On my trip to Fargo earlier this summer, I stopped in to the Fargo (Happy Harry's) Rib Festival. (Click here to see my entry on the Fargo Rib Fest.) Since the lines were so long, there was no way that I was going to be able to get any barbecue. As I was leaving the festival, I called up my dealer, Rod, at Arctic Audio to give the city of Fargo my compliments on what I thought was an impressive rib festival.
He asked, "So, you didn't get anything to eat out there?" After I told him that I hadn't, he said, "Well, if you have the time, come on over to the shop. There's a great bar with good lunch specials just down the street from me. I think you'd like the place." As I drove over to his place on Main Ave., I passed the place he was talking about - Rick's Bar. Picking him up at the shop, we headed back down the street to Rick's. (see map)
The "Rick" behind Rick's Bar is North Dakota native Rick Carik. Carik got a degree in business administration from the University of North Dakota in the early 70's, then went on to study hotel and restaurant management from the University of Minnesota - Crookston. Rick Carik ended up working for the Radisson hotel chain based out of the Twin Cities before getting into banking, then back into hotel management. Carik eventually got into owning his own bars and a small chain of liquor stores. In addition to Rick's Bar, Carik is the owner of Speck's Bar, and Woody's Bar and Grill in Fargo. He also owns Crown Liquor and Royal Liquor locations around Fargo.
It was just before 1 p.m. when we pulled into the Rick's Bar parking lot. As we pulled in, Rod exclaimed, "Great! Oh man! They have chicken fried steak today!" A cryptic message on the marquee along Main Ave. - "Ctry Fry Stk Din" - told him so. Rod said, "Oh, boy. I hope they haven't run out. Sometimes they run out of their lunch specials. They only make so many of them." Rick's Bar runs a changing series of daily lunch specials each week day.
Coming into Rick's, there was a brightly lit area with pool tables and dart boards. Toward the back of Rick's Bar is an off-sale liquor store. I believe there were also some gambling machines in Rick's, but I wasn't sure about that.
There's a dining area that also doubles as a room where live music is played. (Rick's Bar charges no cover for live music.) It had sort of an old-style saloon feeling to it. I mean, it would be classified as a dive bar by many, but it was clean and comfortable. I felt at home - it was my type of place.
We took a seat at the bar and Rod introduced me to the bartender Mike, who happened to be Rick Carik's son. Rod asked him if they still had the chicken fried steak special. "No," Mike replied. "We ran out about 20 minutes ago." Rod's anguished cries told me that the chicken fried steak must be pretty damn good. Mike told us that when they start serving around 11 a.m. that's when a lot of workers come in for lunch. "And they're usually hungry."
From there, it was a quick look at the menu board over the kitchen window. The flat grill was prominent in the window and it looked well used. It was the kind of flat grill that probably had enough seasoning on it to make a good burger. It was typical bar food. Other than the daily specials they had burgers, fried or grilled chicken sandwiches, and a series of appetizers.
Rod was going to get the Rick's Special - for $6.75 you get a cheeseburger, fries and a choice of a domestic bottle of beer, a short draft or a bottle of pop. I thought that sounded good for me, too. I asked Mike if they had Grain Belt. He said, "We have the Premium on tap." I told him that I'd take one of those. He came back and said, "For a buck more you can get a tall draft." For a buck more, it was a no-brainer for me.
Rod, who had ordered an iced tea, said, "You know, Mike, on second thought, I'll take a tall Grain Belt, too." Grain Belt Premium and burgers in Fargo, ND. I was in my element.
Because the lunch rush had settled down, it wasn't long before one of the other ladies serving that day brought out our burgers to us. They were served in a basket with copious amounts of French fries and wrapped in wax paper. The burger was pretty basic - the thin patty told me that I could have probably gotten a double cheeseburger and held the fries. I knew I wasn't going to make much of a dent into the pile of fries sitting in front of me.
The taste of the cheeseburger at Rick's Bar was, well, it was fine. It wasn't the most exquisite burger I've had, nor was it bad at all. It was a nice, good tasting flat grilled burger. I liked it much more than the burger I had gotten over at the Hi-Ho South a couple days before. (Click here to see my entry on Hi-Ho South.) While the burger at Rick's Bar was good, it was still not a stellar burger.
Rod said, "Yeah, the burger is good, but the chicken fried steak would have been so much better. Too bad they ran out. You would have liked it." Rod knows his food and I'm sure that he was probably spot on about the chicken fried steak at Rick's Bar.
Rick's Bar is nothing fancy. But it isn't a trashy bar, either. At least not during the day. Rick Carik is a motorcycle enthusiast and they can get a number of bikers in the place. Rod told me that the place just to the east is much more of a biker bar and that Rick's gets some spillover to their place from time to time. Rick's also doesn't take credit cards - I paid cash for our lunch because everyone else was, too. And I didn't see any credit card signs around the place.
I like going to Fargo and I've experience great places of fine dining and now I'm exploring the dive bar element of the area. Rick's Bar would be the kind of place that I'd hang out for lunch and a few beers.