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Rosie Warner (left) and her daughter, Beckie Mettler, at Rosie’s Cafe in Sioux Falls.
Rosie Warner (left) and her daughter, Beckie Mettler, at Rosie’s Cafe in Sioux Falls.
Irene Antonen (left) and Vi Andrews inside the Andrews Cafe in Lake Norden in the 1950s.
Irene Antonen (left) and Vi Andrews inside the Andrews Cafe in Lake Norden in the 1950s.

Finding the Small Town in Sioux Falls

Jun 25, 2019

I’m always surprised by what I find in Sioux Falls. It’s long been South Dakota’s largest city, at nearly 180,000 people and growing steadily. I’ve lived in South Dakota all of my life, and taken hundreds of trips to Sioux Falls, and still there are neighborhoods and business districts that I have yet to explore.

I spent several days in the big city earlier this year working on a story called “Off the Beaten Streets of Sioux Falls,” which appeared in our March/April 2019 issue. So many trips seem to be spent in stores and restaurants along the “main drags” (41st Street, Louise Avenue, Minnesota Avenue, to name a few). We hoped to highlight interesting places that visitors (and maybe even some residents) might not know about. Imagine my surprise when I walked into once such gem and was instantly transported from the epitome of urban South Dakota to my small-town childhood.

Rosie’s Cafe on Madison Street is a throwback to the Main Street diners that served as important gathering places in small towns across the state. I sat at the counter and ate a hot beef combination with a cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie for dessert, and felt like I was sitting inside the Andrews Cafe on Main Street of Lake Norden.

My dad’s sisters ran our hometown cafe for nearly 60 years. It began as the Antonen Cafe in 1946. When my aunt, Irene Antonen, died in 1981, her sister, Vi Andrews, became the owner and operated it until her retirement in 1992. Another sister, Jane Espland, took over until the mid-2000s.

It’s the Andrews Cafe under Vi and Jane that I remember most. I’d go with Dad and sit at the cafe’s long counter and listen to the town’s elders talk about their crops and how we could use a little more (or a little less) rain. All of the Andrews cousins worked there at some point, starting out as dishwashers and working our way up to waiters and waitresses.

The cafe was a big part of all of our lives, and as it turned out, Rosie’s Cafe was a big part of Rosie Warner’s life, too. Rosie is semi-retired. Her daughter, Beckie Mettler, assumed day-to-day operations in 2015, but like most small business owners, Rosie still shows up and takes orders, refills coffee, cooks hamburgers and banters with the regulars.

Her parents owned the cafe in Oldham in the 1950s. Rosie took her mother’s tried-and-true recipes along when she moved to Sioux Falls in 1966 and opened her own cafe in 1984. The menu has hardly changed in 35 years. “We give you the comfort of home,” Mettler explained, “and you don’t find that very often anymore.”

I’ve been thinking about Rosie’s and our own family cafe quite a bit recently. My aunt Vi passed away in May at age 91, so when the family gathered it led to a lot of reminiscing. For several years, the South Dakota Old Time Fiddlers held a concert in Lake Norden as a fundraiser for the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. Vi often kept the cafe open late so that after the show, the fiddlers could come by for coffee and a bite to eat. She was also an excellent accordion player, and after-concert jam sessions sometimes happened right in the dining room.

At the funeral, the pastor mentioned that Vi would also open the cafe on Thanksgiving so the old bachelors in town who had no family could enjoy a holiday meal. That’s something you’d only find in a small town, I thought. But I bet you could find it in the biggest South Dakota cities, too — if you know where to look.

Comments

10:14 am - Fri, June 28 2019
Sue Briese said:
Rosie, remember the Truck Haven cafe?

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