Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Belview: A taste of small town Minnesota November 13, 2019

Looking to the south in downtown Belview.


TOO MUCH TIME HAS PASSED since I’ve explored small towns with my camera. Things happens and we get diverted by more important matters that require our full attention. So life goes. But life is settling somewhat now and I have time to pause and take in the nuances of places, which I love to document.

This past weekend Randy and I traveled 2.5 hours west to my native Redwood County to visit my mom in a senior living center. But before we pulled into Parkview, we swung through the heart of Belview, population around 350. It’s a small farming community on the southwestern Minnesota Prairie.


The sandwich board caught my attention as we drove by.


Belview did not disappoint. I spotted a sandwich board outside the Belview Bar & Grill that required a stop and a few quick photos. The sign was, oh, so Minnesotan with a menu listing that included Tater Tot Hotdish. We joke about our hotdishes here in Minnesota. That would be casseroles to those of you who live elsewhere. Hotdish ingredients here lean to hamburger, pasta/rice/tater tots and a creamy soup (mushroom/chicken/celery) to bind everything together. Spices? Salt and pepper.


The sign also promoted the University of Minnesota Gophers football game at 11 that morning. The Gophers went on to defeat Penn State.


At some point in Minnesota culinary lore, Tater Tot Hotdish became our signature hotdish. I don’t know that it still holds such high esteem. I much prefer Minnesotan Amy Thielen’s more savory and complicated Classic Chicken Wild Rice Hotdish.


While I’ve not eaten at the Belview Bar & Grill, I will always choose a home-grown eatery over a chain.


But others, I expect, still embrace the basics of that solid and comforting tater tot-topped hotdish. Belview Bar & Grill advertised the dish, along with chili and beef stew, as hunters’ specials. That would be deer hunting. I saw a few orange-attired hunters in Belview, including two who stopped at the senior care center to drop off lunch for an employee.

These are the small town stories I love. Stories that I discover simply by observing, by listening, by gathering photos that document everyday life.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “From Belview: A taste of small town Minnesota”

  1. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    Tater Hot Dish – that’s OK, nice decent food. But gophers? Reminds me of my brother-in-law’s Creamed Possum in Coon Fat Gravy.

    • Oh, Marilyn, gophers are not on the menu. Gophers is referencing the University of Minnesota mascot, the Gophers, and their big game at 11 on Saturday. Take a second look at the sign. But I can see, how at first glance, you took it as a menu item.

  2. LOL…I had to double check the name of the town as it looks like Kettle River! That Main Street could be from my hometown in Northern MN for sure, you betcha. Deer season already? Where has this year gone?

  3. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson (One Minnesota Writer) Says:

    Love that very first shot in your post today! There’s something poignant about two people walking together across the street of a small town, one in which the main street disappears into countryside. Tater tot hot dish is not my favorite, but I do appreciate its place in Minnesota food lore.

  4. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    As much of a “Road-tripper” that I am, I always look forward to your posts on Minnesota towns that I didn’t even know existed. (there are just so many) Especially those in SW Minnesota where I have yet to explore. I also noticed the “Taco Bar” sign. I love all of those foods mentioned

  5. Charles Ziegler Says:

    Thank you so much for this post! One of my aunts lived in Belview for many years, and during my family visits to my grandfather’s farm in nearby Sheridan Township we made many visits to her and her family in Belview. I remember very well the water tower in your first photo. I recall the tank being painted silver, with black lettering. That water tower was visible in the distance from the grove on my grandfather’s farm. I am very glad to see that Belview is still a flourishing town. Seaforth, the other town we often visited, I believe is somewhat less successful these days.

  6. I have fond memories of the MN Hotdishes. Should have bought stock in soup with all the cans we had on hand growing up along with rice, potatoes, beef and chicken – ha! The Gophers/Penn State game was nail biting at the end – Go Gophers!!! Hope your mom is doing well. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • Hotdishes are not nearly as common as decades ago in Minnesota when they were a staple. But you’re right. Should have bought stock in those cream soups.

      I watched only parts of the Gophers-Penn State game as we were visiting mom and on the road during the game. Mom is on hospice. I treasure every visit with her.

  7. valeriebollinger Says:

    I love the sign advertising Tater Tot Hotdish!

  8. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    Mmm tater tot hot dish just made the menu for this week! I’m so tired of choosing what to cook and of no one else having an input.

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