The above ticket was waiting for me after I knowingly parked at an expired meter and decided to chance it rather than go trollling the nearby shops for change and risk being late for an introductory meeting with a local developer in town. I took a breath before pulling it from my winshield wiper and as I opened it, thought: "Geeze, how much could it be? After all it's Sioux Falls...surely not the $36-$115 fine I was accustomed to back east." As I sat in my truck and scanned my bill for a "total due" I was shocked to find that not only was there no charge or penalty...but someone actually took the time to print up this ticket as a "courtesy notice" and thanked me for visiting downtown Sioux Falls. If this happened in Philadelphia, I would have been searching my surroundings for the hidden cameras and practical jokers at play.
Culture shock such as this has been occurring almost daily. We have a new and surprising tale of random hospitality and kindness to share with our friends and family back home every week. I know it must sound like we're simply "making the most of things" here but people in Sioux Falls, South Dakota really make New Hampshireites almost seem blase.
We arrived here with what I think is a typically common mindset of those relocating or visiting from any major city. We ignorantly suffered the ego-centric assumption that a large population equated not only with a cosmopolitan lifestyle but with quality of amenities as well.
What we discovered rather quickly was that although there may be fewer offerings in a city 1/10th the size of Philadelphia, they were no less in quality. For example, my wife and I are foodies who have grown accustomed to big city privileges like: Dean & Deluca, Eatily, Reading Terminal Market, The Italian Market, Carlino’s, DiBruno Bros., Wegmans, Chestnut Hill Coffee, Whole Foods, Fox and Obel and Trader Joe’s….we were shocked to find great butcher shops like Look’s Market & Cleavers as well as incredible local mainstream grocers (Hy-Vee and Pomegranite ) who not only stock what we thought were more obscure staples like: Mary’s Gone Crackers Pretzel Stix, Nut Thins, Haloumi, Boucheron, Jamon Iberico, Guanciale / Salame, Sunbutter and Pop'd Kern… but also have cattle-chutes of Melissa & Doug-sized real shopping carts (in addition to the racing car carts of course) for “Shoppers in Training”.
The specialty markets here offer everything we thought was exclusive to big city markets or small European towns (cured meats from Italy, truffles, truffle honey & oil, fois gras, fennel pollen, Illy Coffee, etc…) There are also some amazing local coffee roasters here too… like Black Sheep and Coffea Roasterie. The local Co-Op sells Peace Coffee and Breadico Breads (best I've ever had in the U.S.) made by David Nepolitano in his local garage turned commissary.
Wonderful beer & wines (Monk’s House of Ale Repute” and “Taylor’s Pantry”) although it is tough to find a reasonably priced ’09 Bordeaux ready to drink now.
There are no Midwest high-concept restaurant giants or native geniuses like my Philly favorites: Michael Solmonov, Konstantinos Pitsillides, Pierre Calmels, Lee Styer, or Robert Halpern....and quite frankly they would probably only intimidate rather than impress here.
There are, however, restaurants like Bros. Brasserie who would give The Oyster Bar and Royal Tavern a good run for their money with an “Oh My God” burger of their own. A nice mature "old guard" sort of comfortable place: Minerva's, surprisingly wonderful gourmet Mediterranean fare from Saanas, fresh(ish) sushi from Sushi-Masa and cerebral, light-handed (and beautifully executed) haute cuisine from Minnihaha Country Club and Parker’s Bistro whose dishes would not be out of place beside many from the kitchens of Daniel Bouloud, Stephen Starr, Stephanie Izard, or Todd & Ellen Grey.
I think it’ll be a while before the South Dakota sees anything as progressive as Vedge or as hip as Amada, NoMad and Ichimura. But "The Cities" (Minneapolis and St. Paul) aren't too far off. Nothing here comes close to Birchrunville Store Cafe, Dillworthtown Inn, Per Se, Lacroix or LeBec and that’s ok…we go back to the East Coast occasionally and will always take vacations.
But I do miss offerings like good Pho, Thai, sit down charc staples like Amis and Tria, The Kibitz Room and Wawa’s Turkey Shorties… with salt, pepper, oregano, oil mayo (lil bit) and extra meat (YES)! so perhaps there are few opportunities for me here…