Big Appetites Gather at the Pitchfork Fondue in Medora, North Dakota

When I learned that I would be going to North Dakota for a speaking opportunity at the Midwest Travel Bloggers Conference, I was skeptical about what activities my big family of boys might enjoy doing there. Sure, there was miles and miles of beautiful scenery, but I had never heard of Medora, and I didn't know anything about the area.

Part of the perks of my time there would include a visit to the Pitchfork Fondue. Here's what we discovered about this delicious dining experience, including tips for big families who want to go there.

What is the Pitchfork Fondue?

Quite simply put, Pitchfork Fondue is an outdoor dining experience overlooking the Badlands of North Dakota. Steaks are cooked to perfection on the end of long pitchforks; cowboy cooks load them up and dip them into big fondue vats of oil. The result is a delicious steak and all the trimmings, too!

The steaks are only cooked one way -- no special requests of "medium rare," for example. Fortunately, these are tender and juicy, even cooked past the point I like the best. My "medium well" husband and I found them to be amazingly seasoned and perfect with some steak sauce.

What do they serve?

While steak is the star of the occasion, there are other items to choose from for your main. Kids under 12 can get the hot dog meal, and on Mondays through Fridays, from 5:30 - 6:30 pm, there is a Cowboy Cookout Option. This gets you Buffalo Roast, Herb Roasted Chicken and BBQ Ribs  -- a taste of everything great about the area!

Don't forget about the ample sides. This was my favorite part of the meal. Each paid guest can walk down the buffet lines and load their trays with salad, coleslaw, fresh fruit, baked beans, garlic toast, and baked potatoes. For dessert, they offer brownies or sweet little cinnamon-sugar donuts. Drinks such as lemonade, water, and coffee come free with your meal.

For an extra charge, get in line at the Tjaden Terrace Bar, where you can order a glass of wine, sodas, or a beer. This is a popular destination at the Fondue, so get there early!

Do they offer vegetarian meals?

Those who don't eat meat are in luck. Ask for "just the Fixin's" and get a loaded tray of tasty sides, enough to be considered a full meal in itself. (Note: these items aren't necessary vegan.)

How much does it cost?

Pricing varies by the meal you order and the time of week, but here are the prices for 2019:

Steak and Buffet - $29.95
Just the Fixin's - $15.95
12 and under Hot Dog Meal - $7.95
Cowboy Cookout and Buffet (Mon - Fri) - $29.95
12 and under Cowboy Cookout - $15.95

Taxes and fees -- plus any beverages from the bar -- are extra.

Extra considerations for families

As we are a big family, it can be difficult to dine out -- especially with a buffet atmosphere. Fortunately, the team at the Pitchfork Fondue have thought of everything. Here are a number of tips for managing your time with kids, especially if you have little ones with special needs:

  • Get there early for the best experience. While people don't start lining up until right when it opens, those with small kids will want to avoid being in the back of a very, very long line. Use your time to walk around the area, see the beautiful views, and familiarize yourself with the seating and the bathrooms. Once you see the parking lot fill up with buses and cars, it's time to high-tail it over to the line!
  • Those with little ones will find the large food trays overwhelming to carry, so ask for help, if it's not offered. The staff is standing by to help with trays, and we were assigned a lady to carry my 5-year-old's tray alongside me in line. She filled it up with all the things we wanted and took it to our table for us. It was very convenient for parents of littles!
  • There was a live band playing the night we ate, and it can get very loud in parts of the dining area. We sat close to the bathrooms, a bit over from the speakers, and it gave us shade and easy access for potty breaks. If it's hot, you'll want to snag those spots under the roof and in the shade.
  • I usually frown upon "hot dog meals," as many restaurants give kids cheap dogs and no extras. Pitchfork Fondue goes the extra mile to give high-quality dogs and buns, as well as all the sides. My kids couldn't get enough of the baked beans and garlic toast. The fruit was a fresh combination of melon and berries; the salad contained fresh broccoli and cherry tomatoes with the dressing of my kids' choice. It was a very high-quality "hot dog" experience!

Learn more about the Pitchfork Fondue here, and get your tickets before the summer's over! And when you're done dining, the Medora Musical is right down the stairs. Get tickets to both for a full night of family-friendly fun. 

(Thanks to the folks at Medora for providing my family and I with tickets to this delicious dining event!)