(This column recently appeared in the Devils Lake Journal, my hometown newspaper in Devils Lake, North Dakota.)
A few months ago I made a super quick trip to North Dakota. I flew into Minot late one Friday night, and my Dad Fast Eddie came and picked me up the next morning. On the drive back to Devils Lake I enjoyed a leisurely chat with my Dad. Talk turned to what we might have for supper, aka is dinner in some parts, that night and Dad said he already knew, which was a good thing because I had absolutely no clue. Taco pizza from the Pizza Ranch my Dad replied. That immediately got me excited because taco pizza is one of my favorite things and you don’t find it on the menu at the hundreds of pizza joints in Colorado, at least not how it’s made at the Pizza Ranch and other ND pizzerias. It’s not something I ate every week when I lived in DL last year, but the Pizza Ranch was definitely a go to place for taco pizza and its tasty buffet. We also sometimes got take out from there when I worked at the Journal.
Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve always had my go to restaurants, some of them the type of place you might find on the uber popular Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” also referred to as Triple D. I was watching an episode recently where host Guy Fieri visited a good ole-fashioned drive-in restaurant. It made me remember that Devils Lake used to be home to at least four drive-in restaurants – hopefully I’ll get the names right – Dels, Nick’s Chicken Inn, the Barrel and A&W. I remember going to Nick’s Chicken Inn with my parents when I was in grade school. My sister and I would be in the back seat, my parents in the front. I don’t recall what I had to eat when we went there, probably a hamburger and French fries, however I do remember silently praying that after our meal we would go to the Dairy Queen for ice cream. Thinking back on it I see now that praying for ice cream at such a young age was an early sign of the serious sweet tooth I was developing.When I was in junior high school, one of my friend’s mother and her sister bought the Barrel restaurant and hired my friend and many of her friends, including myself to work as car hops. For those who don’t remember the Barrel it was actually shaped like a barrel and was a small place, which made for a cramped but interesting work space. My friends and I worked there several summers and had so much fun, yucking it up when things were slow and making lists of the “Top 10 Cute Boys in DL” on our green order pads. One of my high school gal pals brought one of the lists to a high school reunion where we laughed and reminisced about how much we enjoyed working there. We also ate a lot of ice cream, one of my favorites being maple nut. However, what I loved eating most at the Barrel were the pizza burgers. I don’t remember if they were made there or were purchased, I just remember how yummy and juicy they were and that I have never found anything like them since at any restaurant. I’ve even tried making them at home, and I can’t seem to get it just right. The burgers were made with a spicy, saucy hamburger mix with mozzarella cheese inside that would melt and dribble down the bun with each bite. Guy Fieri himself would have approved and given these juicy burgers one of his signature “this is killer” kudos.