By Denise DePaolo
Rapid City’s Dakotah Steakhouse is featured in December’s Delish Delights. In the issue, executive chef Cody Bartles shares his recipe for the Cowboy Bone-In Rib-Eye, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes.
“Anytime you cook a steak with the bone in, it imparts a little extra flavor into the meat that we just can’t get enough of,” he told us. “I’m excited every time someone orders it. I try my best, if I’m not too busy, to go talk to the table. ‘I cut these this morning. They’re great.'”
Chef Bartles has been cooking professionally for two decades, spending the past three years at the helm of the Dakotah Steakhouse kitchen. We sat down with Bartles to learn how he became a leader in one of western South Dakota’s premier restaurants, and what exactly sets his kitchen apart.
You guys are particular when it comes to your beef. How can you know it’s the best quality?
CB: That takes some doing. We get it all from National Beef, which is Black Canyon. Either Nebraska or Kansas City. Everything is controlled – what they eat, how they’re processed, and how we take care of them.
When I took command, we used to get all packaged steaks. One of the first things I wanted to do was make sure everything was aged in-house and cut by us. No prepackaged stuff. Not all the steaks look the same, but that’s the idea. It’s not a factory.
It’s certainly a labor of love, but it’s worth every minute. Taking pride in being able to cut that steak this morning and then turning around 10, 12 hours later and serving it to guests, I’m just thrilled about it.
How long are Dakotah’s steaks aged?
CB: We age them between 28 and 38 days. Some go up to 48 days. Our New York strips are aged the longest. Aging guarantees tenderness and concentrates flavor.
Where are the steaks aged?
CB: There’s a designated area in the walk-in cooler. We have a wall of beef that’s worth about $25,000 at any given time.
Tell us about your culinary background.
CB: I started cooking in Winner, where I’m from. I was the baby of a single mother with eight kids, so food was always kind of just a necessity.
I was 14 when I started in professional restaurants. I was a dishwasher and within a couple weeks, one of the cooks had quit and they said, ‘Try it out, you seem like a hard worker.’ I loved it. I loved the fast pace.
Then, I moved to Seattle and realized it’s more than a meal. It’s an experience and there’s thousands of things you can do with one item. It intrigued me. All the sudden, it’s not just a job anymore. It’s a passion, a career, it’s a love.
I worked for some really, really good chefs out there and ended up replacing them when they started their own business or moved on. I would kind of take over the reins. It’s been kind of a whirlwind when I think about it. I try not to.
I never went to culinary school and I really, really wish I had, but on-the-job training, working for those great chefs, was priceless.
What do you like to cook when you go home?
CB: Any time I get an opportunity to come home, I always cook a big meal for them. I’ll cook pretty much anything my family likes. It could be burgers.
I came home from Seattle one time and roasted a whole pork tenderloin and it was probably 22 pounds. The whole family was taking slices off. They loved it.
What’s one of your favorite dishes at the restaurant?
CB: Every one has had short ribs. This is an entire buffalo rib.
Instead of cutting it to an inch and a half or whatever short ribs are, we left it whole. It’s braised for 3 ½ hours in red wine, beef stock, herbs, spices.
We do an orange zest barbecue sauce and deliver it just like that. What’s really crazy, is that’s an appetizer.
What should guests expect when they show up to eat at your restaurant?
CB: They can expect the best steak in the Black Hills and possibly nationwide. That’s not just a plug. That is me being in that kitchen 100 hours a week, saying, ‘Here at Dakotah Steakhouse in Rapid City, South Dakota, perfection isn’t a goal, it’s a standard.’
The one thing I would love is if a guest wasn’t happy with their steak, I’d want them to send it back. And I would want to redo it. I would rather have them leave happy. We want it to be the best.
To learn more about Dakotah Steakhouse, click here.