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Eric Dauber, Special to The Forum, Published August 20 2012

Review: Sickies worth repeat visits

FARGO – Back in the early ’60s, some guy in Whittier, Calif., tucked copies of Hot Rod Magazine into cardboard boxes, hiding them under his bed to keep his mother from throwing them out.

It worked, because 50 years later, someone else glued them to the top of the tables at Sickies in Fargo to begin the transformation of the space near The Hub into a motor-themed restaurant.

They’ve added a few oil cans and wheel covers to the walls to complete the picture. It’s not entirely convincing, because the building was never a real garage like the kind of diners road trippers find across the country. Sickies could just as easily be themed any other way if the decorations were different. But authentic atmosphere takes time, and Sickies Garage is still young.

Sickies has three things that make it worth the visit.

First, they make a really good chocolate malt ($3.59). Secondly, it has an enormous selection of beer, some of which are available from taps right at your booth.

The booth-side taps seem a bit superfluous, but they’re fun and strangely convenient. The meter keeps track of how many ounces you draw and charges you accordingly, generally well under 50 cents an ounce.

I had both beer and a malt on my last visit, but it’s probably a good idea to pick one or the other. I found making two trips (or even more if you find yourself overwhelmed by the brew options) to Sickies a must.

The third thing Sickies does is reproduce the heart-stopping cuisine of generations past, who didn’t pay much attention to diet and are no longer around to explain why. I can give you a hint. It tastes really, really good, and, once in a while, that’s reason enough to indulge.

The Sickie’s signature sandwich has all the bits of a classic American burger, including the curiously bland American cheese that we’ve all come to accept as comfort food. There is something genius in the combination of the char on slices of grilled steak and the sweet cream of soft egg yolk. Add a little hot sauce and some fried onions, and it becomes the best example of an American classic you can find in town.

Is it the best burger you can find in Fargo (a question I get asked often)? Put it this way: It’s not art; it’s culture. Perhaps 50-year-old pop culture, but culture none the less.

Wash the Sickie down with beer, but The Lug Nutz ($3.99) – three little burgers with the same American cheese you’ll find anywhere in America – requires something stronger.

Order a chocolate malt, and they will, in fact, make it themselves, with a little extra malt. Then laugh at the Bud Light drinkers for their middle-weight approach to drink and enjoy.

There are some disappointments. A great burger requires great sides, and most on the menu are only good enough. Cheese curds are a Midwest favorite, and you’d expect them to be hand battered. But it’s easily forgotten alongside the meat.

Servers are attentive, although they sometimes seem more interested in each other than their customers, but that’s not unusual in Fargo anymore.

But it’s surely a fun place to eat.

And I’d like to know what happened to the guy whose Hot Rod subscription is all over the tables. I hope he got the car he dreamed about, and I hope he knows what happened to his magazine collection.

SICKIES GARAGE

2525 9th Ave. S., Fargo

Cuisine: Classic

Ratings:

Food: 2.5

Service: 2.5

Ambiance: 2.5

out of 4 stars

Dining details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

Phone: (701) 478-7425

Reservations accepted: No

Alcohol: Beer

Dress: As you like

Credit cards accepted: Visa, Mastercard and Discover


Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com.