On a recent trip up to North Dakota, I had to drive between the Twin Cities and Bismarck in a day and I decided to stop in Fargo to get something to eat for lunch. Just off I-29 at the 13th Ave. S. exit is a place that I'd read about and wanted to give it a try - Sickies Garage. (see map)
Sickies Garage - whose name is sort of a take off on the Dickies clothing line (there are Sickies Garage shirts made by Dickies available for sale) - is under the ownership umbrella of Starmark Hospitality based in Fargo. In addition to Sickies Garage, Starmark also oversees other restaurants such as Sweeto Burrito with locations in 7 states, King Leo's Burgers in Fargo, and Easyriders Saloon in Sturgis, SD.
Starmark also ran Hooters restaurants in Fargo and Bismarck since the early 90's. In 2008, Hooters moved to a former Ponderosa Steakhouse on Fiechtner Drive in Fargo. When the franchise agreement ended in 2014, Hooters wanted Starmark to re-up their agreement for another 20 years. Starmark's two owners - Kerry Fernholz and Scott Upton - decided they didn't want to commit to that long of a lease and they let the Fargo Hooters close.
In the meantime, Sickies Garage opened in June of 2010 in an old Bottle Barn Liquors location not far from their present building. Its 50's garage-theme with a long list of burgers and beers on their menu was an instant hit in Fargo. It was apparent that they needed to expand and Starmark closed the Fargo Hooters they moved Sickies Garage to the building and gave the building its distinctive garage decor. (Starmark also closed the Bismarck Hooters and opened a Sickies Garage in the same building earlier this year.)
I pulled into Sickies Garage around 1:30 on a warm afternoon. I was greeted by a young lady, Teresa, who told me that I could sit anywhere. I pulled up to a table near the bar that had 50 beer taps lined up along the back side. She asked me what I'd like to drink and I asked what they had for beers. She looked at my table and said, "Oh! You don't have a beer list." She found one on another table and I looked through it quick and found a Boulder Cold Hop. I ordered a tall one of those. Even though it was listed under pale ales, the Cold Hop is more of a British-style ale. (The beer list changes on a regular basis at Sickies Garage.)
The decor of Sickies is car-centric with a number of NASCAR flags and memorabilia in the place. There's also a number of flat screen televisions throughout the dining/bar area at Sickies so if there's a sporting event on TV, they probably have it on. Sickies also hosts bike nights and vintage car nights on a regular basis in the summer months.
The menu at Sickies Garage also touts 50 different burgers in addition to a large number of appetizers such as fried pickles, quesadillas, jalapeño poppers and chicken wings that offer over a dozen different type of sauces to go along with them. They also have a number of sandwiches including a reuben, turkey and Swiss, pulled pork and a meatloaf sandwich.
Some of the burgers were pretty interesting. They included a burger with glazed donut instead of a bun, a Cuban burger topped with mayo, mustard, smoked ham, pickles and Swiss cheese, a burger topped with chili, cheese and fries, and the "Twin Cam" burger that features a burger topped with bacon and sandwiched between two Texas toast-sized grilled cheese sandwiches. Their signature burger is the Sickies burger (pictured right) that features a burger topped with a fried egg, bacon, onion rings, pulled pork with barbecue sauce, American cheese and finished with some Frank's Hot Sauce. It recently won the "Best Burger in Fargo" contest for 2015. Sickies also has a food challenge burger - the Victory Lap Challenge - that features two patty melts and a grilled cheese sandwich in the middle. Then they fill everything up with pulled pork, fried eggs, boneless chicken wings, fried jalapeños, fried pickles, barbecue sauce and hot sauce, then serve it with a pound of fries. In total, that's over five pounds of food. I don't like to glorify food challenges, but that is a ridiculous amount of food.
I ordered up the mushroom and Swiss burger and asked Teresa if they could put some of their pepper bacon on top of the burger. She said it was no problem. I got a choice of a number of sides - fries, onion rings, baked beans and potato salad were among the choices. But I ended up getting the unofficial state food of Minnesota - even though I was just across the Red River of the North in North Dakota - tater tots.
Keeping the industrial theme to the restaurant, the burger and tater tots were served on a metal baking tray. I went to put condiments on the burger and I was surprised to find that there were - maybe - six slices of mushroom on the burger and the Swiss cheese was nearly non-existent. I kind of looked at it for a moment in disbelief. They did have a couple slices of thick cut pepper bacon on top of the burger patty, so that part worked out.
From the first bite, I knew there was something wrong. First of all, the bun tasted like it was past the expiration date. It was dry and and hard on top. It was not very good. I ended up tearing the bun away from the burger a couple of times before I ended up just taking the top bun off and eating it with a knife and fork. The burger patty, itself, was pretty good - a nice juiciness to the patty. The pepper bacon had a delightful spicy taste that helped the overall taste of the burger patty. But the lack of Swiss cheese and mushrooms were a detriment, and the bad bun was just a major disappointment. The saving grace - the tater tots with some hot sauce dribbled onto each one was a nice plus. But this was far from a good burger.
The Swiss and mushroom burger I had at Sickies Garage (topped with the pepper bacon) was a major disappointment. The bun was dried out, they skimped tremendously on the cheese and mushrooms and this caused the overall taste of the burger to suffer. Without the bun, the burger patty was good and juicy. But overall, it was not a good burger. I will say that Teresa's service was efficient and friendly. And the decor and ambience of Sickies was interesting, at best. While I really wanted to like this place, I don't know if I'll give them another chance at some point. This visit was really disappointing.