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9 Insane Midwestern Foods You Have To Try At Least Once

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So Lance Pauker and I are in Fargo, North Dakota for the week to check out — and share — all the culture the city has to offer. Instead of going to theme parks or the beach for the thousandth time, why not go to a place you’ve never been? And Fargo, with a population that could fit in the Upper West Side, totally surrounded by the plains of the Midwest, couldn’t be more foreign to us. After beating the blizzard to get into town, we decided the only reasonable thing to do would be to go try some local fare. We basically binged on everything we could find, so if I have love handles next week, I blame it on all of you.

1. Wild Boar Sausage

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The first place we stopped was Wurst Bier Hall. If you’re my uncle, here’s where you would make the joke, “hey if it’s called the WORST, then why would you eat there?” This is why no one invites you to anything, Uncle Doug. Wurst Bier Hall’s menu was exciting, but their selection of sausages was definitely the most adventurous offering they had.  You could live your same old boring life eating corn dogs every day, or you could find the section on your menu called “exotics” and pick something exciting. This is a sausage made from wild boar. It honestly has a similar taste to a bratwurst but with more of a smokey taste. What’s the difference between a wild boar and a regular pig, you ask? Wild boar have tusks, they have coarser hair, and they’re also much more difficult to kill. Did you ever see Charlotte’s Web? Imagine if Wilbur had a prison shank. No one’s going to the fair this year, Charlotte! But seriously, it’s really good and you should try it.

Grade: B

2. Spaetzle Dumpling + Mushroom Gravy

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A can’t miss, hearty Bavarian delicacy perfect for a never-ending winter (cough). Mixed all together, the dumplings, kraut, and mushroom gravy turned out to be quite the revelation. The North Dakota “Big 3.”

Grade: A+

3. Bavarian PretzelsScreen shot 2014-03-31 at 9.42.30 PM

Midway through our meal, we were joined by a few locals — seasoned veterans of the Fargo, North Dakota culinary scene. We were immediately told that we had to try the pretzels with the specialty beer cheese dip + marshmallow fluff — that, in the vein of that guy at a dinner who’s really insistent of picking up the check, there was simply no debating the matter.

We weren’t disappointed in the least.

Grade: A-

4. Porketta Fargo

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I’m a big fan of different foods hanging out with each other. The Porketta Fargo — consisting of seasoned pork roast, pepperoncini, pesto-type spinach, a 5-cheese blend, salsa, and hot mustard — felt like the sort of mish-mash you’d see on an underdog Little League team that was somehow good, but nobody really knew how or why. Case and point, the Porketta Fargo. An unorthodox success story.

Grade: A-

5. Kuchen

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Kuchen is actually the German word for cake and is usually a pie-like pastry with a sweet, custard filling. When I ordered it I had no idea what I was getting, but it was the only dessert on the menu and I was told it was a local favorite, so why not? It tastes like warm flan on a pie crust, which is not a complaint at all. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. Also a little bit goes a long way. It’s like a phone conversation with your mom. You love it, but after a few minutes you’re done. I love you, mom. I also love you, kuchen.

Grade: B+

6. Woodchuck Dry Hopped Cider

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I’m not a big fan of beer. Maybe that’s an understatement. I would rather drink the liquid that comes out of the bottom of a trash bag than drink beer. Needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to sampling some local beer, but I saw a title that beckoned me like a lighthouse to a sad, non-beer drinking ship. There was a section on the beer menu called, “looking for something fruity?” Why yes I am! There was still a slight beer taste, but the sweet cider flavor definitely overpowered it enough for it to be enjoyable to even the most lightweight beer drinker. Plus it came in a mug so that increases your manliness, right? Right??

Grade: B-

7. Knoephla Soup – Kroll’s Diner

Kroll’s diner, a Bismarck and Fargo speciality, is probably best known for their Knoephla Soup — a stew-like combination of potatoes and Knoephla (German dumplings) in a very tasty cream broth. But as good as their speciality is, can anything beat the power of a such a great local commercial?

Grade: A+ for the commercial, A for the soup

8. Pork belly Tacos at Vinyl Taco

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Sure everyone has tacos, but not everyone has tacos like this. These pork belly tacos are sweet and sour braised then mixed with tobacco onions, red slaw, and covered in au jus. Vinyl Taco is one of the coolest restaurants in Fargo, as it’s full of vintage and original decor and memorabilia. If you don’t think a delicious, freshly made taco is anything to get excited about, then you clearly haven’t drunkenly stumbled up to a subpar taco truck at 3am in Los Angeles and felt like the War of 1812 was being recreated in your stomach the next day. Anyone can do a taco, but these are tacos done right.

Grade: B+

9. West Fargo Cajun Sausage

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There’s nothing better than finding a dish that’s made 100% locally, except maybe a pack of Starbursts that’s nothing but oranges, but that’s just an urban legend. The northern midwest has a large German influence, so sausage is not just a popular dish, it’s also delicious. I had a cajun sausage made from local meats in Fargo and covered in sweet peppers, hot peppers, grilled onions and kraut on fresh baked bread. If you’re wondering if it’s good, let me answer your question; yes. It’s has the taste of a bratwurst, but with much more of a bite to it. If you don’t like it, then we probably couldn’t be friends.

Grade: A-

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