With restaurants that are steeped in the town’s rich history and young upstarts that are now tasting sweet success, the best Bismarck fare is a flavorful mix of the old and new.
In the heart of downtown, you’ll find Peacock Alley Bar and Grille, a swanky fine dining restaurant located in the historic Patterson Hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The grille specializes in seasonal dishes from around the world. Diners can nosh on pan-blackened steaks, pecan-crusted Canadian walleye and even fillet of ostrich in the Peacock’s dining room, where refinished brass and cherry wood reflect the original glamour of the historic building. For those looking for lighter fare, the restaurant’s deli serves salads, sandwiches, soups and pasta dishes. Just how glamorous is the Peacock? The hotel, which opened in 1911, was once host to lively parties where flappers danced the night away and where many presidents, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Calvin Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt, once dined.
Another local favorite that has been touched by local lore is The Pirogue Grille, which was named for the two wooden row boats, also called Pirogues, that held men and supplies on Lewis and Clark’s trek to North Dakota’s Mandan villages. With its brick interior and roaring fireplace, locals laud The Pirogue Grille for its warm feeling and the fresh, regional cuisine created at the hands of Chef Stuart Tracy, a North Dakota native. The menu changes with the seasons and features regional favorites like house-made venison sausage, sautéed bison medallions, grilled rainbow trout and a wide selection of salads, such as scrumptious mixed greens with warm goat cheese filled dates and a Clementine vinaigrette.
Those interested in Martian Munchies head on over to Space Aliens Grill and Bar, also known as the “mothership of food and fun,” for burgers, giants stuffed baked potatoes and slow-smoked ribs, which were named America’s Best Ribs at the National Bar-B-Que Convention Cook-Off in Memphis, Tenn. With four other worldly locations throughout the state, the restaurant features a 30-foot-high doomed ceiling with an outer space view, alien sculptures and an arcade for the wee ones. More interested in some down-home comfort food? Try the Bread Poets Baking Company. The shop mills its own flour, hand kneads its bread and grinds North Dakota wheat daily with its own Stone Burr Mill, so it’s no wonder that it takes six hours to make a loaf of bread when you’re “doing it the old fashion way.” Whether you pick up a loaf of anything from Cheddar 'N Chive Potato and Lemon Burst to Poets White and Dakota Seed, the handmade dough will be so fresh, you’ll think it was baked just for your arrival.
For those with an aching sweet tooth, Lindy Sue's Candies, which is located in the historic Mandan Drug building, offers hand-dipped chocolates. Lindy’s famous Lewis and Clark Bar, made of solid milk chocolate, and the Sacagawea Bar, made of dark chocolate and raspberry, are must-eats. Lone Prairie Cupcakes is another sure-as-sugar cure for your sweet tooth. The gourmet cupcakes can be found at the Patisserie On Fourth, where rows upon rows of the “small cakes” and other confections are a sugar fiend’s delight. Writer and artist Julie Neidlinger is the woman behind the cupcakes, which she adorns with an array of edible paints and decorations—all of which results in treats that are almost too gorgeously arty to eat. Almost.