A longtime Minot restaurant has gotten a fresh makeover in its decor as well as its menu.
Deli at the Fair, 122 S. Main St., in The Fair building, came under the ownership of Trinell McPhail Dec. 3, and she has infused her new business with a Southern sensibility that exudes from the walls right into the food.
"What we're doing here is we're keeping the same sandwiches that have been on the menu, but we added our own flair, Southern cooking. For breakfast we were putting things on the menu like Belgian waffles and breakfast burritos," McPhail said. "We're having soul food Fridays and soul food Saturdays where we have fried chicken, barbecued ribs, collard greens, peach cobbler, and gumbo, things like that."
Something else McPhail is adding to is the restaurant's hours. The soul food Fridays and Saturdays, which start Jan. 7, will be adding evening hours so customers can still get a meal later in the day.
Regular hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., with evening hours on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturdays they are open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and are closed on Sundays.
McPhail said a lot of customers have been asking why they don't stay open a little bit longer, so she decided to oblige them with evening hours during the weekends.
She also said a lot of customers have been asking about diabetic options, so on Mondays they will be adding diabetic meals and desserts. That will be starting Jan. 10.
"It's still going to taste good, and it's still going to be good enough for everybody," McPhail said. "It's going to be a good tasting meal."
Something else she changed was the restaurant's appearance. The walls have been painted with warm earth tones with decorative touches such as flowers on the tables and colorful wall hangings sprinkled throughout.
"I redecorated this whole restaurant, and I wanted to have a warm, cozy feeling to it so people could come here and relax and feel like they're at home," McPhail said.
Yet another new addition is the Web site, (www.deliatthefair.com), which features the breakfast and lunch menus, specials, and also offers online ordering for things like cookies, sandwiches and muffins. McPhail said she wants to cater more and customers who place catering orders on the Web site can get a discount. Doing a Google search for Deli at the Fair with also reveal a printable coupon for 10 percent off one meal. Just click on the yellow tag beneath the Google map that comes up in the search results and look under "Offers" for the coupon.
This is McPhail's first business, and she is leaning on family to help her out. McPhail asked her sister, Iona Moore, who has been a cook for years, if she would agree to manage a restaurant if McPhail purchased one, and she said yes. McPhail also managed to convince her brother, Jarvis Kelly, who washes dishes and does other cleaning duties, to come help out. Both siblings moved to Minot from sunny Florida, where they all grew up.
McPhail, whose husband is in the Air Force and was stationed at Minot Air Force Base Aug. 31, said it's been her life's dream to own her own restaurant. When she found out Deli at the Fair was for sale, one visit was all it took to convince her this was the chance she had been waiting for.
"We came down here, we loved it," McPhail said. "It was small and quiet and cozy and warm."
McPhail said she and her sister have dreamed about owning a restaurant for years, and now that they have finally realized their dream, McPhail said there is definitely a mixture of emotions.
"It's scary and exciting at the same time," McPhail said with a laugh.
Moore said when they were growing up her brother was able to tell she was meant to cook early on.
"When we was younger, everybody else had plain hot dogs and I was the only one with a chili cheese hot dog, so he always said I was going to cook," Moore said with a laugh.
Coming from Florida into another fierce North Dakota winter must have been shock to McPhail's two siblings, but she said Moore has grown to love it here and would like to stay. While Kelly isn't too thrilled about the snow, he seems to like it in Minot as well.
Although this is her first time in the restaurant business in any capacity, McPhail couldn't be more pleased with how things have been going so far. She said "fast" is the best way to describe what owning her very first business has been like, but she credits the two employees who worked under the old owner as well as her brother and sister as being a tremendous help.
"They take pretty good care of me," McPhail said. "It's been a happy experience."
One thing McPhail quickly found out was just how loyal the restaurant's customers are, and they have obviously been spreading the word to their friends and family. She said her employees have noticed many new customers coming in lately, which she is thrilled about.
McPhail said many of the customer favorites are things she has added to the menu since taking over. New additions that people have been raving about include shepherd pie, barbecued ribs and apple pie.
Another new item that gets great reviews is something she came up with called orange soup. Taking its name from the color of its thick broth, orange soup was named by her children. It's a concoction of potatoes, cream of onion, tomato soup, sausage and beans.
"It's all hearty, big chunks, and that's what they like about our soups that we've been making. The fact that there's big chunks of everything in it," McPhail said. "And they said that that's the difference between the soups that used to be made here at Deli at the Fair and the soups that we make now."
Orange soup underscores McPhail's approach to cooking. She grew up in a family of nine in Quincy, Fla., a town of around 11,000 people in the panhandle of Florida, near the state capital of Tallahassee.
With a family that large, finding suitable meals could be challenging to say the least. McPhail said they would often create their own recipes from whatever happened to be in the pantry. Her mother called these creations "dahas," a word she made up that came to describe the recipes that resulted from all the experimentation in the kitchen.
"We grew up very poor, and sometimes we used to throw a lot of stuff in a pot and we would come up with a meal, and that's how I came up with the orange soup," McPhail said. "I just threw a lot of stuff in the pot."
This homestyle approach to cooking is how McPhail has kept longtime customers of Deli at the Fair coming back and why new people are streaming into the cozy little restaurant every day. Although she might be new to this, McPhail has proven that a little Southern sizzle can go a long way in warming the snowy streets of North Dakota.
"We wanted to make Southern food to warm the hearts and the stomachs of the customers that we serve," she said.