Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Friendly Fargo welcomes three Minnesotans March 1, 2012

Clean, quiet, friendly, inviting modern decor...I'd definitely recommend the Fairfield Inn.

FARGO GETS a bad rap.

OK, maybe the name isn’t all that appealing, as my 18-year-old noted. I suppose you could misconstrue Fargo as “Too-Far-To-Go.”

The wind definitely bites in Fargo. The land is most assuredly flat.

But I am here to tell you that the people are most certainly friendly. From Corey at the Fairfield Inn Marriott to the young mom and her daughter at Space Aliens Grill & Bar to Emma, our tour guide at North Dakota State University, every person we met welcomed my family with warmth during a recent visit to Fargo. Yes, they did.

Corey from the Fairfield front desk phoned our room shortly after our arrival to verify that we were satisfied with the accommodations. We were.

Later, helpful Corey even pulled out a map of the city and highlighted a route from the hotel to Space Aliens and to NDSU. He also advised us to allow 15 minutes of travel time to the college campus the next morning.

Pulling into the parking lot of Space Aliens, we noted a neon sign with this message: “Earthlings welcome.” Yes, a humorous welcome like that makes anyone feel at home.

Along Fargo's mall/restaurant strip, you'll find Space Aliens at 3250 32nd Ave. S.

In the ideal light of a setting sun, I photographed this image before entering Space Aliens.

Then before I stepped into the restaurant, a young mom whom I’d asked about food recommendations, really did say, “Welcome to Fargo.”

“Can we eat with her?” her little girl asked, looking directly at me.

We didn’t. Eat with her.

I walked into the restaurant and shot this image as the sun set on Fargo. Just like looking through the doors of a fictional spaceship. I would have really loved this place as a kid, being a fan of "Lost in Space" and all.

We sat in a booth along the far wall in this dining room packed with young families. Yes, Space Aliens is definitely a kid-oriented place with all things space and a game room. Lots of lights. Lots of noise. We found the food to be over-priced for what we got in both quantity and quality.

We dined in a room where our waitress, a local college student, had to repeat the list of dips for fries three times above the din of diners. And gold star for her, she didn’t even appear annoyed by our inability to hear or our difficulty deciphering menus in poor lighting conditions.

The main dining area was mostly empty when we arrived. As you can see, lots to take in visually.

A final parting shot of Space Aliens, a particularly fun restaurant to photograph and with a great atmosphere for kids who love space and need to be entertained while dining out.

The next morning we awoke to the sun rising in splendid shades of rose for an 8:45 a.m. appointment at the university. Perfect day, despite the biting wind. Caring more about warmth than fashion, my husband, son and I clamped on our stocking caps and gloves for our campus tour led by the friendly, backward-walking Emma.

More Fargo friendliness followed during meetings with an admissions rep and engineering professor and during impromptu chats with two engineering students.

So there you have it. Fargo friendliness. Everywhere.

No wood chippers in sight, although I understand you’ll find one at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Center. (It’s the real wood chipper used in the Coen brothers’ movie, “Fargo,” from whence many Fargo stereotypes have evolved.)

I spotted not a single red-and-black buffalo plaid flannel shirt, except the one I wore upon our arrival from Minnesota.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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