THE EATBEAT: Red Pepper thrives with quick, inexpensive, fun food“This is a far cry from Le Bernardin in New York City, the No. 1 restaurant where I had dinner after going viral in March.” That’s what I was thinking as I parked and went into Red Pepper on North 42nd Street the other day.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
“This is a far cry from Le Bernardin in New York City, the No. 1 restaurant where I had dinner after going viral in March.”
That’s what I was thinking as I parked and went into Red Pepper on North 42nd Street the other day. Then, I told myself, “After all, this is Grand Forks. And this is the Red Pepper.”
And the place proudly sports a sign saying Esquire magazine has declared the Pepper as “the best late-night food in the USA.”
My habit is to order a beef taco and a cheese tostado and wash them down with some diet cola. The food is crisp and fresh, and the price is right. My beef taco cost $1.29 and the cheese tostada was $1.59.
There are big booths and a row of tables for seating — along with a cozy round seating area. I chose a beautiful copper-studded table that has a sign over it reading “Bruce’s World.”
As I ate the tostado and taco, I thought they were good as ever. I wondered if they had shrunk a little.
Jeff Tellmann didn’t acknowledge that. He is the son of the late Bruce Tellmann, who bought the Red Pepper on University Avenue in 1973. That was when Bruce, a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, decided he stopped by there so much on the way to work he better buy the place.
At that time, Jeff Tellmann said his dad and mother, Jan Tellmann, went out on a limb and took a big risk. It was a risk that was wild and it worked.
The Tellmanns found themselves running what Jan called an “unpretentious place”. It had been there since 1961. It drew customers in with its Mexican wall hangings and booths with tables covered with initials and carvings by customers. And the succinct menu featured good, fresh food.
The Red Pepper used to bring in fresh food every day and start over the next day. Now, it is a matter of keeping food on hand for no more than two days. Employees grate 40 to 80 pounds of Colby cheese at each location daily, and each uses 80 to 150 pounds of hamburger every day. At the present time, the supply comes from Hugo’s.
The signature item at the two Red Peppers is the Grinder, which comes in three varieties — ham, salami or turkey. It’s basically $5.09. And you can add taco meat, Colby cheese, more meat and come up with an Everything Grinder for $8.69.
The Red Peppers feature Grinder Kits with everything needed to make four Grinders. Almost every day, the Pepper ships at least one somewhere in the country.
Tellmann said former students get a hankering for the Grinder. And those who come back can be found in long lines that wait at times at the Peppers. Sometimes, the line at the University Avenue Pepper stretches outside and down the street.
The old Red Pepper draws several rushes during the day. It is a late-night spot on weekends.
For me, the Pepper on University Avenue was a good place to have a quick bite to eat and visit with my granddaughter, Carrie Sandstrom (CS), and her roommate, Madison Sloan (MS) of Lakota, N.D. As I waited for CS and MS to arrive, I watched a steady stream of customers ranging in age from children to elderly.
While I am generally pleased with visiting the Red Pepper, I was put off by the unrestrained hair of one worker. The others working at the counter wore caps on backward that held back their hair.
Also, there seems to be no time for them to wipe off the tables between customers. And there is a sign by the plastic spoons that say they have no forks. So, I ate my beef enchilada ($2.99) with a plastic spoon.
But the lines of people at the Red Peppers indicate the pluses outweigh the minuses.
415 N. 42nd Street, 1011 University Ave., Grand Forks
Owner-operators: Jeff and Nicole Tellmann.
Telephone: (701) 772-8226.
Report card: Quick, inexpensive, fun food. Signature item is the grinder, a sandwich that goes all over the country and is first choice of former UND students who come back. University Avenue location is a late-night place.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (701) 772-1055.