By Helmut Schmidt
Sickies Garage comes full circle with newest eatery in southwest Fargo
The popular restaurant and bar, known for its “50 burgers and 50 beers” is one of three Sickies locations planned to open around the U.S. in the company’s 10th anniversary year.
Fargo’s second Sickies Garage is ready to throw open its doors, heralding the start of a big anniversary year for the restaurant chain, which plans to open two more locations in 2022 to bring the concept to 10 outlets in 10 years.
The newest Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews, which opened Monday, Feb. 14, will be special, says Scott Upton, bringing the concept around full circle.
“Being able to bring a restaurant back to our hometown means a lot to us,” said Upton, a partner in Sickies and its parent company, Starmark Hospitality.
“Some local Fargo guys started a concept. We’re one of the lucky ones to make it to that level,” he said, during a tour of the metro’s newest eatery on Wednesday, Feb. 9.
The walls at 2551 45th St. S. are crammed with vintage car and motorcycle photos, magazine covers, street signs, beer signs, license plates and other gewgaws.
Look up, you’ll see car and truck hoods suspended from the ceiling or a go kart on the wall. And if you happen to be in the bar area, a 1943 Studebaker truck is bolted above a couple of booths with “about a ton of reinforced steel” a worker says.
“I call it organized chaos,” Upton said of the mancave modern decor.
But it fits with the extensive menu, which showcases the company’s signature “50 burgers and 50 brews” and a host of other items.
This Sickies has a full bar to serve liquor and cocktails. It’s the first in the chain with a bar separated from some of the dining room seating.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on being family friendly,” but the separate bar should make it even moreso, Upton said.
The indoor dining area can hold 200 people, but one section has garage doors that can be brought down to create a room for private events, Upton said.
The kitchen has the latest in automation, including a grill that presses down on burgers to cook them on both sides. A keypad offers options to cook patties to the precise level of doneness, taking a lot of the monitoring and guesswork out of the equation for busy cooks.
Similarly, fries can be automatically dropped, with the baskets rising as each batch is finished.
All of the Sickies restaurants are corporate owned.
Two more outlets are planned to open this year, in Omaha, Neb., and the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nev., Upton said.
The restaurant group has learned a lot about the challenges of going nationwide with its far-flung restaurants. The COVID-19 pandemic added lessons in supply chain flexibility and the importance of keeping and attracting good employees. Working with third-party delivery companies is now a cost of doing business, he said.
Upton would like to see Sickies grow at a rate of three restaurants per year. Once the concept hits about 15 stores, Upton said that could be a good point to consider franchising.
The Old Chicago that was once where Sickies is now, closed in April 2020 , one of Fargo-Moorhead’s early hospitality industry casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upton said the Sickies ownership group was eyeing the property, which is on 45th Street South, one of the metro area’s busiest arterial streets. However, it was hearing of EOLA, a large housing and commercial development by EPIC Companies going up just across the street, that sealed the deal.
Upton is betting that part of southwest Fargo will continue to see rapid growth and he’s excited to see how well the latest Sickies does.
“I look back 10 years ago” when the first Sickies was opened (at 3431 Fiechtner Drive S.), he said. “It’s been amazing. It’s been a fun ride.”