than 20,000 people pour into Bismarck every fall to
see one of the largest Native American powwows in
the country, featuring drummers and dancers from
roughly 70 tribes
N.D. — The state capital of North Dakota feels more like
a small town than a surly legislative city.
the kind of place where people smile at you when you walk
down the street. Stop to ask them a question, and you’ll
likely get an answer along with some hospitable banter
about the weather.
this town of roughly 72,000, no one seems to be in much of
a hurry. That’s understandable given how compact the
downtown area is; there’s no need to rush. Most
everything is within walking distance, from restaurants,
cafes and breweries to shops, art galleries and the
have many amenities usually associated with larger
cities," said Jim Christianson, vice chairman of
Bismarck’s Renaissance Zone Authority, a group that
works on downtown revitalization projects. "But we
have a secret weapon: People here are honest, friendly and
will go out of their way to help a stranger."
said his lifelong hometown is "at a unique point in
its nearly 150-year-old history." (While the city was
founded in 1872, the region has a rich Native American
heritage that’s still celebrated today.) Renovation
projects and new construction are re-energizing this
growing city, making it an increasingly attractive place
for younger professionals to return to after college and
careers lured them away.
of these so-called "boomerangs" is Le Cordon
Bleu-trained chef Stephanie Miller, who appeared on CNBC’s
"Restaurant Startup" in 2016 while working in
Minneapolis. Not too long ago, she and her husband, Shane
Cornelius, moved back to Bismarck, where they opened the
downtown eatery Butterhorn late last year.
thought Bismarck was ready for a different type of
restaurant, one that until now could only be found in
places like Minneapolis or Chicago," said Miller, who
named the place after the flaky, buttery pastries she made
with both of her grandmothers as a child. The creative
dishes include beef tongue bruschetta, Indian butter
chicken and rabbit cacciatore.
menu changes seasonally, but the namesake product is a
constant. The dinner-only restaurant recently expanded its
hours to begin offering brunch, where one of the items is
the Butterhorn Trio, served with cinnamon butter, jam and
burgeoning craft-brewery business is one of the most
telling signs of the city’s renaissance. To fully
appreciate the city’s revived brew scene, you need to
know its past.
to Mike Frohlich, co-owner and head brewer of Laughing Sun
Brewing Co., what used to be the sole brewery in Bismarck
shut its doors in the 1960s. The long drought didn’t end
until 2012, with the advent of Laughing Sun, which plans
to move this autumn from its North Fifth Street location
to much bigger digs on Front Avenue. Until then, Laughing
Sun will continue to brew and sell its suds in downtown’s
historic Laskin Building.
brewery hosts live music acts about four nights a week.
For beers, try the aromatic Feast Like a Sultan IPA, or
make a selection from the new Shakedown Series, such as
the Shakedown Strawberry Ale that’s similar to a
Dakota is one of the top barley-producing states with
high-quality products, so it makes sense to brew
here," Frohlich said. "Plus, people in North
Dakota like beer."
speaks the truth: Brewing trade publisher Beer Marketer’s
Insights reports that North Dakota residents consumed 38.3
gallons of beer per drinking-age adult in 2017, trailing
only Montana (39.4) and New Hampshire (40.6).
Sun used to be the only game in town, until the
microbrewery Bismarck Brewing opened a loft-style taproom
earlier this year on the second floor of Ale Works
restaurant, which serves several stick-to-your-ribs items
such as sauerbraten, a German pot roast made from the
owners’ family recipe, and jaeger schnitzel, a pork
cutlet served with an addictive caper mustard sauce and
homemade spaetzle. The food pairs nicely with Bismarck
Brewing’s Belgian wheats, Scotch ales, pilsners, IPAs
Brewing Co. has opened inside the city’s historic train
depot, and Stonehome Brewing Co. is headed for a newly
built bank near the Capitol later this year. (The 19-story
art deco statehouse, commonly referred to as the Prairie
Skyscraper, is the tallest building in North Dakota. It’s
open for public tours year-round.)
brewery, Dialectic, was scheduled to debut in late May in
nearby Mandan, across the Missouri River from Bismarck.
Unlike a lot of brewpubs, this one won’t have
televisions; the proprietors want customers to talk to one
another over lagers and ale-style beers without the
distraction of a football game.
great way to explore the outdoors is a kayak trip on the
river; Missouri River Kayak Rentals can hook you up with
gear. Or rent bikes from 701 Cycle and Sport, and pedal
along the scenic Missouri Valley Millennium Legacy Trail
that parallels the waterway.
five miles south of downtown Mandan, the trail leads to
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, where Custer and his 7th
Cavalry departed for an ill-fated expedition that
culminated with Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the
Little Bighorn in 1876.
fort also is home to the On-A-Slant Indian Village, whose
reconstructed earth lodges give visitors a sense of what
life was like for the Native Americans who occupied the
site from approximately 1575 to 1781.
in Bismarck, the North Dakota Heritage Center and State
Museum tells the history of the area’s indigenous people
and the settlers who followed, among other things.
Must-sees in the museum include life-size T. rex and
Triceratops skeletons, a panoramic mural — supplemented
with the sound of flutes and other audio — depicting a
1500s Indian village, and arrowheads, pottery, tools and
similar artifacts used by Native Americans who lived in
North Dakota between 13,000 years ago and 1860.
more Native American culture, plan a visit to Bismarck in
the fall for the United Tribes Technical College
International Powwow. The annual event, now in its 49th
year, takes place Sept. 7-9 and features more than 1,500
dancers and drummers from 70 tribes.
leave town without a stop at Fireflour, serving the city’s
best cup of coffee and tasty Neapolitan-style pizzas in a
friendly, welcoming environment — just like Bismarck.