Eatery a downtown gem for local foodies

With a name like Ode to Food & Drinks, expectations for a quality, out-of-the-box restaurant are undeniably high. But the typical foodie probably wouldn’t imagine these lofty aspirations being fulfilled in an office building. And although downtown Sioux Falls’ Cherapa Place is luxe as far as office buildings go, it’s an office building nonetheless. But that diamond-in-the-rough essence is what gives Ode to Food its undeniable charm – it’s like discovering a hidden gem each and every time you walk through the revolving doors.

Replacing the lauded Wild Sage Grille’s nearly eight year-run in the location, Ode to Food opened in spring 2015, garnering a place in the upper echelons of Sioux Falls’ downtown dining scene ever since. Once past the aforementioned industrial-style lobby, the vibe changes dramatically. The eatery’s interior is contemporary – with its sole sculpturally abstract white wall, bar replete with the requisite big-screen TVs and streamlined minimalist feel – but there’s also an inherent ode to hominess: the chalkboard back wall printed with the day’s features, inviting blue-gray color palette and single hand-picked flower nestled in a glass jar on every table. It’s a shimmering diamond in the rough of South Dakota’s native prairie.

The cuisine itself is a continuation of the home-meets-metropolitan theme, serving up the classics with a twist. A constant on any appetizer menu, bruschetta is all but a prerequisite at most restaurants. But at Ode to Food this tomato-heavy staple has been revamped. Now appearing in a trio ($12), each baguette is topped with either a sweet cherry chutney paired with goat cheese, a savory pear and blue cheese combo or the refreshing house cured salmon with herbed cream cheese; each distinct in uniqueness, but complimentary in flavor. Salads range from the classic mixed green ($8) and Cesar ($9) to the innovative, with the champagne tomato ($10) and Saigon noodle ($15) rounding out the menu.

But the restaurant’s kicker, the reason Ode to Food keeps you coming back time and again, lies in its burger and features offerings. At first glance these entrées appear unmemorable at best. “Carbonara,” “Steakhouse Burger” and “Top Sirloin” don’t exactly scream “exciting new taste bud adventure – try me!” to the pioneering cuisine connoisseur. But the trick is in the taste, my friends.

Featuring house-made saffron linguine, apple-wood smoked bacon, artichoke hearts, red onions and a garlic parmesan egg sauce, ODE to Carbonara ($15) is like taking a trip to grandma’s house, if your grandma just so happens to be an Italian-food maestro. It’s a hearty heaping of pasta that’s rich but not overwhelming, the atypical notes of artichoke and bacon prevailing over the normally domineering egg sauce. Brisket is the name of the meat game when it comes to Ode to Food’s burger selection. The tamest offering in a lineup including both goat cheese and grass fed lamb burgers, the Steakhouse Burger ($11) still manages to surprise with its ciabatta roll bun stand-in, baby romaine in lieu of lettuce, and tomato and garlic aioli. This burger is anything but boring. And that Top Sirloin ($19)? Noteworthy for being simply exemplary in both flavor and culinary execution. If a steak has flaws, Ode to Food is blessedly ignorant.

Delectable entrees aside, dessert is Ode to Food’s Achilles heel, albeit a pretty sturdy one as far as ankle weaknesses go. Here innovation strays into the strange or sub-par (strange being the bacon chocolate cake ($7.45) and sub-par the cinnamon crumble pumpkin pie ($5.50)). The former turned out to be just another pumpkin pie, tasty but predictable, while the chocolate cake, though also good, verged on the weird with its overt trying-too-hard-to-be-trendy bacon-chocolate combo. Ode to Food’s desserts were the invisible wires helping the circus performer “fly” – necessary, but in spotting them, some of the magic is lost.

An imperfect diamond but a diamond nonetheless, Ode to Food mixes home-style staples with a touch of posh finesse, achieving a culinary slight of hand almost akin to taste bud magic. This is one local gem you won’t mind going back to the office for.

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