Sioux Falls: The Dakotas’ Culinary and Cultural Gem

Travel Features Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls: The Dakotas’ Culinary and Cultural Gem

Cross-country road trips are my favorite way to explore North America. On these interstate odysseys, I like to travel slowly, taking my time to appreciate the changing topography—how the hills and towns of the East Coast melt into the open expanses of the Great Plains, which in turn yield to the mountains, buttes, and deserts of the West—and subtle variations in accents, cuisines, and architecture.

Exploring new cities in the Midwest, a region I’ve come to love, is another perk of these long drives. On my most recent bicoastal journey, from New York City to San Francisco, I sojourned in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, almost exactly halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific. While familiar with the state’s fabled National Parks, I had zero conceptions of its largest city. What I discovered was a sneaky-cool town: a prairie burg brimming with Midwestern charm, quirky museums, and spectacular dining and drinking—somewhere, frankly, I would love to visit again.  

Nestled on the junction of Interstates 90 and 29, Sioux Falls is a popular rest stop for cross-country road trips like my own. Many find themselves in town for the legendary pheasant-hunting in the fall, or perhaps to travel farther west to see the Badlands, Black Hills, or Mount Rushmore. But I’ll hazard that Sioux Falls is worth visiting solely for its cultural and culinary merits. I ended up staying a delightful three days, tacking on an extra day to see the not-to-be-missed Corn Palace in the nearby town of Mitchell. Below are a few highlights from this gem in the Upper Midwest.  

Dining & Drinking in Sioux Falls 

WoodGrain Brewing 

WoodGrain Brewing

In a region with tough winters and deep German roots, South Dakotans take their beer seriously. Dakota Shivers, in the state’s western reaches, might be the most nationally renowned SoDak brewery, but Sioux Falls boasts a bevy of topnotch taprooms. WoodGrain Brewing serves a rotating menu of seasonal brews as well as a few flagships anchoring the menu all year. The IPAs are notable standouts: try the New England- and West Coast-style IPAs together in a beer flight. WoodGrain’s spacious patio buzzes on Friday and Saturday nights, and the brewery hosts a spirited weekly trivia night. 

M.B. Haskett Delicatessen  

Residing as I do in Brooklyn, you could say I have high standards when it comes to delicatessens. (In my humble opinion, even LA’s famous Jewish delis can’t hold a candle to New York’s.) But 1,500 miles inland from the Lower East Side, in a state with more subspecies of elk than Shabbat-keepers, M.B. Haskett Delicatessen is the real deal, serving mouth-watering pastrami, house-made pickles, and tangy rye bread. While most come for sandwiches and charcuterie, M.B. Haskett does fantastic brunch plates as well. Their breakfast sandwiches, loaded with house-cured bacon or sausage, will keep you smiling for the rest of the day, especially when chased with a well-poured mocha from their barista.

The Treasury

If artistic cocktails are more your speed than suds, you’ll love The Treasury, a gorgeous, wood-paneled bar inside a century-old bank vault at Hotel On Phillips. The building, originally a bank founded in 1918, landed on South Dakota’s historical registry after weathering countless attempted robberies over the decades. In addition to the vault, the hotel has kept much of the Art Deco architecture of the old bank, including a glittering terrazzo floor. While technically a speakeasy, The Treasury is easy to find: guests jostle for selfies in front of the highly Instragamable entrance, a 16-ton, circular iron door. Open until midnight, The Treasury is downtown Sioux Falls’ go-to for classy nightcaps. And, as with fine public houses the world over, the bartenders are nonpareil authorities on Sioux Falls’ culinary and music scenes. 


Sanaa’s Gourmet serves up the clean, za’atar- and citrus-inflected cuisine of Syria. Born in Damascus, a city whose culinary arts stretch back millennia, Sanaa Abourezk moved to South Dakota after stages in kitchens in France and Italy. A 2023 James Beard Finalist, Sanaa cooks Levantine soul food: succulent kebabs, pillowy dollops of hummus, and addictively good muhammara—a bright-red dip sweetened with pomegranate syrup and blitzed walnuts. Whatever you do, save room for her desserts, a rotating selection of pastries laced with the likes of orange blossom syrup, rosewater, and Syrian cheese. 

Harvester Kitchen by Bryan 

If you’re curious about how Michelin-quality chefs might interpret the traditional fare of the American prairie, book a reservation at Harvester Kitchen by Bryan. Inside a one-time farm equipment depot, Chef Bryan Moscatello elevates ingredients like buffalo, spuds, and heirloom cereal varietals to gourmet perfection. Take their “Potato & Egg,” a plain-sounding enough dish but reinvented with an epicurean flourish: wafer-thin, crispy “mille-feuille” potatoes, a hit of rich crème fraiche, and a generous topping of caviar. If you can, dine around sunset; the views of the prairie and Sioux Falls’ historic Old Courthouse Tower are spectacular at the golden hour. 

Things to do in Sioux Falls

Corn Palace in Mitchell 

Corn Palace

Paris might have the Louvre Colonnade, widely considered the world’s most magnificent façade, but Mitchell, a small town outside Sioux Falls, has the Corn Palace, an arena whose entire exterior is bedecked with corn art. Corny jokes aside (see what I did there), the Corn Palace is peak South Dakota, a tradition beloved by denizens of the Mount Rushmore State. Every year, after the harvest, artists craft mosaics out of dried corn depicting South Dakotan symbols: the faces of famous residents, prairie fauna, and Oglala Sioux textile designs. Wrought in the muted yellows, oranges, and purples of dried maize, the intricacy of the designs is mind-boggling. Inside the arena, which hosts concerts and sporting events all year, exhibits speak to the history of South Dakota, and a concession stand sells—but what else?—corn-based confections. After marveling at the murals of maize, grab a burger and a pint of delicious South Dakota craft at The Back 40 Taphouse, right across the street.

BronzeAge Art Casting 

Huge heavy metal fan you say? Then a visit to BronzeAge Art Casting will be a highlight of your time in Sioux Falls. Right across from Falls Park, the tumbling cascades that lend Sioux Falls its toponym, BronzeAge is part artist colony and part old-school foundry. Here, visitors learn about traditional metallurgy and cast their own works of metallic art. The team of smiths crafts all manners of bronze art: statues, plaques, whimsical figurines, and much more. They even experiment with metallurgical techniques as varied as those of Viking Scandinavia and ancient Ghana. And you can create your own shiny souvenirs: first sculpting a model out of clay, then creating a wax mold to be filled with molten metal. Make sure to check here to see when workshops are available. Who knew blast furnaces were an absolute blast? 

South Dakota Art Museum – Brookings 

The nearby prairie hamlet of Brookings, home to South Dakota State University, is home to the small-but-mighty South Dakota Art Museum. The museum takes about an hour or so to peruse, with a large collection of work by the great prairie painter Harvey Dunn, a contemporary of Grant Wood. It also houses works by modern South Dakotans, including a phenomenal exhibit dedicated to the late, great Oscar Howe, a master painter of the Sioux Nation; and another to young artists from the Pine Ridge Reservation. After savoring your fill of art and culture, tie one on at Wooden Legs Brewery, a favorite haunt among the young scholars at SDSU. In addition to flights of excellent beer, Wooden Legs fires those cracker-thin Midwest-style pizzas (try the cheeseburger pie). 

Where to Stay in Sioux Falls

Hotel On Phillips 

Hotel on Phillips

Especially if you’re an architecture buff, you can’t do better than Hotel On Phillips, home to The Treasury. Comfy and quirky, Hotel On Phillips is conveniently located in downtown Sioux Falls, so you’ll save money on Ubers. A rare, fully independent operation, Hotel On Phillips has none of that off-putting corporate vibe of some boutique hotels. From their photo-worthy Art Deco lobby, you can easily stroll to Falls Park, WoodGrain, and most of the places mentioned above. Rooms will run you about $200 a night. 

Johnny Motley has written for The Daily Beast, Matador Network, Cool Material, and more. He’s on Twitter @johnnymotley.

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