TRAVERSE CITY : Chances are, if you’ve ever bitten into a golden-yellow disc of puffy, pillowy fry-bread, topped with seasoned beans and bison, sour cream, chopped lettuce and tomatoes, you’d know the joy that comes from having an NDN (Indian) taco.
The deep-fried confection of fry bread is often a popular staple at powwows, Indigenous art markets and other events where Native American communities gather together.
For Native Americans, fry bread is a non-traditional food that’s inked in generations of a painful past when the U.S. government forced tribal communities off their traditional homelands and onto reserves.
Unable to traditionally hunt and gather on the reservations, tribal communities had to rely on government rations, which often included flour and lard, so fry-bread became a staple survival food for many families in order not to starve.
“It feeds the soul, it’s comfort food,” Mitchell McGarth, line cook for Bergstrom’s Burgers said of fry bread.
The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians citizen featured his take on NDN tacos at the restaurant a few times at BB’s location near Chum’s Corner just outside of Traverse City.
McGrath said that the pandemic hit everyone hard and he wanted to reach out to his community during a time that’s been very isolating.
“I’ve missed going to powwows and getting NDN tacos, so I wanted to offer that piece of comfort that we haven’t had,” he said.
For Bergstrom, it’s a thrill to have McGrath working in his “family-oriented kitchen” to create something that allows him to connect to the community. He stated that having the NDN tacos on their Thursday features has been a huge success and they hope to keep offering them in the future.
“We’ve sold out every time,” Bergstrom stated. He added that on the first day, people called orders in advance, and lined up, with over 120 orders. Each time the tacos were offered on the menu, the demand increased, with customers ordering multiple tacos each, and placing orders in advance.
The huge reaction is something Bergstrom said that the restaurant is taking into consideration for the next time they’re offered, because of the dedication and time put into making NDN tacos, it is not a process that can be rushed.
The dough needs time to set, rest, and be molded by the hands shaping them.
The fry bread, depending on the family recipe may vary in some of the ingredients, but is always made from scratch, and Bergstrom Burgers sources everything local, when possible.
McGrath said that it’s an amazing experience being encouraged by his boss to expand and contribute his skills in the kitchen.
He went on to say that he’s happy to share a part of his culture’s comfort food in a time that has been otherwise for the community.