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THE EATBEAT: Bring a big appetite for 20-ounce Hastings Landing burger

DRAYTON, N.D. Sometimes late in the day, Christine Jensen lights candles on tables to create a cozy ambience for dinner hours in her Hastings Landing restaurant. And when she does that, the late afternoon coffee drinkers kid her about failing to ...

DRAYTON, N.D. Sometimes late in the day, Christine Jensen lights candles on tables to create a cozy ambience for dinner hours in her Hastings Landing restaurant. And when she does that, the late afternoon coffee drinkers kid her about failing to pay her electricity bill.

Christine and her husband, Tracy Giles, have been in charge of the Drayton restaurant for two months. But in that time, they have connected enough to exchange jokes and feel the support of the community.

The restaurant had been closed for a couple of years. Then, after the Zoo Bar next to the restaurant burned this past winter, things seemed bleek.

But Pete Marciniak, who operates the Zoo, bought the building with the empty restaurant in the front and the Zoo Bar in the rear. Giles and Jensen reopened the restaurant and use seating in the Zoo when they have overflow business and for their Sunday morning brunches.

One of the big draws in the restaurant is a huge 20-ounce burger that comes with a pile of fries on a bamboo platter for $10. It feeds four!

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The restaurant also features prime rib Friday and Saturday nights along with steaks and barbecued ribs that are served with Papa Lou's sauce. The ribs come in 12-ounce Queen-size orders for $12.95 or 16-ounce King-size for $16.95. Papa Lou's sauce is named after Christine Jensen's dad, Larry Jensen, who lives in Drayton with other relatives.

My plan is to get back up here on a Friday or Saturday evening and enjoy a dinner in the Zoo. It would be a nice 40-mile drive on a summer evening.

The dinner menu is inviting, with pork chops, chicken and seafood. The dinners come with choice of potato, soup or salad and all-you-can-eat fresh garlic toast. Dinners range in price from $6.50 for liver and onions to $16.95 for a 16-ounce T-bone.

Breakfast has been good and getting better with farming operations under way around the town. The restaurant draws a coffee klatch in the morning and another coffee group in the afternoon the kind that shakes dice to see who pays.

When I stopped for a late lunch a week ago, one of the specials was a Healthy Stacker sandwich ($5.75) with fries, salad or soup. The sandwich arrived on whole grain bread and was piled high with deli turkey, tomato, lettuce, mayo and Swiss cheese. It was excellent. The macaroni-tomato soup that came with it was piping hot and had a sharp tomato taste. It was thick, but not too thick. A pleasing consistency.

The lunch was better than average. At least a B. I noticed a couple of men at a nearby table eating hot beef sandwiches that came with mashed potatoes and glistening brown gravy.

Each day, there are a couple of specials. And Hastings Landing sends out orders to the nearby American Crystal Sugar beet plant and other places around town.

The takeout business is encouraging to the new owners, and they are starting a pizza delivery service, which they say is something new for Drayton. The town also has a new drive-in.

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Hastings Landing is a restaurant that has a long history in Drayton, with ownership changing from time to time. Owning their own restaurant is a dream come true for Giles and Jensen, who met when he was a cook and she was a waitress in Smoky's Bar and Lounge in West Fargo, N.D., which has since closed. She is a graduate of North Dakota State University and has written for the Record newspaper in Grafton, N.D.

The restaurant has been redecorated with white walls, rose-colored wainscoting and black tables and chairs replacing the booths. The counter is gone. Adding interest are nicely framed black-and-white photographs that tell the history of Drayton. People of the community have been encouraged to bring in photographs that show how the town looked in days past.

Hastings Landing stands ready to again welcome people whenever there is an event in town. It was open for high school students to hang out after the prom early this month. It is there to serve Canadians who travel up and down Interstate 29.

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

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