Trading Places: Dale Zimmerman

Trading Places: Dale Zimmerman

Part 1: No rest means success for North Dakota restaurateur Dale Zimmerman. Story & photos by Laura Conaway, Certified Angus Beef LLC

Story & photos by Laura Conaway, Certified Angus Beef LLC

original article here »

If ever torn down, you’d want to keep the walls of North Dakota’s culinary hearthstone Peacock Alley American Grill & Bar. They hold stories and secrets of a different time — which many patrons will never know and reason for others to seek a table.

When Dale Zimmerman and wife Melodie got the place in 2010, they had plans. The pair wanted the establishment and its dishes to stand on their own, rather than a legacy from long ago.

Zimmerman couldn’t quite say what he was getting into at the time. The furnituresalesman-turned-entrepreneur and now minimogul seemed to be barely testing the waters. The thing about Zimmerman, though, is he knows no other way but to dive in headfirst.

“First of all, it was to prove that we could do it,” the Bismarck native says, considering what was once a lack of experience in an unknown industry along with the “success” handicap naysayers attach to the oil boom.

“I like to create things, and I take pride in what we do. Plus, I want my kids to move back here,” he says.

Battered, but still standing

Whether moving back or just sampling a restaurant under new ownership, walking out before 2010 and back in through Peacock’s wooden door after its renovation would cause even the least impressed to take notice.

“Microwaves. Just a wall of microwaves. They were literally everywhere,” Zimmerman recalls. “All you could see was the mid-section of the cooks and hear the pinging noise of the timers.” Yet that wasn’t always the story. Upright in 1933 as an extension of the historical Patterson building, “the Peacock” got into its fair share of trouble by mere association.

“It’s modeled after the Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria in New York City,” Zimmerman says of the restaurant nestled in Bismarck’s center. “Ed Patterson (then owner and the building’s namesake) wanted this restaurant to be like the diamond in the upper Midwest. Well, Prohibition started, and that caused some illegal activity. Peacock Alley became this famous restaurant because it was housed in an iconic building.”

More than half a century later, its cracks mirror the ups and downs of a state that weathered many an economic storm. Its walls were battered but still standing.

“As many restaurants do, it had its fair share of highs and lows,” he says. Condemned, marked for teardown, the building was brought back to life, resurrected in the 1980s. A few years later, it sold and had nine straight years of double-digit decline, leading to Zimmerman’s opportunity.


Screenshot 2016-03-25 11.04.07“The first thing we did was get rid of all the microwaves!” Zimmerman says. The second was to focus on beef.

“We made the decision to throw away the menus and start over,” Zimmerman says. “One of the first things we did was make it beef-centric. That is, everything on our menu was going to revolve around beef because it was the closest thing, given that we’re in the middle of North America, to being local.”

Along with new flooring, new lights and the removal of one-too-many peacock paintings came time to explore the beef market. “We researched, experimented and tasted” to land on the Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) brand familiar to Angus ranchers in the nearby communities.

“We saw what CAB could do for the restaurant, which is a lot, and before we knew it, had 15 different cuts on the menu.” Meanwhile, business had quadrupled. Then the phone rang.

“It was a few years later on a Friday,” that an owner of a restaurant down the road called, he says. “I knew them from the furniture world, and they said, ‘Would you be interested in buying it? We’re going to close on Monday.’ I thought, ‘What are you talking about? How much do you even want for it?’ ” They flew down on Sunday and within 20 minutes on Monday, the deal was closed. “We shook on it, went back to the restaurant and told the staff,” Zimmerman says.

Friendly competitors

In a town where Peacock Alley represents all things traditional, 40 Steak & Seafood does its own thing.

“They’re competitors, but they respect each other,” Zimmerman says of the restaurants’ executive chefs, Dusty Swenningson and Alan Abryzo, respectively. The notion fits the restaurants just as well.

Screenshot 2016-03-25 11.09.37For starters, they hold different customer bases: 40, the more adult couples scene, and Peacock, the young entrepreneurs and girls looking for a local night out on the town.

Then there’s the ambiance thing. “The Peacock is up-tempo,” he says of the restaurant known for custom martinis, the CAB cowboy ribeye and beckoning a younger demographic.

“We brag about how old it is,” Zimmerman laughs, “like we’re so old, we’re cool again.”

The 40 Steak & Seafood has a different feel. “When you walk into the 40, tension and stress should leave your body,” Zimmerman says. There are no windows. Subtle light from a fireplace in each room demands attention taken away from the outside stresses of the world.

Both serve CAB.

Screenshot 2016-03-25 11.09.26At Peacock, it’s often to state congressmen and their staffers for the sake of a business meeting over lunch. Particular congressional hearings are aired live each week from upstairs for patrons to listen in or simply feel a part of something bigger around them. At 40, it’s all about the dry-age cooler, where diners have the opportunity to walk through the kitchen, pick out a CAB steak and watch Chef Alan prepare it for the evening.


Not long ago, Dale and Melodie, along with Chef Dusty with camera in tow, ventured south for the annual Cattle Industry Convention and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Trade Show to accept the National Beef Innovator of the Year Award. A first for the state of North Dakota, as well as the region, for creativity and passion in promoting and selling beef, it meant more than words on a plaque or a standing ovation.

That was 2013, and aside from a line that sometimes lingers in the foyer of the Peacock now, business is as usual. Zimmerman starts his mornings at the 40 and makes his way to the Peacock just before lunch. He’ll be the one catching orders and joking with the line cooks who are now fully visible behind the grill.

“You have to knock their socks off,” Zimmerman says — perhaps a lesson learned in his previous business life that has proven to be just as important in the new one.

“You better be knowledgeable, and know your story. People love that, and we have a great story to tell.”

Next month we’ll introduce you to Chad Ellingson of Saint Anthony, N.D., a distant neighbor and now friend of Zimmerman who spent a day last summer serving CAB alongside chefs Dusty and Alan.

Editor’s Note: Laura Conaway is producer communications specialist for Certified Angus Beef LLC.

Screenshot 2016-03-25 11.12.19

50 States Series: Best Restaurants Worth Traveling For (2015 Edition!)

50 States Series: Best Restaurants Worth Traveling For (2015 Edition!)

Hey all. Happy New Year and thanks for a wonderful 2015. We are so excited for all that 2016 has in store for us. Come downtown and visit us soon.

Thanks to FlipKey by Tripadvisor for feeaturing the Peacock Alley in their 2015 blog post: 50 States Series: Best Restaurants Worth Traveling For.

From the article:

In early 2014 we launched our 50 States Series on the FlipKey blog. Throughout the months we’ve touched on a number of subjects – awarding businesses, museums, activities and more with a spot on our lists. We spent time highlighting their attributes, accomplishments, and why they deserve to be a stop on your next vacation.

We’re starting back at our roots with this post – as we name another 50 restaurants from around the USA to this prestigious list. ‘A restaurant worth traveling for’ is an eatery with either impeccable service, adventurous menus, a prime location, a distinct atmosphere or some combination of all of those items. From a beachside food truck to a dining room draped in white linen and crystal, all types of restaurants were eligible to be on our list. We highly encourage you to find time on your next vacation (or even in your local area) to plan a pilgrimage to any of these award-winners. Without further ado, here are the 50 restaurants we’ve chosen for this year’s list:

The 10 Best Restaurants & Local Eats in North Dakota

The 10 Best Restaurants & Local Eats in North Dakota
full article:

North Dakota is known for its wide open spaces and the vibrant culture of cities such as Fargo and Bismarck. There are also plenty of excellent restaurants within the state serving up various types of cuisines including intricate pastries and cakes, traditional German dishes, Mexican tacos, South Asian curries, and Mediterranean classics. Here are ten of the best.

Peacock Alley

The Peacock Alley has been serving up excellent food and drink in downtown Bismarck since the end of Prohibition in 1933. Located in what was the lobby of the Patterson Hotel that dates back to 1911, the space is rumoured to have been a speakeasy and brothel during Prohibition. Founder Edward Patterson was a prominent figure and former boxer, who brought celebrated fighters such as Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis to his hotel, and presidents including Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The Peacock Alley restaurant is widely regarded as a place to find innovative and high-quality cuisine. Visitors will also find the very best steaks from North Dakota cattle.

Peacock Alley Gets National Beef Award

Peacock Alley Gets National Beef Award

By Barbara Sharp, Reporter – KX News

Not L.A., New York, or Chicago.  The winner is from North Dakota.

There’s only one award winner each year, and all restaurants across the nation — whether franchise, corporate or independent — are up for it.  But Bismarck’s Peacock Alley beat them all to nab the Cattle Industry’s top honor, the National Beef Innovator of the Year.  It’s bestowed for creativity and passion in promoting and selling beef.

“And to see the look on their faces when a place from North Dakota won, I mean they gave us a standing ovation,” said Dale Zimmerman, Owner of Peacock Alley in Bismarck.

Not only is this the first time a North Dakota restaurant was selected, it’s the first time any restaurant in the entire region received the award.  Zimmerman attributes the win to their approach to beef.  While not at liberty to share trade secrets, he did share this:  “We’re extremely fussy. We’re very, very particular. It has to meet several stages of criteria before it even gets to us, and when it gets to us, our head chef, Dusty, and our culinary team inspect every single piece.”

And patrons are responding to the restaurant’s commitment to beef.  Peacock Alley says business is up 154% over the previous two years.

Peacock Alley was nominated for the award by the Ohio Beef Council, and ultimately selected by farmers and ranchers from across the U.S.  The restaurant received their award last week at the 115th Annual Cattle Industry Convention in Tampa, Florida.


Posted: Feb 12, 2013 6:43 PM CST

Beef like you’ve never eaten

Beef like you’ve never eaten

by Emily Krueger for rare

Twenty-six ounces of tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth Cowboy Steak generously crusted with a 14-spice blend and served with an ice cold beer fresh from the tap. Enough said. Until next time folks! HA! Just kidding.

This hunk of mouthwatering meat is a Peacock Alley American Grill & Bar specialty. It’s the most popular dish in the 80-year-old Bismarck restaurant, and it’s not even listed on the menu. The novelty steak is one of many beef dishes crafted by Head Chef Dustin Swenningson, otherwise known as Chef Dusty, who adds a North Dakota twist to the traditional steak dinner. Sure, he and restaurant owner Dale Zimmerman offer all the customary steakhouse items, but with an added flavor only found at Peacock Alley….


Don’t Sweat, Steak is Officially Good for You

Don’t Sweat, Steak is Officially Good for You

Is your mouth watering at our juicy steak and burger menu but are you feeling a bit guilty about gorging on “unhealthy” red meat? Worried about all of that saturated fat causing you an early heart attack? Well good news: red meat in moderation is officially great for your body! So you can enjoy high quality succulent steaks and perfectly grilled burgers without feeling guilty. Perfect!

So why is steak good for you? Firstly, the saturated fat in steaks is not necessarily bad. Evidence suggests that the effect of different saturated fats on health varies. In fact, Stearic acid, which is a type of saturated fat present in beef as well as pork and skinned chicken, could help protect you from developing heart disease. A number of studies have demonstrated that stearic acid does not have any negative impact on cholesterol or increase the risk of cardiovascular complications in any way. One investigation published in the American Journal of Clinic Nutrition found that consuming a portion of lean beef each day actually improves cholesterol levels, something which could be attributable to stearic acid. Participants in the investigation found that five weeks into the lean beef diet, their total cholesterols fell by five percent. Moreover their level of LDL cholesterol decreased by 4 percent. A lean cut of beef could be a cut of sirloin, which is served at Peacock Alley. Sirloin is lean because it comes from the upper side part of a cow, which generally does not have too much fat. Overall, Sirloin has very low levels of saturated fat and total fat. A three-ounce sirloin steak has around eight grams of fat, out of which just three grams are saturated fat. Therefore, if you are trying to lose weight that need not mean you should miss out on a nice tasty steak at our place once in a while. A handy tip if you are trying to eat healthy is to read blogs by other dieters. For example, suggests some great blogs that “combine handy hints for healthy living with personal experiences and amusing anecdotes”.

Packed with protein and minerals

Steak is also healthy for other reasons. For one, it is extremely high in protein and is therefore a great thing to include in your diet if you are working out; protein is crucial for muscle growth and the recovery of muscles following a tough workout. Moreover, steak is packed with iron, which is fundamental to attaining the high energy levels to get you through the day. This is because iron is responsible for ensuring that oxygen, which you inhale gets to your organs and muscles. Therefore, if your iron levels are low, your oxygen consumption drops and this, in turn, has a negative effect on energy levels.

Steaks are also high in vitamin B-12, which is crucial to the functioning of the brain and nervous system. B-12 is also important to the health of all your red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency, otherwise known as hypocobalaminemia, can be very serious. It happens to people of all ages and late diagnosis is a big issue. If a Vitamin B-12 deficiency is not treated for more than half a year then it can permanently damage your nervous tissue.

Red meat is also rich in B-2, B-3 and B-6. These B minerals help make your skin healthy, boost the digestive system, help unleash energy from carbohydrates, maintain the immune system and also work to keep blood sugar levels at a healthy level. Read meat also has high levels of Zinc and Phosphorus. Zinc is a fantastic mineral because it contributes to making your immune system healthy. It also helps your body to synthesize your DNA properly. It is crucial for growing children and for healing wounds. Moreover, phosphorus helps your body maintain a good pH level and creates energy.

Of course, steak quality varies. At Peacock Alley all of our steaks are made from Certified Angus Beef. Certified Angus Beef is a nonprofit label which aims to set a high standard for beef. In order to qualify for Certified Angus Beef status, the meat has to conform to 10 quality-related criteria. Due to this rigorous set of criteria, just 1.5 percent of beef in America obtains the Certified Angus Beef specification. That is not to mention the fact that we believe that Certified Angus Beef is the best-tasting beef around. It tastes fresh, juicy, tender and, quite simply, like high-quality meat should.

So don’t feel bad about treating yourself to a delicious steak once in a while. It is packed with wonderful protein and minerals. And a lean cut like sirloin might actually be good for you!

The Peacock Alley Restaurant got Carried Away with Bacon

The Peacock Alley Restaurant got Carried Away with Bacon


The Peacock Alley Restaurant in Bismarck, North Dakota has a few tricks up their sleeve. And those tricks are named bacon.

My friend and I went there before a concert, and because of its location in downtown Bismarck (same as the concert), we figured it was a sign. And also, darn convenient. You get the ambiance of a kind of classic old bar and restaurant wrapped up in the history of the hotel (which my father often reminds me that he stayed in on a senior trip). There is a creepy old man mannequin holding a tray of mints which, I’m fairly certain, is going to be the first thing to come to life during a zombie apocalypse, but we’re here to talk about other things.

Such as the menu.

The Peacock is known for its martinis and its Angus burgers. I’m not a big drinker, but I do like a burger, so I figured I had at least a 50 percent chance of hitting the highlights.

They seem to change their menu fairly frequently; I was intent on getting a particular flatbread dish that was no longer on the menu. So, we each ordered a house salad, and decided to share one burger due to their size, which is roughly one cow per burger. We also ordered the Caramel Bacon Fritters, because what they heck was that? The appetizer menu described them as stuffed bacon fritters drizzled with Ghirardelli caramel sauce.

Our salads came out first, and it was quite a bit more than I expected from a simple house salad. It came with a sweet bun and whipped butter, which was delicious and frankly, I could have stopped eating then. But, you know, when you’re out on the town you might as well put on ten pounds.

peacock alley salad

The caramel bacon fritters were next and yes. You should order these the next time you go to the Peacock Alley.

peacock alley bacon fritters

The fritter dough is sweet, and it’s filled with finely chopped bacon, drizzled with caramel and sprinkles of salt. What you have is a lovely combination of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy. Do share this with others at your table; it’s pretty sweet and I can’t imagine you won’t spend some time in the bathroom if you eat the whole thing yourself. It’s very rich.

peacock alley bacon fritters

Next up was the burger and we pretty much inhaled it, so I have a photo of the plate it was on for about five seconds. I don’t know what it is they do with their burgers, but they are edged in something that tastes spectacular. Pepper and salt, sure, but something else. People always say things about “best burger ever”, but unless you have questionable meat with bone bits and gristle, it’s hard to ruin a burger. The burger here is quite possibly laced with narcotics*, for all I know, because it was so delicious I kept eating far beyond my capacity to hold food.

peacock alley hamburger

I’ve always been a fan of the french fries at Peacock Alley; I don’t know if they have some sort of sorcery in the kitchen, or if they’re positively medieval on changing the fat in the fryer, but I remember my short order cook days and getting fries this light and crispy isn’t always a given.

So all in all, the Peacock Alley turned us into absolute gluttons. The staff was friendly. We ate in the bar (I’m a big fan of the high top table).

Would we recommend it to our friends? Heck yes. Wear elastic-waisted pants.

*There are no narcotics in the food, people. It’s a metaphor.

80 Years and Going Strong

80 Years and Going Strong

source: Vittles in the Fast Lane.

Peacock Alley still a hub for legislators, lobbyists

by Andrea Winkler Collin, Editor

If this is an odd-numbered year, it means the North Dakota Legislature is in session. For the past 80 years – and 40 legislative sessions – a downtown Bismarck restaurant and bar has been the unofficial headquarters for after-hours gatherings of legislators and lobbyists. The past few months have been no exception for the Peacock Alley American Grill and Bar.

“This building was the temporary North Dakota State Capitol,” says restaurant owner Dale Zimmerman of the Patterson Hotel building, which houses the Peacock Alley and has been standing on the corner of Fifth Street and Main since 1911. “When the state capitol building burned down in December 1930, many state offices were relocated here, including Governor William Langer’s.”

The current Capitol building was occupied in January 1935, and while state officials worked out of the Patterson, the legislature convened for two sessions at the World War Memorial Building, one block to the east.