For decades, Thursday in Jamestown has been known as "knepfla soup day" at The Depot Cafe.

It is not uncommon to see a long line - sometimes extending all the way out the door - of customers waiting to order the creamy soup on Thursdays at The Depot.

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"Thursday is our most grossing day of business," said Davone "Dee" Mitchell, owner and general manager of The Depot. "We sell (knepfla soup) by the gallon, we even sell it by the roaster."

"We already have graduations that want enough knepfla soup for 200 people," added Amber Block, Mitchell's fiancee and assistant general manager of The Depot.

Every Thursday, The Depot makes and sells at least 50 gallons of knepfla soup, cooking it in a single 20-quart pot, said Michael "Mike" Ganser, kitchen manager and chief knepfla soup cook at The Depot.

"I make it Thursday, so it's all fresh," Ganser said. "I start right away in the morning at 7 o'clock and I make it until I go home."

Ganser has never missed a Thursday since he first started working at The Depot over 30 years ago, when he was just 23 years old.

"I think I've probably missed two or three days (of work) in 30 years, and one was the birth of my son," he said.

Cooking the knepfla soup from scratch - that is, making the knepfla dough, rolling it out, and snipping it into bite-sized chunks with a kitchen scissors - is a labor of love.

"It's getting a little tougher, just the snipping and stuff," Ganser said. "As you get older, your fingers get a little stiffer."

But it is a process Ganser says he could do "in my sleep," having memorized the secret knepfla soup recipe years ago.

"If I go really fast, it takes me about a half hour from start to finish," he said.

The Depot's knepfla soup recipe is believed to be the original owner's family recipe, and it has changed very little since The Depot first opened.

"It's been the same ever since I can remember," Ganser said. "The only thing is when I first started, we used to put potatoes in it. But then it got kind of mushy so we took the potatoes out and just did the knepfla with the excellent broth that's with it.

"It's been the same recipe ever since."

Although the recipe is "definitely" kept a secret, according to Mitchell, there are no exotic ingredients.

"Not to give any secrets away, but it's a basic recipe," Ganser said. "All knepfla soups are pretty close to the same - it's a cream-based soup with pure dough. It comes down to the amounts that you put together and the method of doing it has a lot to do with the flavor of it.

"It's a basic soup, but people go nuts over it."

Go nuts, indeed.

"We have people who lived here, moved to California or something, then they come back to visit and ask, 'Can we freeze that?' 'Can we take that home in a cooler?'" Ganser said.

"I've had people come at like five minutes to 8, when we close, and I will see people run from outside to the door to get knepfla," Block said.

While there is some disagreement over the proper spelling of the soup's name - another commonly accepted spelling is "knoephla," for example - there is almost universal agreement on the taste.

"We think it's really tasty," said Bill Kust, a Jamestown resident who can be found in a booth at The Depot every Thursday. "It's a tradition in the area, and on Thursdays there's a noticeable increase in the number of patrons here."

When asked if there has ever been a Thursday when The Depot could not get the knepfla soup made, Mitchell said "no," adding with a laugh, "It would cause a riot."

Knepfla soup, which has its roots in Germans from Russia heritage, is not widely known outside of North Dakota. In fact, Mitchell had never heard of knepfla soup until he moved to North Dakota from California 12 years ago. He has come to know it as "a comfort food" steeped in tradition.

"There's a lot of tradition in it, a lot of families growing up eating knepfla and remembering the experience of having knepfla," he said.

"I remember my grandma and great-grandma used to make homemade gumbo because they originally came from Louisiana, and we would only get it once a year," Mitchell said. "It's the same thing with the knepfla - it's tradition and something you don't get all the time.

"That's why we don't make it every day, because it makes it special when you have to wait and you can only have it once a week."

But in the not-too-distant future, consumers may be able to have knepfla soup anytime they want.

"Eventually we're going to start packaging and selling it in stores," Mitchell said. "We've done our research, we just need to get to that point."

Mitchell and Ganser hope their famous knepfla soup could one day be sold in stores nationwide.

"I think it's going to be something that North Dakota and Jamestown can share with the rest of the United States," Mitchell said. "Where you hear, 'Oh, Jamestown, that's where that soup comes from.'

"I think that would be something for the whole community to be proud of."