Should You Find Yourself in Bismarck, North Dakota

Michael Hardy / Heavy Table

Bismarck, North Dakota may not seem like much of a getaway — harsh winters and North Dakota’s overall sense of modesty are reflected in the city’s concrete buildings and deathly quiet streets. But unlike much of the country, business is booming in Bismarck; just take a seat at the train depot and watch the freight cars filled with coal go by and by and by. So whether you’re in town for business or pleasure, consider yourself in luck because this capital city is home to one of the nicest restaurants in the state, as well as a down home breakfast spot and an Irish pub to boot.

The Pirogue Grille opened in September 2005 by CIA-trained chef Stuart Tracy and his wife Cheryl. After spending some time cooking in Napa and Sonoma counties, Tracy returned to his roots and opened a restaurant that could pay homage to the grass-fed beef, bison, and lamb that was being raised locally in North Dakota. This decidedly sophisticated restaurant emphasizes local produce from the farmers market in the summer and local meats raised and slaughtered in Driscoll and New Rockford, North Dakota.

Michael Hardy / Heavy Table

While more generic offerings like Caesar salad ($5) and compound butter-topped steaks ($30) have their place on the menu, there are also some more gutsy entrees like sautéed sea scallops with fenugreek cream curry sauce ($26) and a juniper berry- and orange-marinated Kurobuta pork chop ($30, shown above) that was smoky and juicy and complemented by a lovely apple-onion relish.

You will pay accordingly — the place is not cheap — but for a romantic night out or a special occasion, it’s worth paying for something a little more elegant and unique.

Pirogue Grille
121 N 4th St
Bismarck, ND 58501

Kate Ramos / Heavy Table

Awash in country-living paraphernalia, The Little Cottage Cafe is as down home as a diner gets. Breakfast is exactly what you would expect, a few omelets ($6.50), some French toast ($4), and so forth. It’s nothing fancy, but what they do offer is cheap, good, and lovingly prepared with loads of butter. Get there early if you want one of the dozen or so caramel or cinnamon rolls ($2) they make fresh every morning. Lunch means burgers ($6) and chicken fried steak ($8.50), plus a few German specialties like creamy, dumpling-laden Knoephla soup ($4) and Fleischkuechle ($7; essentially a beef patty wrapped in dough and fried). Service is fast and friendly, and you’re guaranteed to walk out of there full for under 10 bucks a person.

Kate Ramos / Heavy Table

Little Cottage Cafe
2513 E Main Ave
Bismarck, ND 58501

Michael Hardy / Heavy Table

If you’re looking for a place to hoist a pint, then the Blarney Stone is your answer. The menu boasts 26 beers on tap (see top) — many Irish favorites like Guinness or Harp, but also some Midwest brews too, including Finnegan’s and Summit from Minneapolis and two different Leinenkugel beers from Wisconsin. Choosing one might be difficult, so you can also order a sampler, four 4-ounce pours of your choice for $5.50.

If you prefer your cold ones in the bottle, they have 25 of those too, mostly consisting of American standards like Budweiser and Michelob but they also offer Grain Belt Premium from Minnesota and Moosehead from Canada.

While you’re there, pair your beers with some fish and chips ($13), bangers and mash ($10), or shepherd’s pie ($12.50), then sit back and relax. The bar staff is friendly and professional, and on a Saturday afternoon the atmosphere was not the Celtic Disneyland some may expect from an Irish bar, but a warm and welcoming escape from the cold.

Blarney Stone Pub
408 E Main Ave
Bismarck, ND 58501


  1. BrianJ

    Moosehead is Canadian, Montana produces Moose Drool from Big Sky Brewing.

    I wish “beer bars” would lose the frosted glasses or at least reserve them for your BMC adjunct lagers.

  2. taylor

    If you’re still holed up in Bismarck, swing by The Walrus for some beers. For middle of NoDak, the beer selection is pretty solid.

  3. Malissa

    The Patisserie on 4th and Broadway is also excellent. They’re only open weekdays but have a wonderful lunch special where you get soup, salad, and a sandwich on hand made bread for like five bucks. It’s my favorite eatery in town and I tell people about it every chance I get!

  4. JJSupaFly

    So, I have to say that you may have missed perhaps the finest dining experience in Bismarck….McDowell’s Big Boy Drive-In on East Main Street. I’m a native Bismarcker and have to say that if I had to choose a last meal it would be 2 Pizza Burgers, fries with a side of gravy, and a large Hot-n-Tot (Coke with Cinnamon Syrup). Upscale and romantic?? Hardly. A damn fine guilty pleasure?? Absolutely!!

    Oh and +1 to the Fleischkuechle mentioned above for a truly unique North Dakota dish. Krolls Kitchen on Main is also a good place to get one. However, neither place makes them nearly as well as my Grandma did.

  5. Deborah Lips Hill

    You mentioned sitting in the train station, but didn’t mention the train station is an excellent Mexican restaurant, in an old spanish style depot building. Fiesta Villa – stop by for a good, fresh Mexican meal or Margueritas, and enjoy the train watching. Also a trackside patio for warmer months.

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