I just can't quite put it another way: This time of year sucks. Sure, the weather is starting to get a little nicer, and the grass is starting to show the slightest signs of coming back to life. But, overall, it is still rather "grey" around here. Hate that.
However, if you find your visual senses needing a little jump start, you might wander down to Crawford's on Phillips Ave downtown. Crawford's is the newest addition to the Sioux Falls fine dining scene. Named after the menswear store that once occupied the same spot, the building is beautiful. Step inside and be prepared for an explosion of styles, textures, and colors. I believe I read the decor is kind of like cowboy meets gypsy. That's a pretty good start. You'll see original brick, a pressed tin ceiling, leather, iron, lighting fixtures fashioned from antlers, cowhide, dark wallpaper festooned with jewels, colored candle holders, silk curtains, etc. etc. etc. A person could probably discover something they haven't seen previously on just about any trip in there. It's quite the experience.
The menu is pretty interesting. Kind of standard fine dining fare, in my opinion. Steaks, fish, lamb, pasta, salads, soups, appetizers. On our visit, we started with some calamari, steak bites, and smoked chicken wings. Nothing terribly exciting, but all prepared well and sent out without error. The calamari was some of the largest cut and tenderest squid I have had here. We tried the onion soup, which featured something like four onions. Hard to tell that, though, because of the smoky gruyere melted on top that gave it a definite smokiness. The entrees were good. Fairly big portions.
Service was good. We had a great waitress who was friendly and eager to serve. That can get a person a long way. Her only fault was a general lack of knowledge of fine food and the nuances of the menu. Crawford's makes a pretty big production out of the service. Our entrees were delivered by at least two people from the kitchen.
However . . . decor alone won't carry the day. Even though Crawford's is off to a great start, especially for being open only a week, I would offer the following thoughts:
- I personally thought the approach to the entrees was a little ham-handed. The food was well prepared, but the portions were a tad large. Big and pretty don't necessarily go together. I hope the chefs will start to experiment and get out a little more toward the "edge" like the guys at Bros have done. The food just needs a little more, well, finesse.
- I'd like to see some awesome off-menu specials. I learned a long time ago that if a place is featuring a really special dish that isn't on the menu, that's probably what you want to go for.
- Get that staff educated.
I also have one general question about fine dining downtown, in general. Let me preface this by saying that in my humble opinion, thanks to Parker's, Bros, and K's, downtown has wrestled the fine-dining epicenter back downtown, where it should be. But, are Crawford's, Bros, and Parker's too alike? Time will tell. Anyone who pays attention around here knows that almost any food place will be jam packed for the first several weeks it is open. Hell, Senor Wiener probably hit it out of the park for a month before everyone figured out they were serving hot dogs from a difficult to access location. Crawford's is definitely the "it" place right now. Can they sustain it, and what does this mean for other establishments?
I think David Graham should do well with this endeavor. By decor alone, Crawford's has quickly set itself apart from other venues, but in time it is going to take great food and support from the dining public. Personally, I prefer Parker's and Bros, but I will definitely be back to visit Crawford's many times, I am sure.