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THE EATBEAT: Old Main in Devils Lake a full-service, traditional restaurant

Longtime Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty and her review of Olive Garden going viral is the Herald's 2012 story of the year. Grand Forks Herald photo by John Stennes.1 / 2
The Old Main Street Cafe and Pub in Devils Lake, N.D.2 / 2

DEVILS LAKE -- The soup bar is waiting, and people stream into Old Main Street Cafe and Pub at noon.

On a cool October day, the unique soup corner in this long-time downtown restaurant is especially appealing. My companions were Donna Gillig (DG) and Suzanne Huus (SH).

They liked the homemade tomato soup so much that they had two bowls. You can do that, said our rural Starkweather, N.D., friends Mike and Ellen Connor (MC) and (EC). My choice of soup was knoephla that is most popular in central North Dakota with its many descendants of Germans from Russia. The taste and smooth consistency was there.

We ordered sandwiches that go with the soup bar for $6.29 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. We were happy campers, and I especially enjoyed an egg salad sandwich on very soft, whole wheat bread. It tasted like the sandwiches you make at home.

We noticed that most of the customers who streamed into this downtown restaurant lined up for soup. You find stacks of nice soup bowls and saucers. On the side, there are oyster crackers, plain crackers, breads and anything else you could want. The soup choices on our visit were beer cheese, potato, chili, knoephla, vegetable and chicken noodle.

Not everyone eats soup. The restaurant has a full menu and a variety of eating areas, including a corner bar. MC, who sometimes joins the early-morning coffee drinkers, says the conversation is lively. There is one group in the corner bar area and another by the front window. They joke about where Democrats and Republicans should sit.

This is a full-service, traditional restaurant. Almost a treasure since it was restored as the only one on the lively main street. DG and SH agreed it was worth the day-trip lunch stop. The place is a conglomeration of seating areas with two areas up flights of stairs. There are four stools at a counter and three other seating areas on the main floor.

The menu is plain and delightful. Most of the items are named after North Dakota locations. That is, you can get a Grand Forks Beef Wrap ($6.99) or a Fargo Philly sandwich (also $6.99). There is a Grafton Tortilla Wrap, a Lakota Burger and McVille Breadsticks.

The menu is complete for all-day eating. MC and EC often stay in Devils Lake for dinner after driving in for groceries. Dinner choices include the Tolna Queen 8-ounce Prime Rib ($13.99) and a Towner 12-ounce King Prime Rib dinner ($15.99).

There's an Old Main senior menu for ages 55 to 99. It says anyone older than 99 eats for free.

Our server was Tina Kraft, who does an amazingly good job of serving people as she skips up and down stairs -- and is here, there and everywhere. The assistant manager, Jason Schall, was also on duty -- also moving quickly. He started working as a dishwasher at Old Main 12 years ago. Jeff and Brenda Huber, who own the restaurant, also run Mr. and Mrs. J's restaurant just off of Highway 2 in Devils Lake.

Old Main Street Cafe and Pub

Devils Lake, N.D.

Owners: Jeff and Brenda Huber.

Manager: Pete Hoffart; Assistant manager, Jason Schall.

Seating capacity: 132.

Reservations: (701) 662-8814.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Report card: Soup bar is superb. Restaurant is an adventure with various seating areas. Complete full service menu. Servers are above average.

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

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