When I told friends I’d never been to Crave before, I was met with a mixture of amusement and horror. Apparently, it’s a thing, and as a lover of delicious foods and a frequent visitor to the Twin Cities, the thought of never darkening the small chain’s threshold was just plain silly. With three Minnesota locations, including Mall of America, many South Dakotans were already familiar before it took over the space in downtown Sioux Falls’ Hilton Garden Inn once occupied by the embattled Elements. I was interested to see what an established brand could do here, and frankly excited that
it was all happening directly across the street from our Cherapa Place office.
A colleague and I stopped by for lunch during the restaurant’s first full week of operation. Having worked in the industry, I was ready to forgive less-than-perfect service, since most restaurants would still be working to hit their stride in these early days. With Crave, it was immediately apparent that there was nothing to forgive. From the moment we were greeted by the host, we were content cogs in a well-oiled culinary experience.
Our server stopped by for drink orders immediately and asked if it was our first visit. My companion had been to the Minneapolis-area locations, to which the server replied that he was actually based out of the Bloomington location and was in Sioux Falls to help the opening go smoothly. Of course not all new restaurants have the benefit of this, but it certainly seemed to help Crave hit the ground running. Especially being my first visit, it was nice having a server who was already an expert to help navigate the rather diverse menu.
And by diverse, I mean, the only common thread in the menu’s sections seemed to be the quality and attention to detail each item seemed to promise. From the sushi menu, we chose the Bamboo Bite. Under the “Burgers and Sandwiches” heading, we selected the Crispy Chicken Sliders. Finally, we chose the Edamame and Tuna Poké from the appetizer list. We had to draw the line somewhere, which means we didn’t even touch the “Seafood, Chicken & Pasta,” “Flatbread,” “Soup/Salad,” or “Snack” sections (tempting as Truffle Parmesan Fries were).
The edamame showed up first. It was a lovely departure from the standard soybeans typically served steamed with a bit of sea salt. These came coated in an addictively tasty sriracha soy glaze that was simultaneously sweet, salty and spicy. Black and white sesame seeds added an earthy aftertaste, and a squeeze of the lemon served alongside brought a bright acidity.
The sliders showed up as we munched on the edamame, along with a pile of seasoned fries and a side of Asian slaw. The chicken was well-seasoned with a light, crispy breading and I loved the house-made pickles. The Asian slaw was my favorite thing on the plate, though. The cabbage was crunchy, the dressing was creamy (but not too much), and there was a just a little kick that kept things interesting.
“The large avocado-topped roll was filled with crunchy tempura shrimp and cream cheese with razor-thin slices of jalapeno and drizzles of sweet unagi and savory hibachi sauces.”
Next, we dug into the poké. For those unfamiliar, this is a raw fish salad made with tuna, which is common in Hawaiian cuisine. Although I had eaten plenty of raw tuna, it was never like this. The fish practically melted in my mouth amid an explosion of soy and sesame, tempered by chili oil-drizzled avocado. How has poké not been in my life until now?
Finally, we attacked our sushi roll. The Bamboo Bite was refreshing, spicy, crunchy, garlicky and just plain mouthwatering. The large avocado-topped roll was filled with crunchy tempura shrimp and cream cheese with razor-thin slices of jalapeno and drizzles of sweet unagi and savory hibachi sauces.
Bottom line: I’m probably going to go broke with this place across the street. Mostly because it will be hard to select just one item to order.
Everything was very tastefully decorated, but being an extension of a hotel lobby eliminates some of the intimacy that would round out a culinary experience like this.
Our server was a rock star. I hope that the locals who take the reins will do as good a job of representing the brand.
Every item seemed to be well thought out, with impeccable flavor profiles that checked all of the boxes.
It’s the facts
Crave has nine locations in seven states (South Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, Nebraska, Texas, Maryland, and Nevada).
Sushi bar seating is available. Crave’s sushi is geared toward novices as well as old pros.
In addition to lunch and dinner, Crave’s Sioux Falls location serves breakfast, starting at 6 a.m. Monday-Thursday and 7 a.m. Friday-Sunday.