Sioux Falls is one of those cities that could be found just about anywhere in the United States, at least in the middle of the country -- on the coasts, of course, there are inconvenient mountains and oceans on the landscape. But in Sioux Falls, you can find Falls of the Big Sioux Home Depots and Lowe's and Macy's. There's a Barnes and Noble, a couple of Walmarts, and eating places galore, from diners to fast food to Sushi and Cantonese and Minerva's downtown. A restaurant named Inca serves "authentic Mexican food" (Peruvian style?). We sampled "Mediterranean cuisine" (Lebanese, we think) but passed on a little place named "Mama Ladas" which serves only enchiladas.
Surprisingly for us, in the midst of this gastonomic dazzle there are three restaurants we have visited twice: one salad bar, the Hu Hot Mongolian Barbecue, and Bob's Cafe. In the last case, it was the name which drew us in. It is a tiny, windowless, cement block sort of place surrounded on all four sides by a few parking spaces which are usually occupied. Most customers come for takeout which they have ordered by phone, a wise move because there are only 13 seats, 11 at the counter and 2 at a table against one wall. On our first visit we were warned by the cook to move to the counter if we wanted to get fed any time soon. We did and we were, with the two major food groups -- burgers and broasted chicken -- on the menu. Our second visit to Bob's occurred because a tour group from Michigan was breakfasting in our hotel before boarding their bus; we fled to find breakfast elsewhere. We chose Bob's because a Bob's Cafe sign fellow diner on our first visit had recommended it highly.
It turned out that the morning cook is also the head cook at one of the higher-end restaurants, saving up for a restaurant of his own, we think. So we had excellent food and stimulating conversation from the agricultural-equipment brokers who are regulars there.
Sioux Falls makes the best of its location. The Big Sioux River runs through town like a giant fishhook snagging the city. The Falls are not thrilling now, partly as a result of years of low snow pack farther north, but one can imagine how they must have rushed past. The City has erected an observation tower from which one can see the largest of the falls as well as the major buildings of downtown. When the wind is from the north, that strong smell is from the John Morrell meat packing plant.
Unlike most other cities of its size (154,000) Sioux Falls has a tradition of supporting local art and culture efforts. Their Rhino nursing years of work are paying off. Every May, new sculptures are displayed on a series of pillars along SculptureWalk which leads from downtown to Falls Park. The public can vote using ballots made available along the route. At the end of the summer the work with the most votes is purchased by the city and put on permanent display. The quality and variety are staggering.
Another sight worth the time is the zoo, which is involved in a large rebuilding and expansion effort. Apparently they had a shakeup of management a few years ago, which gave them new energy. The zoo is a participant in a nation-wide program to encourage breeding of at risk animals. Thus, we saw several babies: rhino, red panda, giraffe. This is an old-fashioned, low-key, child-friendly place. The animals were lively and there were plenty of attendants. Some of the older enclosures will no doubt be replaced as work continues; we would be happy to see the almost-finished monkey island and other exhibits promised for the future.
We decided to stay here longer than we usually stay because we wanted to clean out the truck and reassess some of the original packing decisions we had made when we started back on the road. That is completed and before long we will be on our way again. It has been a comfortable and pleasant interlude here, and even though Sioux Falls is not particularly startling, it is a most agreeable city.