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New Grand Forks Somali restaurant aims to build bridges

The proprietor of a new restaurant serving Somali food in Grand Forks hopes his business will be a bridge between different cultures.

Elias Dean opened Steer's at 2915 S. Washington St. last month. Its menu includes a chicken kabob dish, cambuulo and a musakhan sandwich, which is a kind of chicken wrap.

It's open for lunch and dinner along with breakfast, as Dean said many restaurants in Grand Forks serve pork in the morning.

"We have a population of like 3,000 Muslims here, and there's nowhere we can have breakfast," he said.

Dean said said he wanted to open Steer's to provide a place where people from different cultures can eat together and feel comfortable with each other.

"People can come intermingle with us, and just feel free and get to know us," he said.

Dean, who is originally from Somalia, moved to the U.S. in 2012 "to have a better life." He opened a business in East Grand Forks last year selling shoes, but he has since transformed that into a shop selling clothing for women and kids, he said.

"When I came to Grand Forks I only had $200 with me and I didn't know anybody here," he said.

Chick-fil-A not 'confirmed'

A spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A, the national chain of chicken sandwich restaurants, said this week the company is evaluating a potential Grand Forks location but there is "nothing to confirm."

A request to allow a driveway to access a future Chick-fil-A restaurant near the Columbia Mall is pending before the Grand Forks Planning and Zoning Commission. The board saw the proposal Sept. 7 but tabled it, said Brad Gengler, director of the Planning and Community Development Department.

"Grand Forks is a great community that has a dynamic, multi-faceted economy base and a strong foundation to support a Chick-fil-A restaurant," Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Brenda Morrow said in an email. "While we hope to serve the Grand Forks community in the future, we do not currently have any locations to confirm."

Morrow said in a follow-up email the company is "evaluating" a Grand Forks store.

Gengler said the city is reviewing a site plan for a nearly 5,000-square-foot restaurant, which would be adjacent to Texas Roadhouse off of 32nd Avenue South.

Grand Forks motel demoed

A motel on Grand Forks' south side met the metaphorical wrecking ball this week.

Demolition work began Monday on the Happy Host Inn, located at 3101 S. 17th St., right across the street from the 32nd Avenue South Hugo's grocery store. Property owner Don Lee said he's not sure what will become of the area after the work is done, but new structures are planned.

"They're doing all the topographical stuff and figuring out what has to happen with storm sewers and all that kind of stuff," he said. "We have people approaching us almost daily with ideas."

The demolition work is limited to the motel part of the structure and not the office. That space will be remodeled over the winter, Lee said.

Lee owns the property with his wife, Connie. They haven't operated the motel business since they purchased it earlier this year.

Lee said the purchase "connects up nicely" with their ownership of the adjacent Northern Air Family Fun Center building.

The Happy Host building was constructed in 1976, according to Grand Forks County property records.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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