Red Raven Espresso Parlor stands out in Fargo for more than just its colorful name. It’s a vibrant coffee shop, the kind of place where you may expect to find artists creating something beautiful at their tables. Red Raven’s website sums their atmosphere up nicely: “an eclectic space that promotes self-expression, creativity, and equality.” A place where everyone can act natural and be themselves — it’s a concept as old as that of the coffee shop itself, and Red Raven carries it out very, very well.Sitting on 916 Main Ave in Fargo for over a decade now, Red Raven boasts itself as the only worker owned and operated coffee shop in the city, a truly progressive initiative. This hip coffee house offers vegetarian and vegan food in addition to lovingly brewed coffee and espresso drinks. The décor is artsy and bohemian with crammed book shelves, comfy couches, and tables that tell the story of every mug that has ever been laid on them. Wrought iron furniture stands by in the adjacent alleyway for outdoor enjoyment, weather permitting.
Red Raven’s interior is divided among two sections. The main room, with its 50 person capacity, is home to concerts, comedy shows, and other events. The more intimate community room, which seats 25, is better suited for meetings and other small gatherings. You can may call or email ahead of time to check availability and book a space.
Red Raven hosts open mic nights for comedy or music on Tuesdays at 9:00pm. Their calendar is otherwise up in the air, although you can expect great local bands on some Saturdays, and musical and other kinds of performances on Thursdays as well. To find out what’s coming up, check out the event calendar on Red Raven’s website at redravenfargo.com.
Red Raven’s drink menu, while populated by the usual coffee suspects, also has welcome exceptions like caramel apple cider, green tea lattes, and Italian sodas. They also serve a vast selection of loose leaf teas, the perfect thing to put in your mug on a cold day. All of their drinks may be further dynamized by adding double or quadruple shots of espresso, or sweetened with shots of flavored syrup like peppermint, blackberry, or amaretto. If you’re looking for something else that’s novel, look to Red Raven’s seasonal menu for timely, tasty treats.
Red Raven makes its greatest mark, however, with their vegetarian and vegan sandwich menu. Their tomato and pesto grilled cheese with provolone beats all, though the artichoke and hummus sandwich follows as a close second. Their “sloppy duck,” a barbeque mock duck sandwich toasted with provolone, is also excellent. (Like the artichoke and hummus, the sloppy duck is also vegan, but only if you can do without cheese.) All of Red Raven’s sandwiches’ bread is made with Breadsmith’s fresh peasant bread, and they have vegan bagels thanks to our local bagelry Boppa’s Bagels.
If you’re looking for something different, you’ll find it at Red Raven Espresso Parlor — and for my money, different is the only thing worth looking for.
By Anthony Chiofalo