Bismarck, ND is kind of a surprising city for being, literally, in the middle of nowhere. It actually has some pretty good restaurants to choose from in the area. I put on a new dealer earlier this year up in Bismarck and went up there to do some training recently. After the training was concluded, I took a couple of the guys over to the Pirogue Grille in downtown Bismarck (see map).
Now, a pirogue is a long, narrow boat that Cajun fishermen use in the bayou. I don't quite get the connection between the Pirogue Grille and Cajun food because Chef Stuart Tracy specializes in North Dakota-raised, farm fresh to table offerings. His menu changes seasonally and features North Dakota-raised bison, lamb, walleye, beef, chicken and pork. There are also pasta and seafood dishes on the menu.
Maybe the Pirogue Grille gets its name from the shape of the restaurant. It's situated in a long, narrow building in a very elegant setting. There's a small bar area up front and a private dining area on the way back to the main dining room. It's very comfortable, very relaxed and had a "big city" feel to the place.
Neither of my guests drank alcohol so I wasn't going to order any wine that evening. But I wish I would have at least looked through the menu as I found out later that the Pirogue Grille is sort of famous for their wine events. I sort of wondered what kind of wines they'd pick for Bismarck, ND.
Our waitress came over and gave the nightly specials. One of them was a pork loin stuffed with apples, walnuts and homemade breading - all of which were either raised, grown or baked in North Dakota. That did sound tempting, but I'm not big on apples or walnuts. They were also featuring a pasta dish that evening with North Dakota made sausage.
I was looking hard at the beef filet seasoned with a Southwestern rub and topped with lime butter. That sounded interesting and killer. I ended up getting that with a side of their caramelized onion mashed potatoes. For a starter I got their corn and bison soup in a cup.
One of my guests took the pork loin special and got rice on the side. The other guest got the North Dakota-branded New York strip steak with the caramelized onion mashed potatoes. Both got the organic greens salad with homemade dressing.
As we waited for our dinner, we talked some shop and relaxed after a long day. Our waitress was very attentive bringing us more water, pop or beer (for me - you didn't think I would go dry during dinner, did you?).
About 10 minutes after we finished our soup and salads, the main entrees came to the table. The presentation was very nice and I have to say the food was excellent. The Southwestern rub on the steak was a combination of cumin and chili powder, but it didn't overpower the taste of the meat, which was cooked a perfect medium-rare. And the lime butter was an interesting taste sensation, as well. It has to be easy to make.
The guest who had the New York strip had never been to the Pirogue Grille before and he was very impressed with the meal. We both loved the caramelized onions in the mashed potatoes. And the person who got the stuffed pork loin - who had eaten at the Pirogue Grille before - liked his meal very much. He told me, "Surprisingly, there's a lot of good restaurants in this town. I don't know if it's because we're the capital of North Dakota, but we do seem to have our fair share of good places to eat."
After dinner, I offered to pick up dessert, as well. Except nothing on the dessert menu sounded all that good to me. One of the guys got the rhubarb blueberry pie, and the other guy went with a strawberry cheesecake they had that evening. The Pirogue Grille has their own pastry/dessert chef and the menu can change from day to day or week to week. That's kind of nice so they give you a variety of things to try for both main entrees and desserts on each visit.
The Pirogue Grille was a surprisingly wonderful dining experience. The meal, drinks and dessert came to about $95 bucks before tax and tip were included. The food was great, the service was great, the atmosphere was great. Going to Bismarck once a year will much less painful if I have the Pirogue Grille to look forward to.