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OUR OPINION: Here's hoping the Boot stays alive and kicking

As the world now knows, Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty sometimes writes in "North Dakota Nice" code. If she devotes most of her column to a restaurant's napkins, decor, parking and other nonessentials, that might be because she's too polite to write about the food.

But no one has needed codebooks to understand Marilyn's columns about the Bronze Boot.

"The Bronze Boot is a place where you can get what you want," she wrote in 1994.

"I went there after the Optimist meeting and ordered a Gene Burger on a toasted bun. It's a 5-ounce hamburger with cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato for $3.50.

"And is it good! This hamburger was the best I have eaten in a long time. The meat seemed freshly ground. It was nicely browned, yet moist, and it had a wonderful taste. ...

"The Gene burger came close to the Monster Burgers we used to get at Jacoby's Hamburger Heaven when we first came to Grand Forks in 1957. And the Monster Burger was one of the reasons I quickly grew I love Grand Forks.

"That, and the Bronze Boot."

Here's Marilyn in 2001, and the feeling's still the same:

"At the Boot, you get more than at most restaurants," she wrote.

"You have a choice of tomato juice or onion soup. You get a basket of rolls and very good garlic toast. You get a salad. ... The steak, served on a plate that keeps it warm, came with mushrooms and a little garnish of kale and radish slice. It was perfect. The baked potato was a red -- nice and moist and not too big. Soup and salad that preceded the steak were as good as you find anywhere.

"By the time we left, the place was packed. And it was busy again Saturday night. The Bronze Boot is one bustling place and for good reasons. The food is good, and the prices are right."

Fast forward 10 years to August 2011:

"An evening meal at 'the Boot' is always an occasion," Marilyn wrote.

"Our dinner was about as good as it gets. ... Potatoes come in many forms -- baked, stuffed, french fries, hash browns and au gratin. We chose baked, and they were perfect. Some choose pasta, rice or grilled vegetables instead of spuds.

"The steak was juicy, full of flavor and tender. And to make sure it was all right, Chef James Garceau came around to check."

On Tuesday, the Bronze Boot closed its doors because of health concerns over a leaky ceiling, said Don Shields, director of the Grand Forks Public Health Department, in a Herald story.

The department deserves great credit for putting health concerns first and insisting that the restaurant take action. It's not easy to make decisions that you know will hurt a restaurant's bottom line.

That said (and as Marilyn's columns show), the Boot is a Grand Forks institution, one of the area's best restaurants since it opened in 1954.

The Boot's chef cooked up breakfasts for 200 people in an emergency shelter during the 1997 flood. The restaurant itself was one of the first to reopen after the flood.

In short, the Boot has given generations of Grand Forks residents a terrific dining and conversation experience. We hope so much that the owners fix the roof and reopen to entertain generations more.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald