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South Dakota's Best Breakfasts
Mar 26, 2013
“A timid salesman has skinny kids,” quipped a sales consultant at a recent business meeting in Sioux Falls.
That may be especially true for salesmen in sparsely populated South Dakota, where you can literally run out of prospects and even restaurants. So the smart traveling salesman of the prairie makes the most of every day, every town, every mile.
And the experienced salesman knows the advantages of starting the day right, with a tasty breakfast enjoyed in a place where the locals meet — so we asked a few road veterans to share their favorite breakfast establishment as a travel tip for the rest of us.
Joie's Cafe — Winner
Although Wayne Hopkins of Brookings sells electrical and air conditioning parts for Nielsen's in a four state area, he chose a restaurant in his home town of Winner. "In the winter I'd go in the cafe, just a block from my school, to have a hot chocolate and warm up. It still looks the same as I remember it 30 years ago," Hopkins says. His favorite item is the breakfast burrito.
Brock Green succeeded his father-in-law at Joie’s years ago. Special recipes for biscuits and gravy and made-from-scratch pancakes haven’t changed. He even has his own specialty sausage, made just for Joie’s at the local Super Duper Store.
The 140-seat Main Street cafe is a Winner mainstay that was called Sargent’s when Hopkins was growing up. Visitors are welcome to sit at the businessman’s roundtable, where locals shoot dice to see who picks up the noon tab. But be careful. “Usually it’s the new guy or the guy who only had soup that gets nailed,” laughs Green. Call 605-842-3788.
ALASKA CAFE — Lemmon
Lemmon is South Dakota’s northernmost city, but it’s still a far cry from the tundra so travelers are surprised to see the Alaska Cafe sign on Highway 12 and they often stop to pose for pictures.
Inside, they get an even better taste of the Land of the Midnight Sun. Pictures of grizzly bears, moose, the Bering Strait and North Pacific fishing boats grace the walls, and proprietor Laura Casey — who runs the cafe with her daughter, Breanna Thomas — has a big compass, the only surviving artifact of her father’s commercial halibut boat that was lost in a storm. Several years after the accident, Laura’s parents moved to Lemmon and she followed seven years ago and opened the restaurant.
Amy Pravecek of Winner chose the Alaska Cafe in Lemmon as her favorite breakfast spot because "everything on their menu is wonderful and the cafe is full of friendly locals who are always willing to visit," she says.
Pravecek is the territory manager for Phizer in western South Dakota. She travels West River back roads visiting veterinarians, animal health distributors, farmers and ranchers, telling them about Phizer's vaccination programs.
Alaska Cafe serves breakfast from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The big breakfast is a country fried skillet with scrambled eggs, hash browns, chicken fried steak, country gravy and cheddar sauce. Pancakes are the size of big plates.
Pravecek likes to dine on the biscuits and gravy and then take a little walk through the petrified wood park across the street. She also recommends visiting Lemmon Livestock sale barn if you are in town on a Wednesday. Call 605-374-7588.
SPARKY’S — ISABEL
Sparky’s operates from a nondescript building on Isabel’s Main Street, which is busier than you might expect because it also sits along S.D. Highway 65, a north-south corridor that cuts across West River country.
Operated by Ryan Maher, a young entrepreneur and Republican state senator, the restaurant serves three meals a day and sometimes even provides the evening entertainment, which has ranged from karaoke and country bands to pool tournaments, goat-roping and an ugly sweater contest.
Monte James of Yankton chose Sparky's for their "All American Breakfast" — two sausage patties, two eggs, wheat toast and homemade hashbrowns. "The food is off the charts," says James, a territory manager for Sioux Steel Company. Sioux Steel is a fourth generation family-owned business that opened in 1918 and makes grain bins, livestock equipment and other steel supplies for farmers and ranchers across the world.
James also frequents Sparky's while announcing for the Isabel Rodeo, which he has done for the last ten years. "The locals are friendly and fond of visitors," he says. " They will want to know all about your comings and goings. And as the name indicates, it is not only a grill but a bar as well and the nightlife at Sparky's is legendary." Call 605-466-2131.
Editor's Note: You can find more delicious South Dakota breakfast options in our January/February 2013 issue. To order a copy or to subscribe, call 800-456-5117.