Sometimes the writing is on the wall and other times you can erase it and start again. With a well-known stop near Dent — The Pickle Factory Bar and Grill — being up for sale, it was a matter of time before someone decided to take the establishment and put their own spin on it. For friends Sara Watson and Terri Trickle, they took erasing and starting over again literally as they turned bar and grill into Blackboard (29961 415th St., Vergas).
Friends since kindergarten, Watson and Trickle both have backgrounds in restaurants and bars. Watson has been working in the business for 15-plus years in Fargo-Moorhead, while Trickle has had several of her own businesses. The two have worked together on and off for several years, but after the coronavirus pandemic caused several restaurants and bars to close, the duo decided to try something new. After a phone call to vent about the situation, Watson suggested that they just “buy The Pickle Factory” and Trickle said “OK.”
The new owners took over the business on May 29, but there was plenty of work still to be done. “We did an extensive amount of cleaning, remodeling, redecorating and repairs” Trickle said. “We spent three weeks getting the building ready for service and by the time the building was ready, we could be open.”
Currently, the restaurant is open from 4-9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with the bar staying open late. The owners hope to expand their hours and days when the restrictions are lifted and they have a well-trained staff. Watson and Trickle both emphasized that they care about the safety of not only their customers but the staff that works there. Following the guidelines set by the state, the restaurant has been able to space out their tables, both in the restaurant and on their deck.
That isn’t to say the restaurant isn’t busy. Since opening their doors, they have been filled to capacity nearly every night. As of now, the restaurant is first-come, first-served without reservations. But there has been discussion that out of town visitors may have the option in the future.
The menu is also unique as there may be a few standbys, but for the most part, it changes every evening. One evening you may have a barbecue bacon-wrapped meatloaf, another a cavatappi alfredo. “We are very eclectic, and we intend to be. The menu changes often. Someone will have something one week and come back the next week thinking it’s going to be here and it might not be,” Watson said.
Some of the items on the menu are also based on memories that the two had as kids including “School Lunch Lady” pizza, barbecued little smokies or homemade mozzarella sticks. “We want to recreate that experience for other people,” Trickle said.
“We are not fine dining, we are a bar in the country with good food,” Watson added.
Another aspect of the restaurant is what is in store for the kids. While many restaurants provide crayons and coloring paper, the eatery will provide its namesake and chalk for kids to use. In addition, there is also a candy shop inside the restaurant that children and adults can purchase their favorite candies.
The Blackboard is also looking for help. While Watson’s and Trickle’s families have been helping out, the owners are looking for additional staff including wait staff, cooks and bartenders. “We have seven staff members, and we need seven more,” Watson laughed.
The restaurant has done takeout and a few catering gigs. “Will do more as we are able to,” Watson said. Not only is catering on the table, but Blackboard is also available to host events including weddings, brunches and birthday parties. “What our goal is, is to renovate a service kitchen downstairs so that we can have more catering options,” Trickle added.
One of the hardest adjustments for the restaurant is the new restrictions. “We have to reprint the menus every single day and that is a huge cost,” Trickle added. This has changed the way both are used to operating but they have quickly adapted.
While the view is spectacular during the summer, both owners are excited for every season’s opportunities. “It will be so gorgeous out here in the winter. We have neighbors down the road that do sleigh rides, we will collaborate with a lot of neighbors to do fun activities. We have enough land here to do cross-country skiing, snowshoeing. We will always be here for a cozy warm spot with good food and hot totties,” Watson laughed.
While it is a great start, both owners have visions for the future. This includes stops by cyclists coming from the new bicycle path being installed, flower gardens around the building and expanded seating. But for now, Watson and Trickle will continue to produce good food.