Friday, October 31, 2008

The Downtown Sioux Falls Bar Scene

The Fork's day job is at an office in downtown Sioux Falls.  The Fork likes to have a couple libations after work before heading home to make dinner for the rest of the Secret Silverware and watch television.  The fact the Fork has a pretty stressful job also promotes post-work libations.  Drinking to relieve stress from work is not necessarily a good idea, but then neither is having a highly stressful job.  So, until the Fork manages to pick the winning Power Ball numbers, it's stressful work and post-work drinks or the Secret Teaspoon is never going to get to college.

The downtown Sioux Falls post work bar scene is not too bad.  This is a good deal, because the Fork has certain rules about frequenting establishments at roughly the same time on any given day.  Actually, it might just be one rule, and that is do not go to the same place every day at more or less the same time.  It gives people the idea you drink every day.  If someone knows exactly where to have you served with a subpoena at 5:45 PM, you are not managing your post-work alcohol consumption in an effective manner.  Fortunately, there are enough places in downtown Sioux Falls to make the process servers work if they are going to find you on a barstool after work.

Let's survey those locales, shall we?

  • Minerva's.  Minerva's has a great bar.   Seriously.  It's a great place to stop for a couple after work.  The bar is clean and neat.  Non-smoking, which is most definitely a plus.  The bartenders are pleasant, professional and efficient.  Minerva's has a full bar, offers some wines by the glass and has a pretty good selection of beer on tap, which generally includes a seasonal selection.  There is a somewhat regular crowd that frequents Minerva's and they are pretty nice people to chat with.
  • Falls Landing.  This is a little watering hole located at the Country Inn and Suites hotel on 8th Street right on the bike path and the Big Sioux River.  Jay, the guy who owns or runs the place is a heck of a nice guy and is always happy to see you.  The place has a great outdoor seating area right along the bike path and the river.  On a good day, you can sit outside and watch the folks over in the high rise fish in the river and watch folks ride by on the bike path.  Jay also manages to have a staff of fairly hot female servers and bartenders.  There is always plenty of free popcorn available.  This place obviously has all the trappings of a great place to hang out.  Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks.  One of the bigger ones is the fact that the place feels like a bar located in a cheap hotel, which it is.  The deck is great but it seems like except for one of those 6 absolutely perfect days each year when the temperature is exactly right and the wind isn't blowing, the outdoor area sounds better than it actually is.  It is situated at such an angle that the sun is always shining right on you in the late afternoon.  I other words, it gets a little hot out there, so you have to be pretty proficient at downing 22oz taps before they get too warm.  If the wind is blowing . . . you'l spend most of your time keeping your table umprella from blowing over.  Still a good place to avoid the process server and to alter the usual routine.
  • Stogeez.  Here is a fun place to go after work.  It's nice to sit at the bar or at a table by the windows in the winter and enjoy a couple of beverages.  Stogeez always has a nice selection of beers on tap and is the only place in Sioux Falls here the Fork has had a Sam Adams beer in one of those specially engineered Sam Adams beer glasses.  Of course, it is a joy to sit outside on Phillips Avenue and enjoy a couple of beverages while the world strolls by.  The bartenders and the usual patrons are nice folks.  The Fork has two minor reservations about the place: (1) certain bartenders treat the regular regulars better than everyone else, which means that you might need some patience if you want that second round without walking to the bar and getting it yourself and (2) chances are you are going to smell like you have been sitting in a bar when you get home.
  • Stogeez Copper Lounge.  Here's the way to give Tim Kant money and get a taste of the Stogeez experience without smelling like you've been in a cigar bar in Miami.  The Copper is non-smoking, but has a great selection of liquors, beers and wines, along with some comfy chairs.  The bartenders are polite and efficient.  Great addition to downtown.
  • Latitude 44.  The Fork is not entirely certain, but believes Latitude 44 is only open Thursday through Saturday.  Latitude is located in the former Stockman's location in the little flatiron building on 8th Street, right where the railroad crosses 8th Street.  Kind of a small place, but very clean and smoke free.  There are nice seating areas and around the post-work hours there are usually a few free complimentary snacks to nibble on.  At the very least, you'll get a nice dish of party mix.  Beer and wine only and a generally nice, but small selection.  Latitude hosts live music and its a great venue to hang out and have a few while enjoying some local live music.  For a few drinks in a nice clean place where you can actually hear the conversation with your friends, this is a great choice.
  • Wiley's.  Wiley's is the present occupant of the corner of 6th Street and Main Avenue.  Prior tenants included the blues bar, Portabella, and Longshot's.  Remember when the name of the place kept changing, but the same servers/bartenders and patrons were always in the place?  It's changed.  The place doesn't look much different than its predecessors, but Wiley's is a definite improvement.  The service is improved and, it seems the clientele has also improved, as well.  Wiley's also offers happy hour two-fers.  How can you beat that?  They also have interesting beer on tap like the beers made in the Amana Colonies in Iowa.  Good stuff and a good improvement for the scene.
  • Monk's.  This is an interesting place for a lot of reasons.  The Fork isn't too sure how to feel about the place.  It has its good points, like Belgian beers made by real monks.  Good stuff, but if your idea of phenomenal beer is an ice cold Busch Light straight from the can, you are not going to like Monk's, although they do have a nice selection of more pedestrian beers.  It's also a beautiful place to sit.  There is great artwork on the walls and Jerry Hauck has placed some great woodwork inside.  Monk's also has the proper glassware for their beers- more like wine glasses than mugs or pint glasses.  There are a few drawbacks.  This level of beer is expensive.  You will be dealing with a quality versus quantity trade off.  There is outdoor seating, but sitting out near the sidewalk 8th Street tossing down pricey Belgian Trappist brews while folks are walking to dinner at the Banquet really makes those heady ales taste especially bitter.  The help is a plus and a drawback.  If you have been there, you know of what the Fork speaks.  The main bartender guy is extremely knowledgeable about the beers and can help you make a selection to suit your individual tastes, but he is also somewhat snooty/odd/artsy.  No reason to avoid the place though- stop in, especially if you really like beer.
  • Paramount.  This place is gorgeous.  Anita Keeley did a marvelous job decorating the place.  It's a neat place to stop to enjoy some wine or a beer.  They have a nice selection of appetizers, but considering the place doesn't seem to have a kitchen, the Fork wonders where exactly they create these dishes.  Paramount also has what have to be the nicest bathrooms of almost any lounge in Sioux Falls.  Live piano music on certain nights.  The only qualm the Fork has with the place is that Paramount wants to be a wine bar, but the Fork is yet to encounter a server or staff person who knows much more than diddly squat about wine.  If Paramount could only tap into some of the wine expertise from the folks at Food & Fermentation, they might be onto something.  It is the Fork's understanding from a recent news story that the fine folks at Minerva's purchased Paramount.  It's going to be interesting to see where this goes.
  • Food & Fermentation.  This is a great place.  Doug and Laurel are about as nice as any people you are likely to find anywhere and Ben is a great resource when it comes to wine. This place is a great standby for a post-work glass or two of nice wine and a plate of interesting cheeses and meats.  The place is spendy, though.  Want a great tip from the Fork?  If there are two or more of you and you plan on drinking at least a couple of glasses each, ask Ben to help you find a bottle to share.  It's more fun that ordering off the by-the-glass menu and you'll probably save a couple bucks.
  • Applebee's.  Yes, there is an Applebee's downtown.  A person could get an appetizer and a drink there, if he or she were so inclined.  The Fork generally eschews chain joints like Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, Boston's, etc., but still, it's an alternative.  The Fork's main issue with the downtown Applebee's is that the joint is a bit of a one trick pony.  In other words, in the Fork's humble opinion, the place only seems to be capable of doing a decent job of serving lunch.  That's about the only time the Fork has observed the place to be busy and the only time the staff has seemed to know what is going on.  When the place is dead, i.e. after work or on a weekend afternoon, they seem to be particularly incapable of efficiently slinging drinks and nuking a sampler platter of appetizers.

There are other places in the downtown area to get a post-work de-stressification cocktail.  The Fork just hasn't been to a few of these other places for a while.  Smoe's, Little Coalinga, Scoreboard, Phil's, David, Top Hat, and Tommyjack's come to mind.  Haven't been to that billiards place for a while, either.  A few owners ago, they used to have about the best happy hour in town.  Armed with coupons during a Friday happy hour several years ago, about a dozen of us got about half loaded up for a whopping 30 bucks.  That was a great afternoon.  Hmmm, might be cause for some more exploratory after work trips.

Coming soon- more observations on watering holes all over town!