Not long ago, I was listening in as a relative was mentioning places to take some guests from another country. When the host mentioned a likely stop at Applebee’s after picking up the guests at the airport, I exclaimed, “Please, for the love of God, don’t take them to Applebee’s!” This started an argument that lasted for about a half hour, but that is another story.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t harbor any grudge against Applebee’s. I’ve had some decent, reasonably priced meals at Applebee’s through the years, and it’s a reliable option when you find yourself in someplace like, well, Watertown. But when foreign nationals are visiting, it just doesn’t seem right to take them to a place they can find in almost any American city or airport. So, where would you take foreign visitors?
Here are a few of my own ideas:
Fine Dining. Although Sioux Falls restaurants really cannot compete with those in places like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Las Vegas, you can get some damned fine fine dining fare here. Because it features great local ingredients handled with great care and turned into really stellar meals, Parker’s gets a nod. Also going on the list is the Blue Sage Grill at Cherapa Place. Unfortunately, the best place to get a really decent piece of South Dakota beef cooked perfectly is my house, and I am not hosting everyone’s friends and relatives. Blue Sage does a pretty masterful job with some ingredients that are more South Dakota-y. If you want to feed the guests some buffalo, that might be a good place to try.
Casual. Now here is a broad category. Anyway. Let’s say you have a relative from Southern California that insists there are no decent Mexican restaurants outside California. Here’s a week’s worth of eating projects. In a town where Mexican used to mean Chi Chi’s, there are now many options for Mexican ranging from the familiar Tex-Mex to seriously authentic food. Inca, Nikki’s, Puerto Vallarta, Azteca, or numerous others should give you more than enough to choose from and keep you out of the chain joints. Although, having just said that, a late-night run through a Taco Johns drive through may be in order for a little embarrassingly American indulgence.
There are lots of other unique casual options. Buffalo Wild Wings for copious amounts of tap beer and wide varieties of wing sauce. Bracco for the whole deck experience.
Pizza. Here’s another category replete with options that show off lots of local talent. For me, Red Rossa is a must do. For a gourmet pizza experience, I think Red Rossa is hard to beat. Grille 26 also offers some great pizza options. It’s not quite the same as Red Rossa, but I like the softer crust. Great happy hour deals at Grille 26. Spezia also offers the same type of pizza, but I’ve never liked the pizza there as well as Red Rossa or Grille 26. For non-brick oven pizza, I prefer Tomacelli’s to the other local options.
Burgers. If there is an official food of Sioux Falls, it must be burgers. Seems like every place serves them, and a BOGO or some other sort of burger feature is pretty much standard in all Sioux Falls eateries. Tre offers 20, count ‘em 20, different burgers on Monday evenings. McNally’s makes a pretty credible burger with good beefy taste and a nice bun. Remember though, the kids aren’t welcome at McNally’s. If you are looking for a “family bar” option (another seemingly SD offering) try the Attic for a burger. Bracco used to make a pretty good burger, but I frankly haven’t been in the place recently enough to say how they are doing with burgers these days. They used to be great. Hemmer Brothers makes a phenomenal bar-style burger without the bar. If you want the whole-hog bar experience with your burger, Little Coalinga is the only clear choice. For a burger time machine, try Hamburger Inn.Treats. You simply have to get some soft serve ice cream squirted, whipped or whirled into various creations. You could go to Dairy Queen, but I am taking my guests to B&G Milkyway. I love that small town service and flavor, accompanied by the slightest twinge of the sanitizer water used to clean the mixer between Avalanches. Another great thing to try at B&G is the super nachos. This is pretty much the low brow deconstructed pile of goo. All the makings of the usual nachos are there- non-chunky chili, bright orange cheese-flavored ooze, pickled jalapeno slices, chopped onions, a blast of sour cream dispensed from something that looks like a caulk gun, and a neatly arranged row of chips in a styrofoam container. You’d have to blend this stuff with more chemicals and put it all in a tin can to make it any more processed, but in a way, it is kind of an ultimate junk food nod to haute cuisine. All the ingredients are separated, hence the deconstructed thing.