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Sample Review Essay

Written by a Student

Nancy Hanson

English 1101

28 March 20xx

Usher’s House:

A Great Getaway in City Limits

Fargo/Moorhead has a vast array of restaurants to choose from, but not very many fine dining establishments. This evening, in hopes of finding something a little out of the ordinary, my spouse and I chose Usher’s House, a casual fine dining restaurant located near the Red River in downtown Moorhead, just off First Avenue North. We were looking for a romantic feel in the atmosphere, high-class service, and food that was a bit unique and pleasurable to the palette. Since it was a special occasion for us, we were not concerned about the cost of our dining experience. Usher’s House was new to us, and for the most part, it did not disappoint. The restaurant has a beautiful atmosphere, satisfactory service, and a unique blend of quality menu items.

For diners who haven’t been to Usher’s House before, prepare to be blown away by the warm and classy atmosphere of the restaurant. Walking up to the building, I was intrigued by the stone walls, giving it a castle-like feel. As we entered the oversized doors, and walked through Monk’s Pub to the back of the building known as Usher’s House, I was astonished by the view. Three of the four walls were floor-to-ceiling windows, empowering the gorgeous view of the Red River and its long, narrow valley. The fourth wall was built of large, rectangular stones which gave the room an enchanted feeling.

In addition, Usher’s does a good job of making the dining room feel warm and intimate. There were only fourteen tables in the dining room, but they were nicely spaced for privacy. The tables were decorated with black tablecloths and cloth napkins. The warm lighting in the room came from a custom-grid ceiling with recessed lighting. It gave our dining experience the romantic feel we were looking for. Candlelight would have added to the already relaxing atmosphere, but the votive candle on our table wasn’t real and had a burnt-out light bulb inside, so we set it aside and enjoyed the rest of the charming experience. No other restaurant in the Fargo/Moorhead area offers the same charm as Usher’s House. Diners will feel like they’re secluded from the busy cities of Fargo and Moorhead while still within city limits.

Unlike the fantastic atmosphere, the service at Usher’s House was nothing more than satisfactory. Guests can expect immediate seating due to the sparse population of guests. However, they seem to be short-staffed. Our server, who happened to be the only server on duty at the time, served us with a smile, but she seemed to be rushed, and therefore gave us the feeling that we were being rushed as well.

Our server took our orders down in memory, thanked us, and left as quickly as she had arrived. It’s impressive when a waiter/waitress can take your food order without writing the orders down. Ten minutes is all it took to prepare our meal and serve it to us. In most cases, quick service of food is wonderful, but at a fine dining restaurant, you expect a wait; therefore, you can look forward to a nice conversation in the meantime. Unfortunately, the quick arrival of our food, once again, made us feel as though we were being rushed.

As the evening continued, the restaurant began to fill up. Another server was added, but by this point they still weren’t adequately staffed. Our waitress passed us by more than once while our drinks sat empty. Other fine dining restaurants, such as the HoDo, Monte’s, and Porter Creek all do a much better job regarding the service. Usher’s House needs to increase its staff to better serve their customers.

But service aside, Usher’s House has many fantastic menu items. They offer a variety of appetizers with options like calamari and hot artichoke dip. They also have several unique options on their appetizer menu, like Pork Belly, or Gravlax, a “House cured Scottish-Atlantic salmon on focaccia toast points w/sliced egg, red onion, capers, cucumbers, and balsamic reduction.” Appetizers cost between $8 and $15. The pub menu offers a spread of entrees, including some that are unique to the area, such as Shepherd’s Pie or Bangers and Mash. The children’s menu, though, is limited to three items: macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, and cheese flatbread. Clearly, it’s not intended to be a family restaurant.

The dinner entrees include the traditional Top Sirloin ($25), Ribeye ($30), Vegetarian Pasta ($22), and Pork Tenderloin ($24), all with a non-traditional twist, adding sweet sauces and delectable vegetables. Unique to most restaurants in the Fargo/Moorhead area, they serve elk in the form of burgers ($18) and steaks ($29). Their other burgers and sandwiches have enticing names such as the Grilled Portabella, Crabby BLT, Flyin’ Hawaiian, and Shrimp Po’ Boy, all ranging in price from $8.00 to $13.00 and served with hand-cut chips or sweet potato chips.

The food was definitely pleasurable to the palette and appealing to the eye. The pan-seared peppercorn-crusted elk steak was prepared as ordered. It arrived upon a bed of sweet potato bleu cheese whips, long-stemmed seasonal broccoli and carrots, and was surrounded by lingonberry demi, a sweet raspberry sauce, which packed a punch to the taste buds when used as a dipping sauce. The cut itself was not a huge portion, but overall, the meal was pleasurable. The elk steak was prepared to a perfect medium rare, and the side dishes were outstanding. It’s clear Usher’s House is run by a top-notch chef. The taste, presentation, and creativity are hands-down as good or better than other fine dining establishments in the Fargo/Moorhead area.

In short, Usher’s House has a beautiful atmosphere for a romantic evening, the service was just satisfactory for a fine dining restaurant, but the food was beautifully created. I would recommend Usher’s House to anyone who wants to try something new and get away from the traditional restaurant. However, I would not recommend it to a family with small children. All in all, if diners want something different, Usher’s House is the place to go.

Usher’s House

700 1st Avenue North

Moorhead, MN



Monday – Saturday: 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Atmosphere – 4.9 out of 5

Service – 3 out of 5

Food Quality – 5 out of 5

Overall Grade – 4.5 out of 5

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