically, Grand Forks, ND — since that’s where I’m currently living) has never been featured on one of those Food Network shows, we’re home to some spots that are definitely worthy of some airtime. I finally visited one for the first time today, after a lot of curiosity and recommendations.
“Have you gone to Kegs yet?” my parents often asked me. I’d always do the mental head-slap, wondering why I didn’t think of it last time Chris and I were sitting around playing the “I dunno — What do you want to eat?” “I don’t care. What do you feel like?” game.
My dad often told me how he was a regular at Kegs when he was a student at the University of North Dakota, grabbing a monster burger or some onion rings on his way to work. The student-friendly prices haven’t changed. A huge, homemade cheeseburger was around $2.
I probably forgot about Kegs because it’s tucked in the middle of town. It’s plopped right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Kegs definitely takes you by surprise a little when you first approach it. Aside from being a little dilapidated on the exterior, you can’t deny that it’s got a curiosity-sparking gravitational pull.
When my family and I pulled up, we were the only car in the lot. It’s a true old-fashioned, 1950s drive-in. You press the button on the menu when you’re ready to order, and the waitress brings you your food on a tray. It first opened in the 1930s, as part of a local seven-restaurant chain. This Kegs is the last one that remains.
We were a little unsure it was still open until we saw a fluorescent-shirted worker passing behind the counter inside. We discovered she was pretty disgruntled, to say the least, but I think it added to the whole experience. Besides, the food is worth it.
They’re known for their sloppy joes — That’s what I had. I didn’t think you could really do much with a sloppy joe recipe, but there was definitely just something better about it. They’re also known for their root beer, as you can probably tell by their signature keg-architecture, but they have a whole slew of beverage choices, like homemade vanilla, lime, and cherry Coke and even a chocolate Coke, which I might have to try next time.
Their burgers and onion rings were perfection, too. I had a bite of my dad’s and will definitely be trying that next time. As my brother said, it tasted like 1953. And in the best possible way. There’s just something about a really great cheeseburger that makes everything seem right in the world. Or maybe that’s just me and my foodie-fattiness.
Not long after we arrived, Kegs quickly filled up with cars full of people young and old. Battle Axe Waitress and her younger counterpart remained efficient, although Battle Axe also remained pretty crabby.
There’s just something about places like Kegs — They’ve been around forever because they’ve been doing things right. Grand Forks, like any city, is rich with tradition, but a lot of those traditions stem from the University and its hockey team.
Kegs is a place that hangs onto a tradition of its own.
“You never know. This could be the last time we eat here. They’ll probably tear it down by the time we get back to Grand Forks,” my parents were saying, acknowledging they’d said the same things 20 years ago when they were in school.
I’ve got a feeling Kegs isn’t going anywhere.