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THE EATBEAT: Beef tips a huge draw at Al’s Grill

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When you go to Al’s Grill on Gateway Drive, you get to know that “attitude” is a flavorful kick of Asian spices.

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And customers in the know order their beef tip platters in “original” form or “with attitude.” The beef tips are served with a basket of garlic toast and rolls. Then, there are deluxe beef tip platters in a special house-made au jus sauce, tossed with onions, peppers and mushrooms.

The restaurant also is known for Al’s baby back ribs in a barbecue sauce.

While the menu is extensive, the beef tips and baby back pork ribs have long been the big draw for Al’s place. Al Decker started making them when he was in the kitchen at Southgate Bar and Lounge on South Washington Street. He launched out on his own when he opened Al’s also on South Washington. His move to Gateway Drive put him and his catering service into a place usually remembered as the Highway Host — although it had in the past been home to a series of restaurants.

The facility is inviting — soft lighting, comfortable booths, nice round tables and lots of windows.

It’s easy to get into the large parking lot. There is usually enough space to handle the mid-day rush and the people who prefer the bar before hockey games at nearby UND Ralph Arena.

I inadvertently ordered an all-white meal when I joined Barb Spicer (BS) for lunch at Al’s Place recently. I ordered walleye nuggets and then from the list of choices that go with it, I selected rice and coleslaw.

When my food arrived, each dish was fine. The only problem was that I needed some zip. Some color. So Jeanette Stengl, our server, suggested soy sauce for the rice.

BS and I agreed that a person has to stop and think about combinations when there are choices with the main dish.

Most people who go to Al’s Grill know very well what they want.

The wait staff at Al’s is good, and we had the pleasure of being served by Jeanette Stengl.

She is one of the most experienced in this area and has worked as a waitress for 40 years. Many of those years were at the former River Bend restaurant near East Grand Forks. She loves making her living at work she enjoys. And her attitude enhances the visit to Al’s.

Customers include construction workers who come in for a hot meal at noon. There are people who show up for roasted turkey on Fridays, hot pork on Tuesdays and meatloaf on Mondays. Thursday night is Chinese food night at Al’s.

Desserts are worthwhile — worth planning for ahead of time. BS and I found choices of carrot cake and rhubarb pie tempting.

Al’s Grill and Catering

3615 Gateway Drive, Grand Forks

Reservations: (701) 795-5183.

Owner: Al Decker.

Hours: Opens 11 a.m. daily; closes 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closes 4 p.m. Sunday.

Seating for 200 in main cafe area and 72 in adjoining lounge.

Beer and wine license.

Report card: A dependable, inviting place for lunch and dinner. Homemade sirloin beef tip platters are the signature item. Service very good on two visits. Homemade soups, hand-breaded walleye and onion rings are prepared in the full-service kitchen where Scott Doyea is catering manager. Prices are upper midrange.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or at (701) 772-1055.

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