In the heart of ‘Flavortown’: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

There is more to Sioux Falls then just great food, of course. There’s also plenty of culture to savor, as well as outdoor attractions.

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D., Oct. 23, 1015 − Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city, is called “the Heart of America.” It could equally be called the “center of America” as it’s centrally located close to many major mid-western cities.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

Visitors and locals alike enjoy the beautiful waterfalls in Falls Park, strolling or biking along the multi-purpose path (River Greenway) that follows the Big Sioux River, and the city’s vibrant art scene.

It’s no surprise this rapidly growing city has received many awards and accolades for its high quality of living. But it’s the city’s burgeoning culinary “chops” that attracts attention among residents and food aficionados everywhere.

Sioux Falls already offers most of the chain restaurants for the casual diner. But it’s the independent entrepreneurs in and around the downtown area who are carving out their own niche in this up-and-coming flavortown.


Ooh-la-la

You don’t have to travel all the way to France to enjoy some of its best offerings. Here are a few eateries proclaiming, “Oui, nous l’avons” (yes, we have it).

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

Walking into CH Patisserie, you might imagine that you’ve popped into a little pastry shop on the streets of Paris. Delectable eclairs, tarts, and neon-colored macaroons beckon from behind the glass.

These treats are the work of Chris Hanmer, a “Top Chef Just Desserts winner,” who opened his pastry shop on Phillips Avenue in the heart of downtown. His European-inspired confections have become an indulgent habit for many in Sioux Falls. Make sure you try his Chocolate Dream, a little shiny dome of decadent chocolate deliciousness.

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

Culinary Institute of America (CIA)-trained chef Michael Haskett of MB Hasketts creates his own version of French-inspired cuisine. His small space (recently remodeled) is always packed with hungry patrons looking for a taste of something different, such as his savory crepes (you can watch them being made just as you could on the streets of Paris), quiche and daily specials. On your first visit, I suggest trying his Red Flannel Hash with beets, potatoes, salmon, fennel and poached eggs.

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

If you have ever tried a baguette in France, you know that finding that sort of similar quality here in the U.S. can be daunting. Problem solved, however, as Breadico Di Napolitano is as far as you will have to go in Sioux Falls.

David Napolitano uses his 29-year-old sourdough starter and old-world methods to create deliciously crunchy-on-the-outside and moist-on-the-inside breads that will make you think you are on the Left Bank. They are so good, in fact, that many of the restaurants in town serve his breads.

An Appetite for the Exotic

When Sanaa Abourezk wanted to open an affordable, gourmet Mediterranean restaurant in a city that loved “meat and potatoes,” all of her friends warned her against the idea.

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

Determined, she founded Sanaa in a nondescript little strip mall near the railroad tracks. Unique and previously unknown flavors were just what many in this city were craving, and today her loyal customers rave about her fare. Her Pomegranate Fatayer (like a Mediterranean calzone) is made with ground beef, pomegranate molasses and chili sauce and is a favorite with the locals.

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@Ron Stern all rights reserved

Ever heard of a restaurant specializing in enchiladas? Stop in at Mama Lada’s Enchiladas Shop & Wine Bar to enjoy cheesy homemade beef or chicken enchiladas with some tasty salsa. It also serves some truly refreshing red or white sangrias, premium wines, and a variety of beers.

Regional and Americana

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

Rosie’s Cafe has been a Sioux Falls institution for 31 years. With only 49 seats (including the counter) in the space, this is where you come for down-home cooking and friendly local conversation. In addition to affordable breakfast dishes, lunches here such as meatloaf, turkey and stuffing, and liver and onions are only $5.50. A slice of home-made banana cream pie costs a mere $2.

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

People pour into downtown’s Minerva’s Restaurant the minute it opens its doors for the day. The menu offers eclectic American fare in a warm, inviting atmosphere. Here you can find everything from aged steaks to seafood to pasta. It also has a mega-salad bar that includes cheeses, soup, fresh fruit and salmon.

Parker’s Bistro serves fresh seafood – flying it in twice a week – and also strives to use local, organic ingredients in its offerings. It also has a nice selection of steak and poultry options.

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

Bros. Brasserie Americano, adorned with artwork by local painters, serves Creole cuisine. Try the Andouille and chicken gumbo or New Orleans strip steak with pepper cream gravy, mashers and vegetables du jour. Another entrée you will find intriguing is the pork belly with creole maux choux, sweet potato gnocchi and Dr. Pepper demi-glaze.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

For a contemporary American dining experience, try K Restaurant in the East Bank neighborhood. Long-time Sioux Falls resident Tina Kuehn chose this quiet location, away from the busy downtown section, to provide what she calls a “gourmet bistro feel” in an small, intimate space.

Most of her business has come from word of mouth, and all the dishes are made from scratch. One of her signature entrees is the 12 oz. beef sirloin steak, grilled, with a gorgonzola hazelnut sauce and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and sautéed asparagus. “You could eat your shoes with that sauce,” laughs Tina. Another favorite is her super creamy and rich crème brûlée, made from a secret recipe given to her by a chef in San Francisco.

Sweetness to eat and drink

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

B&G Milky Way, with several locations in Sioux Falls, is the kind of traditional drive-in your parents and grandparents would have loved. The unadorned lines of the red-and-white building underscores its ice cream simplicity. It makes its own strawberry soft-serve and has been putting smiles on faces since 1954.

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@Ron Stern,all rights reserved

The motto at Oh My Cupcakes! is “To Shine God’s Love and Make People Smile with Cupcakes.” Having started her business with less than $100, owner Melissa Johnson opened the first gourmet cupcake shop in Sioux Falls. Since these humble beginnings she has been featured in “Top 100 Cupcake Shops in America.” Her cooks make everything from scratch and offer many unusual flavor combinations like stuffed French toast, lemon drop and root beer float made with real root beer.

Constructed with straw bales, the Strawbale Winery is owned by Don and Susie South, who used their various talents to start their own vineyard and offer fruit wines to the public. Their tasting room is made from recycled materials, and they offer tasty grape, fruit and specialty wines. While you are there, ask to see their incredible jumping chicken.

There is more to Sioux Falls then just great food, of course.  There’s plenty of culture as well, such as the Washington Pavilion with a kids’ museum, a visual arts center and the Husby Performing Arts Center featuring major artists and performers.

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@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

At the Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cover there are large tanks filled with blue and yellow tropical fish, stingrays and a tidal pool. Step into the adjoining section to relax on a bench and you will be surrounded by wings of color as 800 butterflies from all over the world flutter about and land among the greenery.

There is also the unexpected, like a full-size replica of David, Michelangelo’s famous statue, in a public park. Sculptures dot the landscape in downtown, created by local artists whose work is the subject of plenty of photo ops and “selfies.”

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern, all rights reserved

But, there’s more…and perhaps the most important item of all. In addition to the exceptional and diverse cuisine, many attractions and local scenery, you can expect friendly people who seem to go out of their way to say, “hello” and make you feel welcome. This is, after all, the Heart of America, and the residents of this town show it every day.

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Ron Stern
Ron Stern, aka: The Global Gumshoe is passionate about excellence in hospitality and tourism. He writes full features with a focus on luxury, cuisine, hotels, resorts, tourism and travel destinations. His articles have appeared in national and regional magazines such as Shape, Cruise, Frequent Flyer, AAA Motorist, Visit Los Cabos Guide, Destinations West, Key Biscayne and La Jolla Today. Other articles have been published in newspapers (print and online) such as The Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sun Sentinel, Bismarck Tribune, The Jamaican Observer, the Coloradoan and travel trade magazines. Ron’s other contributions have been noted by PBS, Mobil Travel Guides and his photography has been used extensively by entities such as tourism boards and public relations firms. He has traveled extensively and is the author of five books. Ron's motto: "uncovering the sole of travel" humorously captures his spirit of walking the world travel beat as a gumshoe detective, always looking for a story.