PHOTOS BY Paul Flessland
Known for his popular Mexican restaurants, Romo’s Tacos, Rodolfo Romo has set out on a venture in American fare with his newest establishment. When Kitchen Gremlin closed a few months back, Romo jumped at the offer to occupy the restaurant’s former Broadway space and bring his new concept, Magnolia’s Restaurant, to the public. But his road to something new hasn’t been easy.
When you ask Romo why he decided to open a restaurant in Fargo, he’ll tell you that he was really just looking for a job. When you ask him how he ended up in Fargo in the first place five years ago, he’ll tell you that he got lost.
“I’m originally from Jaliso, Mexico, but I was living in Omaha, Nebraska, and there was a recession. I couldn’t find a good job there. Someone had told me about a job in South Dakota and I think I was supposed to stop at Mount Rushmore. He told me it was a six-anda-half-hour drive and to take 1-29 north and that I would get there. I didn’t take a turn and six-and-a-half-hours later I was on 13th Avenue South in Fargo and I stayed,” said Romo.
Once Romo arrived in Fargo, he stopped for dinner at the local IHOP and found a job there right away. After cooking at IHOP while also working construction, he started cooking for other area restaurants such as Lucky’s 13 Pub and Longhorn Steakhouse.
Just over three years ago, Romo started his own food truck off of 32nd Avenue South that served up tacos and authentic Mexican fare. Four months later, his first full Romo’s Tacos restaurant opened up on 13th Avenue South in a strip mall just off of 1-29. This past March marked the 13th Avenue location’s three-year anniversary, and in the last three years Romo has also expanded his restaurant to locations in Downtown Fargo’s historic Black Building and in a strip mall on the southern side of 19th Avenue North.
Romo said that his food creations don’t come from family recipes or passeddown traditions, but mostly from his years of experience working as a chef. However, running his own food business has not been the easiest for Romo despite his Mexican chain’s success.
“The beginning was very hard. Four years ago I didn’t have any grey hair,” said Romo. “Everything is going, but it’s hard. It is what it is. Either I do this or I work for somebody else. When you have a regular job you can call in sick or take a day off but here, I can’t. But it’s not so bad.”
What To Expect At Magnolia’s Restaurant
Although he’s well known for his authentic Mexican cuisine, Romo is confident in trying something different with his new restaurant. After a quick refresh and update to the old Kitchen Gremlin space, Magnolia’s opened to the public in late February. The restaurant serves up American fare with a focus on steak, pasta and seafood. You’ll also find a great selection of burgers and potato casseroles on the menu as well. Romo said that the menu is starting small, and that they try to make every dish as good as possible every single time.
Avocado Burger with cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and avocado with homemade fries
LUNCH SPECIAL: $6 burger and fries combo
“I think this place is beautiful and nice. It’s at street level, unlike Romo’s Tacos downtown, which is in a basement. I love this place. It’s big and it has a lot of potential. We need to get people in here to try the food,” said Romo.
The restaurant currently does not serve alcohol, but a liquor license is something that Romo said he’s working on for the future. In the meantime, great features of the restaurant include its affordability, the specials, quality of the food, portion sizes and the fact that the menu and atmosphere is family-friendly. Each dish on the menu is extremely approachable and executed well, with a focus on realistic portions and not over-serving.
12-ounce New York Strip with fresh vegetables
DINNERTIME STEAK SPECIAL: 2 New York Strips for $18 or 2 Sirloins for $16
“A lot of people think we might do big portions to try and get people in here or that we put a lot of food on a plate just to get people to eat a lot, but we don’t do that. We serve regular portions and do normal sizes very good,” said Romo. “When you go out to eat here in Fargo, you can pay $20 for a steak and I think that’s too expensive for people a lot of the time. I’m trying to make it more affordable and even better. Sometimes you can go out to and pay a lot of money for no flavor.”
Walleye with a white wine and garlic butter glaze and a side of sweet potatos
All in all, Romo has a message for those who have yet to hear about Magnolia’s or give it a chance: “Don’t be afraid to try the food. We just want people to come in and give us at least one try. It’s affordable and approachable.”
402 Broadway N, Fargo
3402 13th Ave. S, Fargo
118 Broadway N, Fargo (Black Building Lower Level)
1100 19th Ave. N, Fargo