Destination dining: Must-try newer small-town restaurants

May 30, 2018

This piece is presented by the Lincoln County and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations.

With the longer days of summer, it’s easy to take a drive and have supper in a small town.

Here’s a look at some of the newer offerings in the smaller towns around Sioux Falls.

Sioux Valley Grille, Canton

A tired Chinese restaurant space on Canton’s main thoroughfare got a major makeover last year that resulted in the rustic country-styled Sioux Valley Grille.

Chef Peter Cobb owns the restaurant with his stepbrother Ken O’Brien. He describes the menu as “American comfort food made from scratch as much as possible with high-quality ingredients.”

The most popular items include the chicken quesadilla, burgers and the patty melt, Cobb said. Entrees include steak, chicken and fish choices. Daily specials provide the wow factor with features such as braised lamb shanks and pork schnitzel. They’ve kept the menu simple, with one page for lunch and two for dinner.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Starting June 3, the restaurant will be open for Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The menu will include choices such as omelets made to order, French toast with strawberries and whipped cream, breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy, a standard breakfast plate and a couple of salads, Cobb said.

Sioux Valley Grille serves beer, wine and liquor.

‘O’ So Good, Garretson

For a taste of Southern-style cooking, “O” So Good in Garretson hits the spot. Omar Thornton opened the restaurant last summer on Main Avenue. His menu includes appetizers such as spicy “dragon” wings and entrees ranging from Cajun seafood pasta, cheesy grits with shrimp and pan-fried blackened walleye to Dixie fried chicken, barbecued pork ribs and meatloaf.

Thornton has adapted hours to fit the community’s needs. The coffee shop in the front of the historic building is open from 7 to 10 a.m. weekdays and serves baked goods. Dinner hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. On Sundays, “O” So Good is open from noon to 4 p.m., and Thornton cooks up breakfast, lunch and dinner items, including a seafood boil. The restaurant offers a 15 percent discount that day.

Weekend nights often feature jazz musicians, and he has hosted comedy show dinners and special wine-tasting dinners. For his one-year anniversary in July, Thornton is creating a four-course meal that will be paired with beers from WoodGrain Brewing Co. in Sioux Falls. “O” So Good also provides catering.

A couple of Sunday nights a month, he offers a free meal to anyone who needs one. It allows him to use any extra food he has in the kitchen rather than throwing it away. Coming together for food and conversation is important, Thornton said. “I always say I’m blessed if no one shows up and I’m blessed if they do.”

CJ’s at the Wellington, Montrose

Diners at CJ’s at the Wellington in Montrose get to eat in a historic bank building that still includes the vault.

Co-owner Connie Sivertson has always loved to cook and provided food for countless church dinners and celebrations for friends. She was a nurse for 35 years and was ready “to do something I wanted to do.”

She considered a catering business and was looking for a commercial kitchen when she found a vacant restaurant site in Montrose.

“I had never thought of running a restaurant before,” she said, but the building’s charm convinced her that it needed to be used for more than just the kitchen.

“I knew I needed help and asked my son, and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ” Sivertson and son Cole opened CJ’s in April 2017.

It’s open for dinner starting at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The menu ranges from hamburgers and chicken fingers to pork carnitas and steak. The steak choices will vary from New York strip and rib eye to flat iron and prime rib, but “we’ve never had one over $20.” Recently, CJ’s served a 1-pound T-bone for $18.95 – “try to get one for that price in Sioux Falls,” she said. “It’s worth the drive.”

There’s a daily special, including residents’ request for tacos on Tuesdays, and Sivertson is always baking up something special for dessert, which is free with a meal Monday through Thursday. She takes special orders for cakes and does catering for parties or meetings.

Blue 42 Sports Grill, Hartford

A restaurant space along the I-90 exit at Hartford has seen a few businesses come and go, but the new occupant, Blue 42 Sports Grill, is quickly building a reputation for its food.

The bar and grill marked its six-month anniversary earlier this month, and “we’ve grown to become very busier than I anticipated,” said general manager Tony Axtell, whose wife, Courtney, owns the business. “We’re doing 5-to-1 sales of food to alcohol.”

Blue 42 offers a six-page menu with “everything for kids to adults” and specials for lunch and dinner. Favorites include chislic, steak tips, burgers and a 24-ounce pretzel that fills a “giant” pizza pan. “We’re known for our huge portions,” Axtell said. “No one goes home hungry.” The menu expanded this week to include New York strips and rib eyes.

The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. daily and closes at 10 p.m. Sunday, midnight Monday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Stomping Grounds, Hartford

Hartford residents can get a latte or frappuccino without driving to Sioux Falls. Stomping Grounds, which opened in March 2017, serves coffee drinks made with Coffea Roasterie beans and Stensland Family Farms milk.

Image of coffee shopIt’s also more than just a coffee shop, offering a large selection of paninis, several salads and a daily soup. Stomping Grounds has a seating area that can accommodate larger groups, and several organizations have meetings there on a weekly or monthly basis, said Justin Eich, who owns the business with his wife, Robin. In addition to local customers, the restaurant draws people from places such as Montrose, Salem and Madison, Eich said.

“We’re always seeing new faces and similar ones, which is good.”

In the past year, Stomping Grounds has added more bakery items. Eich hired a barista who also likes to bake, so she’s making items such as cookie cakes, cupcakes and even wedding cakes. Local features on the menu include SDSU ice cream and South Dakota wines.

The restaurant has tweaked its hours after learning customers’ habits. Eich dropped Sunday hours a few weeks ago. Stomping Grounds is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Someday Cafe, Baltic

Baltic is getting its only sit-down restaurant this summer. Mike and Kim Frerichs plan to open Someday Cafe on June 12 in downtown.

Frerichs, who will do the cooking, said he plans to offer daily specials and the typical small-town cafe fare such as burgers and chicken strip and shrimp baskets.

“We’re starting off pretty simple,” said Frerichs, who was one of the lead chefs at Avera McKennan Hospital. “We want to take baby steps and go from there.”

Someday Cafe will be open for lunch and dinner.

Big J’s Roadhouse BBQ & Grill, Humboldt and Harrisburg


The Humboldt restaurant is a few years old, but it’s expanding to Harrisburg in June.

Diners will enjoy the same menu, which features house-smoked meats, hand-cut steaks and wings. Last year, Big J’s Roadhouse was named the restaurant of the year by the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. It will have a full liquor license and offer catering and delivery.

The restaurant, which is owned by Justin and Tina Kjellsen, will open in the former Game Changer space on Cliff Avenue near Air Madness.

It will be open daily.

EightyOne, Harrisburg

This isn’t a restaurant yet, but it would like to be one someday. EightyOne is a combination bar and video game arcade that opened on Christmas Day last year. It features more than 50 games that cover 40 years, starting in the late 1970s. Players plug the machines with quarters and can choose from six craft beers on tap and a variety of bottled beers.

“We have a lot of people coming in who want to show their kids the games they played,” owner Errol Stewart said. Children 9 and older are welcome. “It is more for adults,” he said. “It’s very obviously geared to 30- and 40-year-olds.”

The downside is the lack of food, Stewart said. EightyOne serves chips and beef sticks. He’s looking for a restaurant operator to use the kitchen space, which needs equipment. The restaurant would share the rent but keep all of the food revenue. Stewart envisions something more than typical bar food but choices that are easy to eat while playing games — something like gourmet sandwiches or Mexican food. With all of the games, there isn’t room for a “sit-down table experience.”

EightyOne is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Sunday and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“The food should stand on its own,” he said. “You’d come in for the food and the bonus is we have all these games too.”

Destination dining: Must-try newer small-town restaurants

With the longer days of summer, it’s easy to take a drive and have supper in a small town. Here’s a look at some of the newer offerings in the smaller towns around Sioux Falls.

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