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The Hungry Herring: A Taste Of Viking In Small Town America

Like slapping your taste buds with a dead herring

Photo by Aliyah Jamous on Unsplash

Nestled between a tattoo parlor and a nail salon, The Hungry Herring restaurant would be easy to miss were it not for the giant herring that hangs above its front window.

If the incredible stuffed fish could talk (more of that later) it would be shouting: “The best Danish cuisine in the world is right here!”

On entering, I was shown to my table by co-owner Olga Nielsen. She opened the restaurant with Chef Olaf Petersen five years ago.

“Danish food is much more than pastries,” she said, her smile beaming from beneath the Viking helmet perched atop her thick blonde pigtails.

To prepare my palate for the Danish invasion it was about to experience, I ordered a bottle of Herring Vitamin Water. The water comes from the Hendersen Glacier in Denmark, and the addition of herringbone marrow gives it the kick of a drunken Viking chieftain! Olga opened the bottle with her thumbnail and poured a generous measure of the muddy brown liquid.

The menu was so full of delicacies that it took me a while to decide what to order. Eventually, I opted to start with herring wings — spicy clumps of herring meat deep fried in herring oil. For the main course, I could not resist the house special: herring dumplings drenched in herring sauce on a bed of sautéed herring scales. A side order of herring eyes seemed to wink at me in appreciation! I’m a sucker for cake, so the herring cheesecake laced with herring brandy was a natural choice for dessert. And to top off my choices, I ordered a bottle of Herring Merlot wine. The green-reddish wine has a deep fishy fragrance that transports the senses to the ancient breeding grounds of the wild herring.

While I waited for the food to arrive, I was serenaded by Kaspar, a musician who wanders from table to table playing traditional Danish folk songs on a herring. I never realized that so many tunes could be played on a dead fish!

The food was everything I expected and more. Copious quantities of Herring Vitamin Water were needed to douse the fire started by the herring wings. My palate had just recovered when it was assaulted by the dumplings — large, dome-shaped dollops of herring vital organs pulverized by Olaf’s skillet-sized fists into a gel. Delicious! I had to pause after finishing the main course, and must confess finished most of the full-bodied merlot during this brief interlude! The herring cheesecake was a perfect finale to my meal. The consistency and color of lard, this delicacy is almost beyond description. The rows of herringbone that decorate the outer layer of the cake clean your teeth as you eat.

As I digested my meal, Olga and Chef Olaf joined me to tell the story behind the giant stuffed herring that adorns their restaurant's front window. Called Moby Dirk, the fish is reputedly the largest herring ever caught.

Everything is larger than life at The Hungry Herring — except the bill! The check for my entire meal was less than 50 bucks, including gratuities for the herring player and a pillage fee collected by a raiding party. If you like a bit of rough and tumble after dinner, The Hungry Herring is for you!

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K. B. Cottrill

K. B. Cottrill

Constantly losing the main plot while finding quirkier ones to write about for print, stage, and screen.