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THE EATBEAT: Many summer visitors find their way back to Whitey's

In the summer, when back for reunions, many people drift over to Whitey's in East Grand Forks. And they tell nostalgic stories. Recently, a couple who were married in the 1940s came in and told the new manager, Tim Behm, all about going to Whitey...

In the summer, when back for reunions, many people drift over to Whitey's in East Grand Forks. And they tell nostalgic stories.

Recently, a couple who were married in the 1940s came in and told the new manager, Tim Behm, all about going to Whitey's on dates. They wanted to have an anniversary dinner there.

With new management after the retirement of Greg Stennes, there are changes. The restaurant is serving breakfast Saturday and Sunday mornings. There are new items on the menu. Behm said, "We are reaching out."

Still, he knows that many people go to Whitey's for the old favorites, such as pan-fried chicken livers. And the best-selling item continues to be the River Boat, a 4-ounce broiled tenderloin for $8.99 on sandwich menu. It is served with fries or coleslaw. Other best-sellers are prime rib and walleye.

With family members in town this month, we made a couple of obligatory trips to Whitey's. We found the same laid-back ambience with some servers in khaki shorts. The Wonderbar that survived the big Flood of 1997 still is the centerpiece. The west-side bar has a key position fronting the Red River on "Restaurant Row."

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We chose one of the big wooden booths instead of the dining room when my daughter, Carol Werner (CW), and I went to Whitey's with four grandkids. We asked for onion rings as we perused the big menu with all of its laminated pages. There's a lavosh with Havarti cheese I would like to try sometime.

We ordered chicken strips ($4.69) and grilled cheese with fries and carrot sticks ($5.59) for the children. The first Shirley Temple drink is free. Refills are $1.87.

CW, who waitressed at Whitey's as a UND student, ordered the chicken livers ($11.99) for old time's sake. I ordered a petite filet mignon ($9.99) that is served with a choice of potato and vegetables. You also get a relish tray and a toasted bread basket. The liver pate is excellent.

This filet was so good I went back a couple of days later with my granddaughter, Annie Sandstrom (AS), and ordered the same. AS also ordered another grilled cheese.

I have always liked Whitey's, its relaxed ambience and the usually good quality of food. The place seems pleasantly spacious.

As with any restaurant, there are pluses and minuses. While service generally is good, we waited more than 30 minutes for our order on the first visit. The second time, it was less than 15 minutes. I personally take a dim view of Shirley Temple pretend cocktails for kids. I was disturbed when a waiter refilled the big glass for a grandchild without first checking with the adults. The child was then too full to eat.

The onion rings got mixed reviews. We felt we had to order some. CW thought they used to have a different coating. A friend passing by said they are not like they used to be, although they are good. The chicken livers are the same as always. I doubt if many order them any more than they order mushroom asparagus tips ($8.99). But these are old standbys, and it would be disappointing not to see them on the menu.

I like the nice quality of silverware wrapped in a fresh white cloth napkin. I like the kid-friendly menu that includes good word games for children. I like the way mints are served with the check. Just a touch of sweetness at the end of a meal is good.

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Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gfherald.com or call (701) 772-1055.

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