THE EATBEAT: Capitol Cafe offers lots of choices, rock bottom pricesWhen I entered the Capitol Cafe, I hung back. It takes time for a visitor to study the many choices of food, juices, coffee and fruit. It was the fruit that most impressed me. There were huge oranges, nice bananas, big red apples on display here and there in clear glass containers.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
BISMARCK — A couple of young women wearing high-heeled boots sounded like a herd of horses going down the corridor to the cafe in North Dakota’s capitol.
They were busy talking and I fell in line behind them as we came to the cafeteria. The women, who work in the capitol, have their morning routine set and proceeded to the counter, where they order.
On this recent Monday, the cafe offered a croissant with egg, cheese and choice of meat for $3.29. There was a breakfast burrito for $2.10 and $2.59 with meat. And that is what I ordered. I found it to be pretty good, but not outstanding.
When I entered the cafeteria, I hung back. It takes time for a visitor to study the many choices of food, juices, coffee and fruit. It was the fruit that most impressed me. There were huge oranges, nice bananas, big red apples on display here and there in clear glass containers.
It took me a while to figure out they were fake fruits on display. The real stuff was near the cash register. And it was not as elegant, but it was worthy.
Breakfast choices include raisin bran muffins, blueberry muffins and huge caramel rolls. The choices seem vast, and the cafeteria area is spacious.
When I got my coffee and my burrito along with a small can of tomato juice, I approached the cashier. She is Loretta Boehm, and she has been on the job in the state capitol for 43 years.
She makes the place seem inviting. She likes people and she enjoys visiting as time allows. She remembers when President George H.W. Bush visited the cafeteria during the North Dakota centennial celebration in 1989. She remembers fondly the late Ben Meier, secretary of state, and how she enjoyed visiting with him.
State officials have come and gone. Management of the cafeteria has come and gone. But Loretta remains at the register. At busy times, there is a second cash register and another worker.
Most of the days, it is Loretta.
The prices at the Capitol Cafe are rock bottom. The customers bus their own dishes. There’s a homey feel to the cafeteria even though it is large.
The seating area is vast with table and chair accommodations for about 200. There are windows on the south side looking out toward the North Dakota Heritage Center. There are windows at the east side looking out to the parking area there.
There are red, orange and blue banners extended from the ceiling. They add a cheery touch of color to the otherwise austere surroundings.
You see legislators in serious conversations. Much of the state’s business grows from talk around tables in the cafeteria. You see school children on a visit. You see people who have come to the capitol to attend hearings or observe sessions.
The menu on Wednesdays in April features items such as a Rancher’s Special with Toast ($3.55) and a barbecued chicken breast with au gratin potatoes and vegetables with a roll ($5.42). There’s a German-Russian accent to offerings such as fleischkuekle — a meat pie within flatbread. It’s served with broccoli and cauliflower salad for lunch ($5.33). Other distinctly North Dakota offerings with Germans from Russia flavor include knoephla soup.
People who take their mid-day meals at the Capitol Cafe can get hearty choices such as chopped sirloin with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetable and a dinner roll for lunch. The menu varies from day to day and includes pizza and a beef or chicken taco bar.
Capitol Cafe, Bismarck
First floor, North Dakota State Capitol
Telephone: (701) 223-8766
Hours: 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; closed weekends and holidays
Report card: Many varied choices from day to day lift this cafeteria from humdrum to interesting. Food is of good quality. Prices are very reasonable.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 772-1055.