Red Pepper enjoyed by the sober

Red Pepper located at 1011 University Ave. in Grand Forks. Photo by Jennifer Friese/The Dakota Student.

The city of Grand Forks is known for two things; the first being this city gets colder than a nun on Valentine’s Day and the second being it is the birthplace of the coveted Red Pepper restaurant.

Being a freshman at UND, I had heard fanciful tales of the wonders that awaited my taste buds at the Red Pepper from older classmates. Granted, the people that told me it was an excellent restaurant are the same type of people that described it as, ”The friggin’ bomb, man,” so it is tough to say how accurate that statement may be. Therefore, I set off on a quest to give an honest, unbiased, sober review of the Red Pepper.

It is commonly known among college students that the Red Pepper offers excellent drunk food. Drunk food — for the blissfully oblivious and my mother — is food that is best consumed while intoxicated, namely for being cheap and easy.

To get a decent understanding of average drunk food, I ordered a meal at a local Dairy Queen a day prior to going to the Red Pepper. Did you know that Dairy Queen even serves regular food? Well, you should probably forget because it is not very good. Regardless, with this mediocre benchmark in mind, I proceeded to go to the Red Pepper.

Some people would describe the location and appearance of the Red Pepper as “quaint.” Others, like me, would describe it as “sketchier than buying electrical appliances from the back of a van.” It is situated in between two houses in a residential district, exactly where a thriving business shouldn’t be. But the fact that it has lasted for more than 50 years in this location was promising. After all, a restaurant cannot last in such a place if it isn’t any good. I’m really trying to like you, Red Pepper, so please stop looking like a front for a money-laundering scheme.

Upon getting out of my car, I was immediately greeted by a half drunk bottle of wine sitting on the sidewalk directly in front of the restaurant. Rather than instantly taking this as a sign from the heavens that the Red Pepper really did only cater to drunk people, I instead chalked it up to the fact that Grand Forks is a college town. There are probably half drank bottles of wine everywhere. So, with that in mind, I pressed on into the small restaurant.

The first thing I noticed upon entering Red Pepper was the welcoming atmosphere, a stark contrast from its shady outside view. A few booths were nestled opposite of the cash register, with a massive TV playing the Wild game on the far wall. Upon closer inspection, many of the walls were decorated in graffiti, with everything from “Kaity was here” to “call xxx-xxxx for a good time”. Personally, I thought this added to the laid back mood of the restaurant.

Frequently, the food at Red Pepper is compared to that of Taco Bell. The differences between the two restaurants is huge, with the most important being that going to the Red Pepper doesn’t leave your clothes smelling like body odor and your father’s disappointment. The only real similarity I saw between the two was the price point. Almost everything on the menu was less than five dollars, and generously coated in hand shredded Colby cheese.

I ordered a taco, a mexi burger, a tostada, and a turkey half grinder to get a feel for everything the restaurant had to offer. Not a single one of these menu items disappointed me. The tostada and taco were served with homemade enchilada sauce that my Minnesotan taste buds would call spicy, but most everyone else would consider mild. It is hard to explain how soft the bun of the grinder sandwich was, but it can be best described as somewhere between a pillow and a cloud. The entire half sandwich was 8 inches long and cost a mere $2.60. Subway should be taking notes.

Much like a grizzled street dog or a philosophy major, the Red Pepper’s shabby appearance can make it seem like something that should be avoided at all costs. But quite frankly, the food there is just too good to pass up. Red Pepper certainly lives up to its hype, and it has thoroughly earned its 4 out of 5 star ranking thanks to its quality and affordable prices.

Brendan McCabe is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].