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Oct 17, 2006 05:45 AM

Sioux Falls Overview Fall 2006 (from a local)

First off, I'm new here. Hello.

Second, I'm from Sioux Falls, SD. There hasn't been a lot of talk on this board about what there is to offer here in my hometown lately, so I thought I'd do my part to throw out some reviews so that three years from now, when you find yourself heading to Sioux Falls for some reason, you can at least have a shot at what options there are (from a local point of view).

Third, I travel to the Cities a lot (and elsewhere somewhat less often), so when you read these reviews, know that they weren't written in a complete vacuum. While I'm probably not the most experienced chowhound, I enjoy a truly great restaurant (probably more than the average person).

A little bit about Sioux Falls and the way the locals treat restaurants. I've heard (but never researched) that Sioux Falls has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States with a population over 100,000. If true, and I would believe that it is, it's because there isn't much to do here except eat. As a result, when a new restaurant comes to town (regardless of quality), it gets pummeled by the locals because it's something new. This goes for chain restaurants as well, and we've got a ton of them. Also, Sioux Falls isn't very big, so many people tend to drive to a new location if the wait is over 25 minutes. We're an impatient bunch as a whole, so it seems like the restaurants have reacted to this in our little gastrosphere and service is usually pretty timely.

Ok. On to the specific restaurants. I'll focus on the higher-end, bigger, more expensive places for now, or this post is going to be WAY too long. This means I'm going to miss my favorites for now, but I don't want to die keeping this information to myself.

There's been some talk about Minervas on this board in the past, but I'm going to put it out there. It's 'alright'. Good steaks, with an outdated interior sporting lots of brass. This restaurant is run by one of the more prominent restaurant families in the area and has launched several spinoffs due to it's success. Due to it's longstanding presence in Sioux Falls, it is frequented by an older crowd.

A more modern version of Minervas (although not affiliated). Similar offerings (steak, chops, pasta, seafood). Slightly above average on a national scale, but probably one of the better places in town if you're looking for an upscale meal. Nice upscale bar area. For food, my personal favorites are the bone-in ribeye, the french onion soup and the walleye cheeks appetizer. Very tasty stuff. The scene is younger than Minerva's, frequented by business people and has a bit of a see or be seen vibe, but in a town the size of Sioux Falls, it's hard not to be seen no matter where you go.

601 Arota.
Used to be Theo's, and was much better when it was, in my opinion. When Foley's came on the scene and drew the 'ooooh, a new restaurant' crowd, Theo's shut down, redecorated in a bizarre artsy art deco kind of feel -- swapping out their menu and steakhouse attitude for a very high-end (and neon-infused?) approach. This didn't go over well and didn't lure back the locals. They've since combined their new menu with some favorites from the old, but the quality (and especially the service) just isn't there. In addition, they lost one of the partners (who was also the head chef), who started up his own catering business. I haven't been there since, so I can't vouch for how they're doing now.

The Country Clubs.
If you are ever visiting locals and get invited to one of the country club restaurants (The Minnehaha Country Club and the Westward Ho Country Club), avoid them at all costs. Really not good. Bad. Laughable even.

This one has been mentioned on this board a few times. Originally a Minervas spinoff, it split off entirely last summer on it's own. Very popular locally, Spezia is an American Italian restaurant that offers consistently good food. It won't blow your mind, but it's good. Look for the Giglio Pasta (with green pesto sauce), the pork roast, or the Arcadian Chicken Pasta (spicy brown sauce). Also immensly popular for their Sunday Brunch, I've never seen anything like it anywhere. It's truly immense and quite good, with a wide variety of unique breakfast pizzas, pastas, meats, breakfast items, pastries and salad items. In season, they offer special menus based around specific locally grown ingredients. Their heirloom tomato menu comes to mind. Worth checking out.

Started up by the Spezia crowd this spring, Bracco is a carribean inspired restarant (with a little mexican/sushi/other stuff thrown in for good measure) that gives me a big 'ho-hum' kind of feeling overall. They turned down experienced wait staff in favor of young, green servers with no clue what they are doing, so the service is awkward. There are good items on the menu (the appetizers and sandwiches are good stuff). Overall, it's a very popular spot, but the service, the food, and the mixed drinks just aren't there for me. That being said, the patio is a very nice place to catch an afternoon breeze, although it's open inconsistently for some reason. Overall, I guess I'm just surprised that the owners can't replicate the consistency of Spezia with Bracco.

That's probably enough Sioux Falls coverage for now. How am I doing so far? Should I go back to lurking, or was this helpful at all?

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  1. pulpster, welcome and thank you. Please do us all a favor and continue to put up voluminous posts on Sioux Falls. People will be searching google or another search engine and will find Chowhound that way (how I found Chowhound). Eventually we might build up a healthy hound population in Sioux Falls.

    Question, and this gets away from your "bigger, high-end" focus, but do you have any experience with the Tea Steak House? Is it as good as it sounds from old posts on I'm often tempted to go out of my way on trips to and from out west.

    Also, please do post your smaller, low-end info when you have time. A friend moved to Sioux Falls and I'd like to clue her in -- she said a place called "Hamburger Inn" (or similar) looked intriguing but seems to have shut down.

    Anyway...thanks again.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MSPD

      Thanks MSPD... I skipped my favorites for this time, so I've definitely got more to cover.

      I have eaten at the Tea Steakhouse. It was pretty good steak I guess, but it's been years and I haven't been back, so something must not have made me all that excited about it.

      If you're going out of your way, it's probably not worth it in my opinion, but they definitely do have a reputation in the area. Again, it's been a while, so the memories are fuzzy at best.

      Yeah, the Hamburger Inn was the greasy spoon to end all greasy spoons. It was kind of scary eating there actually, but hard to turn down. Eggburgers and individual cigarettes for 10 cents our of a rotating straw dispenser? How can you beat that for ambiance? Anyway, it came under new ownership relatively recently (sometime in the last year or two) and got a super high grade from the health inspector, which really surprised me. The last time I was there, it felt like the place could be condemned just because of the length of time since the grill was last scraped.

      1. re: pulpster

        Alright I felt obligated to reply to this post. Hamburger Inn is under newer ownership (as of like, a year or two ago). I haven't been back to S.F. in a while, but was born and raised in this town. Hamburger Inn is back on its feet, eggburgers and all! You're lookin' at about $2-3 for most style burgers, and during lunch time, the line can still get long! I'm new to the board, so just lettin' people know that Hamburger Inn is still around.

    2. I, for one, can tell you that I'm glad to have the update. The Chowish Lurker is from Sioux Falls, and trips back make us wonder if she came from a chow wasteland. We can never get enough updates on the Sioux Falls situation.

      We went to the Tea Steakhouse within the last year, and it was a fun time. The steak was very good (don't expect it to be like Manny's Steakhouse) and the atmosphere was the quintessential small town steakhouse/gathering place. I loved it, if for no other reason than you just don't find places like that any more. (Anyplace that has melba toast on the table is alright with me.)

      Another favorite that isn't on the above list is Sanaa's. ( ) Very solid middle eastern food (and vegetarian friendly) for very reasonable prices. We went for the weekend "buffet" and found it to focus far more on quality than quantity, which is always a nice change of pace. Almost everything we had left us wanting more.

      Also noteworthy was LaLibela. It wasn't the absolute best Ethiopian we've ever had, but it was certainly reliable, and a place we'd return to.

      P.S. we were pleasently surprised by our heirloom tomato pizza at Spezia. I found the brunch service to be really, really spotty. There were a lot of trays that were empty most of the time, and others that looked like the food had been in there forever. That left us picking at bits and pieces, as we could get ahold of them. I don't know that I'd go back to their brunch, but maybe we caught them on a bad day.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Danny

        That's a good way to describe the Tea Steakhouse, good steak, but not like a Manny's steak (or like Manny's in any way at all really).

        Yeah, Sanaa's is fantastic. My office used to be in the same building. It was great for lunch. Excellent couscous, and we liked the breads and pastries so much we ordered them in for meetings from time to time. Great soup too. I'd include it in my favorite places list when I get around to putting that together.

        As an interesting sidenote, Sanaa is married to James Abourezk, a former Senator for South Dakota, who also has an office in the building. He holds the honor of being the first Arab-American to serve in the U.S. Senate. Both very nice people, btw.

        I've never had LaLibela! I'll check it out. is awesome.

        Ouch, that's a bad Spezia brunch review. I guess the pizzas sometimes look like they've been out for a bit, but otherwise I'm going to hope it was just a bad day. I've never really had one there though, so that's odd. I'll keep my eyes open the next time I end up out there for brunch.

      2. I am another Sioux Falls native. However, like many of my peers, I moved away. Every time I go back, I always wonder where to get good chow. Sioux Falls does have many many restaurants, the problem is that most of them are of the chain variety.

        Like Danny mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised with LaLaibela. It was about as good as the Ethiopian we get in the Twin Cities. This is a great addition to the Sioux Falls dining scene.

        My other favorities are based on category:
        Coffee: Heart of the Vine 1014 West 41st St. -- They have the best lattes I have had. I also enjoy their snickerdoodle cookies. It’s a warm and inviting space.

        Kaladi's on Minnesota is also good, but I have only been there twice I think.

        Black Sheep – 11th and Grange

        Bagels: Bagel Boy - I found that they are better than some of the bagels I get in Minneapolis. Even Danny likes them and he's persnickety about his bagels!

        Sushi - Sushi Masa is ok. If I remember right, it had a decent selection, but I only like the veggie rolls, so I can't comment too much on their food. The veggie rolls are good.

        Best late night hang out: Fryn Pan - the food is not great, but they don't care how long you sit with friend. The service is good, especially considering the bar crowd they get. I always seem to run into someone from back in the day here.

        Ice Cream: B and G. The strawberry is fantastic. I have never had soft serve strawberry as good as B and G. Their wild berry shake ( I think that's what its called, it might have some other name though) is sooo good. They make it by taking their strawberry ice cream and mixing blue raspberry topping in the shake machine. YUM!

        Best Italian: I guess Spezia would win this, but its not really much of an award. Good Italian is sorely lacking in SF. It's ok just don't have your hopes up too high.

        Sports Bar: TC's Referee. One note here though - This place is only about a mile from where I grew up so it was a staple. I might just like this place for the nostalgia factor. I haven't been there in over a year so this information might not be accurate.

        Theo's/whatever it's now called - I knew it was over once the fantastic pastry chef left about 3 years ago. She/he (I can't remember their name) used to make great baked Alaska. wow. That was the best. The last time I was there the deserts were so-so.

        Does anyone have good Brunch rec's? The one at Spezia was ok, but I don't think I really wanna go back. I also don't want Perkins. There has got to be a better weekend brunch spot. Please, I'm dying here I know I'm gonna be subjected to yucky brunch over Thanksgiving so any help would be sooo appreciated.

        2 Replies
        1. re: The Chowish Lurker

          Kaladi's is good for sure. The Hot Rhino sandwich is great, other than the fact that the rustic bread is so 'rustic' that it takes the skin off the top of my mouth.

          Bagel Boy has the best 'everything' bagel you can get anywhere. It's fantastic. They are still bustling with business, even though Panera moved into town this summer. The coffee is horrible though, in my opinion. Another interesting angle are some of the hot bagel sandwiches that they make. My sons and I love the pizza bagel, but it might be a bit greasy for the uninitiated.

          Sushi Masa is a great little place. The owner is very finnicky and particular and it shows. Make sure you have about 2 hours for lunch. Nothing against the staff, it's just a very, very small place. It really is worth it.

          Fryn Pan - complete with the typo on the sign! Yeah! Anyway, they definitely don't care how long you sit there. In addition to the bar crowd, this is a college student study hangout, with all-nighters getting pulled all the time. Try ordering the BFR warmed up. It's a big caramel roll I won't elaborate here on what the 'F' stands for, but it's a huge roll. Very ooey gooey and great with black coffee.

          B and G is absolutely the best ice cream stand you will find. I literally crave the footlong chili dogs (with everything on em, wouldn't you know it). The apple pie concrete shake must have an entire piece of apple pie in each one, I swear. It's absolutely chunky and amazing. The only place I've been that comes close is Ted Drewes, in St. Louis, MO. I just wish B&G stayed open for more of the year. It opens up in the late spring and it's about to close now. I better go get my last fix!

          1. re: pulpster

            Oh! the BFR of course I know about the BFR!! That was my post-bar staple in college! The last time I was in Sioux Falls I HAD to have a BFR. It's funny that BFR has become synonymous with the Fryn Pan roll.

            We'll have to try sushi masa again the next time I am in Sioux Falls. It has been several years since I have been there, so it will be nice to experience it again.

            Thanks to everyone for posting on Sioux Falls. My hometown gets soo overlooked on the chowhound. It's great hearing what's good in Sioux Falls so I don't get too discouraged. :)

        2. Chowish lurker and others, you must go to Sanaa's for their Saturday brunch. They serve a variety of middle eastern dishes nearly family style! It is a buffet, but you walk behind the counter and fill your plates. If middle eastern is your food, it is awesome! (They only serve weekday lunches from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. otherwise)

          601 Arota is closed, for what it's worth.

          Spezia is a good Sunday brunch option. I have never been disappointed at Spezia.

          Having eaten sushi in many parts of the country and the pacific, Sushi Masa is our favorite. It ranks superb in my mind. It is tiny and has an atmosphere of its own. You truly go for the won't disappoint!

          Cafe 334 has very good food with an evolving menu. It is a good choice for weekend brunch, lurker. I think you would enjoy it. They have a nice wine selection and a limited, but interesting menu nightly. I like it because it "isn't a chain!"

          Another suggestion would be Food 'n Fermentation in the downtown area. Extensive wine cellar in the basement and small gourmet food section and restaurant on the main level comprise this restaurant. The special for dinner is always unique and exquisite.....if you like what they are serving. The rest of the dinner menu is very limited. I'd suggest calling first to determine the "special".

          CJ Callaway's gets my vote for atmosphere. If nothing else, pop by for a drink in the restaurant bar. It isn't "out of the ordinary", but for Sioux Falls, the bar is nice.

          Late night dining for me? Not very often, but Taco John's gets my vote!

          8 Replies
          1. re: mhcpita

            Yeah, Cafe 334 is solid. Good brunch, with interesting takes on standard menu items. For brunch-like menu items, the pumpkin pancakes are very good, but I always go for the egg and chorizo sausage skillet. It's very, very good. Pretty decent coffee here as well. This place reminds me a bit of Barbette in Minneapolis, with a unique american approach rather than french. It's worth a shot.

            Food 'n Fermentation has (had?) the best handmade mac and cheese in town, and amazing sandwiches. The reason I say had is because we recently noticed at work that their space is avaiable for rent!?! I'll look around and see what is going on. The portion sizes are very small, so it gives you a nice opportunity to try a side of soup (or the mac and cheese, hint hint).

            Your Taco John's listing is hilarious. I love that place. People who move away from our particular corner of the midwest come back craving that stuff. The drivethrough at the location on Louise never gets our order right (not once), but I just keep coming back for more. The food is worth it, but you don't want to go there very often or next time you might have a heart attack before you get to your cinnamon churro.

            1. re: pulpster

              Is there any appreciable difference between the Sioux Falls Taco John's and the ones here in MSP?

              The Sierra Chicken Sandwich used to be one of my secret chain pleasures or whatever the term is.

              1. re: MSPD

                Honestly I can't really comment on whether there's a difference. When I'm in Minneapolis, I'm usually trying something new. If I eat something up there that I can get down here, I'm usually pretty crabby about it.

                The Sierra Chicken Sandwich is an awesome guilty pleasure. The new Mexirolls (re-engineered!) are pretty fantastic for some reason as well.

                1. re: pulpster

                  The beans are actually very different. In the TJ's along I-169, the beans are heavily seasoned while in Sioux Falls, they're very plain and require buckets of hot sauce.
                  I'm a little embarrassed to admit my familiarity with the nuances of Taco John's beans.

                  As for other SF picks--Lalibela is very good. Cafe 334 is good. Spezia can be really good or really terrible. Dishes there are rarely the same twice.
                  Minerva's is always disappointing.
                  Rue 41 (which is not on Rue 41) has pretty decent pastries & sandwiches.

                  Generally, if you scale down expectations--especially of wine lists and quality of non-meat ingredients--the food is generally ok, sometimes even good (Keg chicken, for instance), though not usually very good for you.
                  Chinese food is generally acceptable, tasty, inappropriate for anyone who worries about the authenticity of their cuisine.
                  You will not find decent cheese.

                  1. re: martinstp

                    I second the Rue 41 recommendation. I've enjoyed all of the sandwiches, salads, and pastas I've ordered from them. Surprisingly enough they also have a decent wine list (for a quick lunch spot). Apparently the owner's brother is a sommelier in Las Vegas and provides all of the wine buying/pairing advice.

                  2. re: pulpster

                    The Mexi-Rolls... I believe they changed them by putting beans and cheese as well as beef into them. I think they really suck. I was a big fan of the "beef only" version.

                2. re: pulpster

                  Food 'n Fermentation is moving, yet again. They'll occupy the original Sioux Falls Brew Pub location on north Phillips ave.

                  1. re: mhcpita

                    This is excellent news. Food and Fermentation has good eats. Hopefully the expansion will work for them. We really should get something to 'stick' in the brew pub. It's a great space.

              2. Thank you, thank you for sharing your Sioux Falls favorites! Please keep them coming. I'm new in the general neighborhood of Sioux Falls (in Midwest terms, that's between Minneapolis and Chicago right?) and have been trying to find decent food for a while with little luck.

                One thing I have found in Sioux Falls is a store called Hutterite Prarie Market located at 1220 West 41st Street. They sell various canned knick knacks, which aren't remarkable but they also sell fresh whole chickens (never frozen) that are raised by Hutterites in a free-range fashion. Cooked at home, they have the best flavor of any whole chicken I've ever come across hands down. Definitely worth checking out.

                They also sell fresh chicken breasts but are often sold out by 10am, so I've only been lucky enough to get those once.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ExercisetoEat

                  I have some recent opinions on Mexican food in town. Since Chi Chi's closed, it has been tough. Oh my, only kidding! Inca has been our favorite. However, over the last year, I have been disappointed. There has been turnover in wait staff and cook staff too. Most recently, one of the former chefs opened his own spot on north Minnesota, Los Tores. I may not have spelled it correctly. It serves original Inca food. Extensive menu. I had a hard time getting past the bright lights and orange though. It was clean and service was great....but, I have to say, I felt like I was eating in a bus station. We will be ordering takeout from now on. Interestingly, on the drive home, I noticed a sign for a mexican restaurant to open on Minnesota Ave between 18th and 14th.

                  PIZZA - a prior poster mentioned restaurants per capita and chains. What would it take to get a real pizza "parlor"? We had our chance with little Andolini's take out in the Gustaf's Flower Shop building, but they are long gone. How pathetic for me to suggest my favorite pizza in town is Papa Murphy's.

                  1. re: mhcpita

                    Puerto Vallarta is excellent, with some of the speediest service you can find anywhere. We go there very often.

                    As for pizza, yeah we're kind of screwed. I think it's a chain of some sort, but I like Pizza Man on Marion road. Excellent fresh ingredients. It's very tasty.