They started out tentatively in October two years ago in Hillsboro. Derek and Kate Ehnert moved into a sturdy old building on the rather deserted Main Street. In its day, the building housed the Johnson Store, now long gone.
And with the work of the Ehnerts, it came alive again as a homey restaurant. There are eight tables of varying size and shapes. And there is a small counter. The walls are full of historical memorabilia. There’s an extra room to seat the overflow.
The café is the only full scale dining place in this town half way between Grand Forks and Fargo on Interstate 29.
Ehnerts brought with them his experience at Kroll’s Diner, Perkins and Denny’s in Fargo. She brought her restaurant experience and education at NDSU in Fargo.
Now the Hillsboro Café seems to be a gathering place. It draws workers from the nearby American Crystal plant and harvesters for lunch. It draws area people for breakfast and more for lunch between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on week days.
The restaurant reaches beyond the average menu. Along with the usual fare, there is cranberry wild rice French toast that comes from the griddle. And there’s a turkey bacon melt sandwich I ordered that comes with sliced turkey and bacon along with cheddar cheese and tomatoes on grilled cranberry wild rice bread.
The sandwich ($10) was excellent. Well worth the drive to Hillsboro. Large enough to share with SS (Susie Shaft). With, it I had a creamy potato soup and SS was pleased with a veggie beef barley soup.
At this time of year the Ehnerts find many of their customers are working in nearby fields. They need their food quick and hot.
The menu is inviting and easy to read. It features eight sandwiches served with chips ranging in price from $6.50 for grilled cheese to hot beef sandwiches for $10. There’s also a chicken salad sandwich among eight on the menu.
As they settled into Hillsboro, the Ehnerts started featuring a cupcake of the month. Proceeds help to pay overdue lunch accounts at the school.
These days, people start settling in to the Hillsboro Café before noon.
And while the restaurant is a lot of work, Katie Ehnert says, “We enjoy it more than we ever thought.”
The Hillsboro Café
3 North Main Street
Owner-operators: Derek and Kate Ehnert
Hours: 7 a.m. opening Monday through Friday, with 3 p.m. closing Monday-Thursday and 8 p.m. closing Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Report card: A better than average home owned café that brings new life to downtown Hillsboro after two years in business. It features unique home cooking. There is seating for 40 in the main dining room and a side room with seating for 30. The average tab is $15.