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Eatbeat: Forest River comes alive at Tom's Lounge

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On Wednesdays, it's Mexican night. On Friday's, it's steaks. Or pork chops. Whatever.

On Sundays, bikers and local folks drop in for two for one burgers.

The quiet little village of Forest River, N.D., comes alive at Tom's Lounge. Customers from the area as well as Grand Forks or Fargo find their way to Forest River. It's just north of Gilby and Johnstown. Many have been there for the annual outdoor bonspiel — which is in February, a week after the Super Bowl.

Six of us gathered around one of the tables at Tom's Lounge a week ago Friday. We were well pleased with orders from the menu that offers steak, seafood, pork, chicken, burgers, baskets.

My pork chop ($9.50) was large, lean and thin. Well done. Just the way I like it.

Anita Geffre, who came by "bike" with her husband, Daryl Geffre, chose chicken strips. DG enjoyed the pork chop. Susie Shaft and Haley Wamstad went the steak route. Kirsten Stromsodt had shrimp. The salads served in bowls were crisp and plentiful. The t-bone was so big it brought on the comment: "Holy cow."

On this Friday night in summer, Tom's Lounge went from a few people at the bar to several tables of dinner guests. Owner Jimmie Hejlik was busy in the kitchen. Most of the customers knew each other. But if they didn't, they were anxious to make acquaintance.

This is a good times type of place. In between the Wednesday and Friday specialties, there is pizza available. It's pizza made on the premises.

Once you find Forest River, it's easy to find Tom's Lounge on 210 Front Street. It's 30 miles from Grand Forks. There's a park across the way where the outdoor bonspiel is held in the winter. And there's a bean plant and elevator in Forest River. In late summer, farmers all around are harvesting crops such as sugar beets, edible beans, potatoes, soybeans and corn.

Still, customers fill up the 75 seats at Tom's on Fridays, as well as Wednesday Mexican night.

Dorothy Moreland, our server, helps with the cooking and makes much of the Mexican food. She's a whiz. She helps out as a bartender.

Owner Hejlik has lived in Fordville for 14 years. He took over the business originally started by Tom Veitch.

These days, most everyone seems cheery and comfortable around Tom's Lounge. Hejlik manages the small kitchen and buys from U.S. Foods.

He's always liked to cook. And with steaks, his rule is not to overcook them. The 14-ounce ribeye and the 20-ounce sirloin are best sellers.

The rest room is small. Not fancy.

Tom's Lounge

210 Front Street, Forest River, N.D.

Telephone: (701) 248-3216

Owner-chef: Jim Hejlik

Report card: A pleasant 30-mile drive for a usually good dinner in pleasant, friendly surroundings. Moderate-high prices. Great steak dinners. Mexican food featured on Wednesdays.