New grub in town

UNDERWOOD Brandon Sem and Landen Lauf hope to stop traffic with their homemade tator tots and spicy ribs.

Sem and Lauf are the owners of the new Rusted Rail, a bar and grill that opened last Friday along U.S. Highway 83 in Underwood.

“It’s been busy. We do have fun, but we are just getting the hang of it,” Sem said.

The restaurant opened with a partial menu that includes appetizers and burgers. It is expanding over the next few weeks to a full menu with a variety of sandwiches, wraps, salads and dinner plates such as beer-basted walleye.

The restaurant is offering Underwood residents another dining option, but owners also see a customer base in the traffic that passes back and forth on the four lanes of Highway 83, which intersects with N.D. Highway 200 at Underwood. The owners had a new building constructed to be able to locate near the highway.

Sem said their business plan, put together about two years ago, showed 5,000 vehicles a day at the intersection of highways 83 and 200. Capturing even 3 percent of that market would be huge for the business, he said.

Serving the local residents is what he is enjoying as much as anything, though, he said.

Sem is an Underwood native, while Lauf grew up in Washburn. Both received business management degrees from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. They worked in the Minneapolis area for several years and were looking for a way to return to their hometowns when they developed the plan for a bar and grill.

Sem said the bar and grill takes its name from the town’s history. The town was platted by the Washburn-Bismarck-Great Falls Railroad.

The bar’s presence restricts service to customers age 21 and older. However, on Tuesdays the restaurant is open to all ages until 8 p.m.

Regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and noon to 1 a.m. Sundays.

“We are a contemporary sports bar,” Sem said, noting the large-screen television, dart board and pool tables. Sem’s father-in-law made the lacquered wood dining tables used throughout the bar and grill.

The bar stands apart for its martini menu, which includes the French toast martini that has proven popular since the bar opened.

Sem said the bar will be celebrating special occasions, such as St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and other sports-related events.

“I managed bars all through college. I like the bar side of it,” Sem said.

Sem also brought in a friend who had cooked for a steakhouse for nine years to help train kitchen staff. The new business has created about 10 cook and server jobs.

When Sem and Lauf decided to return to North Dakota and open a restaurant, Sem quit his human resources job and began practicing his cooking.

“I figured one of us needs to learn how to cook,” he said. “I do enjoy cooking now.”