Wild Hog Smokehouse Bar and Grill

Wild Hog Smokehouse Bar and Grill, 4410 South Washington St., Grand Forks, NDR Wild Hog.jpg
Price: $$$$$
Ambiance: 2.5/5
Service: 2.5/5
Food: 2.5/5

Our visits to the Wild Hog are becoming less frequent, less anticipatory; going there only on the spur of moment, when we are nearby.  Maybe we are getting bored with the establishment or maybe it’s the little bothersome things, that are not serious or upsetting by themselves, irksome maybe; which, over time, sum up to a disagreeable experience.

The Wild Hog is located on S. Washington to the east and across the street from the Altru’s architecturally muddled, health complex, with easy access and plenty of up-close parking. The bar and grill are separated into two equal parts with no hard dividing line or functional difference between them.  The dining area, including the bar, is a causal affair with spacious booths capable of easily seating 6 and wooden tables and chairs seating 4 or more.  There is a private room useful for parties of a dozen plus. The lounge side is furnished with a fully stocked bar surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped seating counter, and beyond that, bar height wooden tables, seating four or more. The bar does get claustrophobic and noisy when full.  The walls throughout the restaurant are hung with flat screens broadcasting sports programing of all sorts.  Most of the screens are too small, there are a few large screens, to watch for more than a few moments without incurring serious eye strain; fewer but larger screens would be an improvement.

Service is always a hit or miss adventure at the Wild Hog; usually the deciding factor in grading your visit.  Seating, usually prompt and immediate has been known to be a thumb twirling, toe tapping exercise.  Getting service once seated is never quick even when the place is sparsely populated. Once the drinks are ordered expecting to see them in a timely manner, if they involve anything alcoholic, is wishful.  This is one of the periods where you finish your texting to the unimportant people in your life.

We always start with drinks at the Wild Hog.  When in the mood for just a beer, we’re covered, the basics such as Bud, Miller, Coors and some finer brews such as Stella are here. Great, job well done, except they assume you want to drink out of a bottle if your brand is not on tap.  Of all the times I’ve had a beer at the Hog not once, let me repeat myself, not once, but I repeat myself, have they asked if I wanted to quaff that tasty beer from a frosty mug or glass. Life gets complicated if you want a mixed drink.  The Hog-tender presumes that a margarita is a girl’s name, but not to upset the customer, she concocts a drink of cheap tequila and lime juice on ice, creating the absolute, no contest, worst, dreadfully awful drink in the lower 48 states and 10 Canadian provinces. Stay clear, lime flavored bison spit is a step up.  Ordering a simple martini requires step by step instructions to the person occupying space behind the bar. My God it’s just gin and vermouth. A Gibson is impossible since cocktail onions are missing in action. The Hog bar is stocked but avoid the disappointment and order a Miller Lite.

Appetizers are always a nice addition to a meal and or drinks.  Choosing which app to nibble on can be a little tricky here; if not done properly you risk departing prematurely. The Boneless Tenders, 6 for $10 or 12 for $16 are very good strips of chicken and you certainly can make a meal from them. Try them with the Hog’s Honey BBQ sauce. Forget the Hogs in a Blanket, corn dogs from your grocery’s frozen section would be a better pick. The Burnt Ends, $10, are worth a try; one of the few new additions, along with the Fish Tacos, $13, I believe, to the menu in the last several years. The Spinach Artichoke Dip would be good if it ever came hot. After 2 or 3 orders of cold to slightly warm dip, slow learning occurs occasionally in my family, we gave up on this dish.  The BBQ Nachos or Deconstructed Nachos, $12, are not your run of the mill Mexican restaurant or even ballpark nachos.  Try the Deconstructed Nachos without the BBQ sauce; I find chips and BBQ sauce a difficult combination, although the one time I did order them deconstructed they came as constructed BBQ Nachos, so I’m a little inexperienced on advice for this one except that I know that I don’t like the non-deconstructed nachos. The overly salty Tostitos Rounds are exceptionally unremarkable chips for any restaurant; a negative everywhere except possibly for drunken party in your home. The Onion Tanglers, $8, are silly.

The main dishes are generally good, not terrific, not terrible, just good, fill you up, comfort food.  BBQ Pulled Pork, $16, is my favorite, the go-to when you can’t make up your mind, and if you want a little less volume try the Smokehouse Sandwich, $10, with pulled pork.  The Prime Rib Sandwich, $14 is tender and delicious, ordering it Philly style, $15.50, is even better. The Carne Asada Wrap, $11, The Classic Burger, $10, and the Fish Tacos, $13 are all good and worth trying, lunch or dinner.

The Wild Hog is ok; just ok.

Sky’s Restaurant and Cloud 9 Lounge

Sky Restaurant and Cloud 9 Lounge, 322 Demers, Grand Forks, NDR Sky's

  • Price: $$$$$
  • Ambiance: 4.0/5
  • Service: 4.5/5
  • Food: 3.5/5

Wednesday, sundown is an hour or so away, temperature has dropped to 70, the few trees sway, and the day’s end has a name:

And after such a blazing day
At last the breeze began to play
I drained my glass and turned to see
Her face she smiled she spoke to me
I told her my name I asked her the same
She said they call me sky…

(partial lyrics to Sky performed by Human League, written by: Philip Oakey and N. Barton © 2011.)

We met some friends at Sky’s for dinner, drinks, catch-up conversation and laughs. The guys discussed ways of the world, fishing, favorite and not so favorite beers and of course, times gone by. The gals were in high form, animated, speaking in their secret language; we ignored each other, mostly, except to comment on the food and drinks, and with more drinks, more comments, not necessarily on food and drinks, but certainly drinks were discussed when only the ice remained.

The restaurant and lounge are located on the second floor of the old First National Bank building, built-in 1915, accessible by escalator near the main floor entrance. Sky’s atmosphere and décor are upscale chic with a casual flare, nice clean lines without any pretensions to something greater, wooden chairs and cloth booths. White, starched table cloths at the booth tables would have afforded a stylish touch. There were some plastic looking orangish-red chairs with chrome frames mixed in with the wooden chairs at the tables, appearing embarrassed and out-of-place. We sat at a booth overlooking Demers Avenue which is not terrible scenic but it affords an opportunity to study the people on the sidewalks below without shame or guilt.

We started our event with Tanqueray and tonic and a margarita on the rocks. Not particularly difficult to make well, but nevertheless they were good, cool, and refreshing. We followed that up with more margaritas, Bailey’s, and Stella beers. A fine night it was. For some inexplicable reason we passed on sampling the wine selection, which appeared prodigious, but now we have an additional reason to return.

We followed the drinks up with an appetizer of escargot, $12, immersed in cognac butter with a faint amount of garlic, brought to our table in a white porcelain escargot tray, served very hot, but in a nit-picking way, not sizzling, popping and bubbling, affording a 4th of July delivery. A sliced white bread roll was added to soak up every drop of the piquant butter.  The escargots were delicious and definitely primed us for the entrees.

I ordered the filet mignon, $36, with a warm pink center, and accompanied with asparagus spears and a demi-glaze sauce served on the side, but I passed on the potatoes for waist-line reasons. My spouse asked for the herb crusted lamb loin, $28, served medium, and topped off with asparagus spears, garlic mashed potatoes and apple chutney sauce.  The filet was presented in a pedestrian manner with a half-dozen of so asparagus spears stacked on top of each other, opposite the steak sans dress.  The filet came well done with the very center being medium well and a peppercorn sauce was substituted for the demi-glaze.  The overcooked filet was tender but lacked the juiciness of medium.  The asparagus was crisp, not tough, and tasty.  The waitress was apologetic for the steak and sauce errors and offered to start over, but being the trooper that I am, I just carried on. She then offered to buy dessert but in the end we declined, although having the manager trek over to our booth and tell us that the chef had a terrible toothache and was having trouble concentrating on his art would have cheered us some…more.  The lamb, served sliced and stacked en-echelon around the contours of the plate, bogarting ones attention to the detriment of the asparagus and potatoes. The lamb came as ordered, a perfect warm pink center, seasoned to perfection. Wonderful.

Service was as one would expect, prompt, courteous, and attentive at all the right times.

We’ll go again mainly to sample the wine selection and under the assumption that the kitchen was having a bad night or toothache, deserving of a second chance.

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