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Lunch tour concludes on an empty stomach

Please join me on my Monday noon-hour drive around Grand Forks. I turn east out of the Herald's parking lot onto Second Avenue North. Because of snow piled in the gutters, the fence around the under-construction Brownstone Elite condos and parked...

Please join me on my Monday noon-hour drive around Grand Forks.

I turn east out of the Herald's parking lot onto Second Avenue North. Because of snow piled in the gutters, the fence around the under-construction Brownstone Elite condos and parked cars on both sides, the avenue basically has one lane. When turning east, it's a crapshoot whether you can travel the half-block to Third Street before west-heading traffic forces you to retreat. It's basically a game of chicken.

As I make my dash, I notice the Brownstone's exterior isn't exclusively reddish-brown bricks. The alley side of the building - the side seen through Herald windows - is covered with siding. So, it's three-fourths brownstone and one-fourth gray siding. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Two blocks away sits Town Square, which likely will be renamed Sam Silverman Square in honor of the recently deceased downtown businessman. It takes a big local name such as Silverman, Gambucci, Purpur or Kraft - or $104 million - to get your name attached to something. However, Sam was no square.

On the other hand, newspaper columnists have a monopoly on having lift stations named after them. I often wonder if I ever will be worthy of joining Marilyn Hagerty and Dave Barry in having my name connected with raw sewage movement.

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As I drive past the Plain Brown Rapper and Widman's Candy, I wonder if there are any other side-by-side businesses in River City that peddle more different wares than those two? If there is anyone justified in being a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), it would be George Widman.

I stop at the corner of the Urban Stampede, the downtown coffee shop that I predicted had the same chance of survival as bottled water. The Urban has flourished with its boutique coffees, as have a multitude of other coffee shops, most of them franchises.

Although I still prefer the dirt-cheap (and dirt-tasting) Folgers at my desk, I sometimes visit the Urban for peace and quiet and its wireless Internet access. The Urban - in typical Grand Forks fashion - is a national trendsetter.

That's because Starbucks and McDonald's are among the national chains that are offering wireless access to their customers. Starbucks has it in 5,100 stores nationally, and McDonald's has it in more than half of its 13,700 stores. Since laptops are as common accessories as cell phones among young adults, it won't be long before every restaurant in the land offers the service.

I drive past my bank, one of its three branch offices in the city and I wonder: Why do banks need a branch within walking distance of every home?

As I proceed south through residential areas, the ice mostly has disappeared from the treacherous roads of a day or three earlier, the victim of Sunday's sun and/or sand. But the ice hanging from roofs has grown. Icicles are pretty - as long as they're on someone else's roof causing damage.

I'm trolling for a lunch spot along 32nd Avenue South. The newly opened Texas Roadhouse doesn't start serving until 4 p.m. The newly opened Golden Corral has a plump-full parking lot.

Texas Roadhouse has a country western flavor, complete with occasional line-dancing by its servers. Golden Corral sounds western, but isn't. And then there's Grizzly's.

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With all of the cowboylike restaurant names, what's the next eatery to arrive in Grand Forks, the Horse Trough Buffet or Miss Kitty's Vittles?

Alas, the lunch hour has elapsed and I'm back at the office without lunch. I'm still hungry. But I do have a column idea.

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