Food Falls: The Legislative Eats Edition

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As the legislative session is winding down, some of you might be heading out that way to catch the finalizing of the budget. Or maybe you’re going to Pierre area for some fishing or hunting during the rest of the year. Either way, I thought it would be fun to do a Pierre edition of the blog.

One fairly big problem: I’ve not been out to Pierre in two years.

Luckily, a few of our Sioux Falls legislators agreed to help. District 15 Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell and District 12 Sen. Mark Johnston responded to my request for their favorites. And while one was certainly more verbose than the other, collectively it’s a good report with some varying opinions. You’ll also notice no one mentioned any place to avoid (even though I asked). VERY smart, right? I think so.

I also threw our own political reporter David Montgomery into the mix. He neglected to mention Subway, so I’ll go ahead and state it for him here. I know it’s a guilty pleasure of his. I know this because it’s one of mine too. Don’t judge.

So here you go. The best places to eat in Pierre, according to Buhl, Johnston and Montgomery. Feel free to discuss in the comments, and add your own favorites to help each other out!

Enjoy!

Sen. Buhl O’Donnell

I’ve been a huge fan of Red Rossa since it opened last year, and it’s my go-to at the end of a long day when I want to unwind with good food in a nice atmosphere.  Their lunch options are good; I had their Salmon Fuoco a couple weeks ago, which was delicious.  The salmon itself was tender and not over-cooked, and was served on a bed of fantastic parmesan risotto.  I also did takeout from there last week and had the triple mac and cheese, which was exactly the comfort food I wanted at that moment.

If you’re a steak fan, or want something with a little darker feel or a little closer to Pierre’s old west streak, Mad Mary’s is great.  I think it often gets overlooked by steak lovers for places like Cattlemen’s, but the downtown location is a huge plus for me.  Don’t let the fact that the menu is entirely printed in Curlz MT dissuade you; these folks know how to make good food.  I’m a girl who likes a nice rare steak, and their filet mignon and sirloin have amazing flavor; this is clearly steak made by people who love steak.  Pair that with a good stout beer or a Shiner Bock, and you can’t go wrong.  Their menu isn’t huge — steak is clearly their specialty — but they’ve got some surf-and-turf options, and some poultry and pasta as well.  If you go, I also highly recommend the “sun spots” as your potato option; they’re little half-dollar sized sweet potato fries, and as a lover of all things sweet potato, I couldn’t not mention them.

La Minestra is always a favorite too.  They’ve got some good lunch options, with my personal favorite being their Salad and a Slice — a good sized green salad with a slice of the pizza of the day for $10.  This is the distinctly more upscale Italian place in town, and definitely has a more authentic feel than Red Rossa.  That said, it’s also a little spendier, but I’ve found the quality of the food is worth the price.  I had the Thai Chicken pasta last time I was there, which I loved.  I’ve also been a big fan of their seafood pasta dishes, or the good ol’ Italian comfort food they call “Matt’s Favorite.” 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention View 34/Pub 34.  The upstairs has a nice (if a little stuffy) atmosphere, and it’s not really just a casual dinner sort of place.  Truth be told, any menu that includes things like “swordfish” is probably going to earn pretty high marks from me, and I had a really hard time choosing just one thing on the menu.  Pub 34 is the View’s downstairs little brother, with a much more casual pub atmosphere (think Falls Landing).  The food is great though — when I want a quick bite with really good bar food, this is my default.  I’ve had the chile burger the past couple of times I’ve been there, which is great — it’s a burger with a roasted chile and avocado, which has a nice but not overbearingly spicy flavor to it. 

Finally, my husband and I have found ourselves defaulting to Long Branch for a quick bite for lunch or dinner.  Last night, I ordered the grilled steak tips (rare, obvi), which were surprisingly awesome given the divey atmosphere (since sometimes places like that are reluctant to do steak anything less than med-rare).  I very nearly ordered instead the chicken strips, since they came with a cool assortment of dipping sauces like “zesty orange,” which earned some creativity points in my mind.  I will say that the salads here are disappointing, though: I’ve tried to do them for lunch here or there, and it’s a pretty sad little pile of shredded iceberg lettuce and not much else. 

I can’t think of any places I’d specifically say to avoid in Pierre, but these are the places in my standard rotation.

Sen. Johnston

Wow!  Tough question.  I have to admit my favorite place to eat is the Cattleman’s on East Hwy. 34.  I always get the small sirloin cooked medium rare.  The quality, consistency and flavor of their steaks is unmatched!  In addition to having a view overlooking the Missouri River, the aura of the place…including sawdust on the floor…is unmatched for the Spirit of the West!

Not-Sen. David Montgomery

Dining out in Pierre is something of Goldilocks dilemma — there’s plenty of options for fine dining, for $20 pastas and $25 steaks at the bottom end of the menu, and there’s plenty of fast food places, but not a lot of affordable, casual restaurants with good $10 meals. Even someone with a per diem or expense account can get bored with fancy candlelit meals.

All that is why in Pierre my most-frequented dinner option is probably the decidedly casual Guadlajara Mexican Restaurant. The service there isn’t always the best — I’ve stood around for an uncomfortably long time waiting for a table before — but the food is delicious and affordable and fast. If you dine in, you’ll get a bottomless bowl of chips and salsa to go along with whatever you order, which is equal parts delicious and dangerous to your appetite. But they’ll also box up just about anything you want to go, which is often my preferred option at the end of a long day at the Capitol. They also have a discounted lunch menu.

I can’t speak for the authenticity of the food at “Guad’s,” but I have few complaints about how it tastes. If I’m dining in I’ll usually get the arroz con pollo; for takeout, I order their veggie burrito. All their items, and especially their burritos, are simply enormous — you can make two meals out of it, if you want, or just stuff yourself. If you do eat at Guad’s, try not to think about your caloric intake. Between the huge portions and all the cheese, cream and oil, you’ll probably put on a few pounds if you stop by Guad’s too much. But there are few places in Pierre with the combination of taste and affordability if you’re looking to put on that “Legislative 15.”

Other great options in town include the lunch specials at La Minestra downtown and the steaks at the Cattleman’s Club east of the city.

(photo by Cory Myers, forever ago)