I was in Sioux Falls courting a prospective new dealer recently. I had planned on taking him out to dinner that evening, but it turned out that he had some family obligations to take care of. I asked him, "If you wanted me to take you to any restaurant in town, where would it be?"
He didn't even flinch. "Minerva's, downtown."
So, since I thought I was going to take him out for dinner, I decided to treat myself to a good dinner at Minerva's (see map).
Minerva's has been in business since 1977 when Paul Van Bockern and a partner opened the doors. The chef at Minerva's, Don Anderson, bought out Van Bockern's partner in 1986. Minerva's is under the WR Restaurants umbrella, which is owned by Van Bockern and Anderson, and they operate a number of restaurants in six states.
But their flagship restaurant continues to be the Minerva's in downtown Sioux Falls. It's a very nice restaurant - I'm guessing the nicest in the area. It has a big dining room with a party room in the back. The bar was spacious and had some dining areas in there, as well.
I asked if it were OK to eat at the bar and the hostess said, "Absolutely! Enjoy yourself!"
I sat at the bar in front of a TV with a college football game on, I had my newspaper and I saw a refrigerator full of beer behind the bar. I was set.
The bartender, Tom, was a likable guy who was very helpful and friendly. The menu was loaded with great choices of steak, pork chops, seafood and chicken. I was leaning toward getting a steak and I had my eyes on two different ones - the Steak Michael - a New York strip that was encrusted in peppercorns, blue cheese, horseradish and parmesan cheese; and the Black Peppercorn Filet - a tenderloin filet encrusted in peppercorns, served with a bearnaise and mushroom sauce over a bed of fettucine alfredo. I was having a tough time trying to figure out what to get.
Tom, the bartender, came over and asked what I was going to have. I said, "I'm having trouble..."
I told him my two choices and he said, "Obviously you want a steak. Here's my suggestion. Deep six both of those and get the Hunter's New York strip." It's a center cut New York strip steak seasoned with Montreal seasoning (salt, crushed red peppers, black pepper and a game spice).
I took his advice and a side of the garlic mashed potatoes with the steak. He said, "You know, it's almost like we're twins or something. That's what I always get when I order the Hunter's."
With the meal, you get to participate in Minerva's massive salad bar. It was pretty impressive, to say the least. They had a lot of things to choose from, but I had to make sure that I didn't load up so I'd be too full to eat my main entree.
Tom brought out my steak and it looked good. It smelled good. I cut into it - it was a little overcooked for a medium-rare - but it was still pretty good. And the garlic mashed potatoes were good, too.
I wanted some wine with dinner, and Minerva's sells wine by the glass. I was interested in the St. Francis red blend they had listed and Tom gave me a generous tasting of the wine. It was OK, but not what I was looking for. I ordered up a glass of the J. Lohr Seven Oaks cabernet and it was pretty good. Better than the St. Francis.
As I continued to cut into the steak, I was disappointed that it was overcooked. It was a little tough to chew at times, but it was still edible. Tom asked me how the steak was and I told him that it was a little overdone for my taste. He offered to take back a steak of which I'd eaten a third of already and send me out a new one. I said that wasn't necessary. But he was apologetic the rest of the night.
Tom and I got to talking about wine and he was telling me that his favorite of the wines they had to sell by the glass was the Black Opal cabernet-merlot blend from Australia. He poured me a glass on the house after I finished my Seven Oaks. It was pretty good, but I liked the robust nature of the Seven Oaks cab. After I finished the Black Opal, he gave me a nearly full glass of the Seven Oaks - on the house.
Bitching about an over-cooked steak can bring benefits down the line.
All in all, Minerva's was a great dining experience. Even with a steak that was overdone, the service was good, the atmosphere was excellent and the food selection was top notch. I'm hoping I get this dealer to come on board so I can get back to Minerva's sometime down the line.