THE EATBEAT: ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ at St. Thomas CafeThe little cafe in St. Thomas starts filling up about 11 a.m. Thursdays for turkey and is often full up by noon. The turkey dinner — which costs $7.25 — draws people from the entire area. And sometimes, the cafe sends meals out to workers in the nearby sugar beet fields.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
ST. THOMAS, N.D. — First, they ask whether you would like one or two slices of bread with your meal. Then, they ask if you want white or brown bread.
Once the bread is delivered, the turkey dinners arrive piping hot. On each plate, you find lean, light, home-cooked turkey on top. Beneath the white meat, you find nicely sliced and also lean dark meat. There is a ball of very good, coarse bread dressing, a little paper cup of cranberry sauce with a serving of cooked carrots and a mound of mashed potatoes. The meat and potatoes are laced with a smooth, almost sparkly light-colored gravy.
And you eat!
The little cafe in St. Thomas starts filling up about 11 a.m. Thursdays for turkey and is often full up by noon. The turkey dinner — which costs $7.25 — draws people from the entire area. And sometimes, the cafe sends meals out to workers in the nearby sugar beet fields.
The restaurant is managed by Bonnie Lunde, with Yvonne Blair assisting. They never get flustered when the place is full and the stove in the kitchen needs tending. Their customers know how to “just wait.”
The cafe seems to be the heart of St. Thomas, which had a population of about 440 in the last census. It is supported by businessmen of the area, who were able to arrange for a building housing a cafe as well as the post office.
The small cafe is homey and attractive with curtains on the front windows. There are three tables in the middle and six booths along the front and side. Booth Number 4 is where some women of the community have their regular coffee klatches. One of the larger tables in the center of the cafe is the place where farmers and businessmen talk over the events of the day. And there’s room in the back for groups.
The kitchen is in plain sight, fairly wide open and has a large mirror where the cooks can glance to check on the seating area. This is a place where most customers just pay up. They know the cost of menu items, and they don’t need a slip of paper on the table to tell them.
Turkey has been a tradition in St. Thomas for more than 20 years. On other weekdays, there are beef or pork dinners. Regular customers get to know the routine.
The menu is straightforward and printed on one laminated page. Breakfast items include eggs, toast, French toast, cold cereal and oatmeal. Then, there are omelets, toast and muffins. The lunch offerings are mostly hamburgers, beginning with a basic burger for $3.50.
Coffee is $1.25. And you can get canned pop for $1. No need to pay upwards of $2.50 for a beverage here. Some people drink milk, which is $1.25 for a small glass.
One businessman, Duane Littlejohn, said his favorite soup is the homemade vegetable beef. The desserts are well-received. And the cafe turns out stacks of Special K bars, wrapped in Saran Wrap, for $1.25.
Ellen O’Connor, who grew up in the area, was my companion on the trip to St. Thomas. We met to eat and talk turkey with Yvonne Stephens and Arvin Sundby, of Karlstad, Minn., and Don Puppe, of Hensel, N.D.
There is nothing fancy — no pretenses — at the St. Thomas Cafe. The cooks will tell you their food is old-fashioned and pretty plain. They use Miracle Whip in their popular potato salad.
There’s a sign over the big wide door to the kitchen that says, “Eat, drink and be merry.”
St. Thomas Cafe
St. Thomas, N.D.
Manager: Bonnie Lunde
Telephone: (701) 257-6897.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.
Report card: They talk turkey at noon Thursdays in St. Thomas, and this small cafe packs in the customers. The food is consistently good, not fancy. Service is friendly even when the cooks are bogged down. Surroundings seem light and clean.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (701) 772-1055.