There’s a new Mexican restaurant opening in Spearfish,” someone mentioned last spring.
For some reason I didn’t jump for joy at the tip. Why? I feared it was going to be “just another Mexican restaurant” that may or may not have good salsa (big problems, right?) and would turn out to be an average American-Mexican restaurant experience where it doesn’t really matter if you order the enchilada or burrito, because they’re almost the same thing.
Back in town this past July, my partner in crime Liz and I walked from Main Street to Illinois Street to find said new place that opened May 3. It’s so small we literally walked past it.
“Sir, do you know where Antuñez Cuisine is?” I asked a stranger confidently as they pointed their thumb back over their shoulder. It was right in front of us.
“Of course it is,” I said bashfully, as I sashayed past him and saw several tables outside of the quaint establishment.
Inside was adorable. The walls were speckle-painted a dark ocean blue, and there was a framed Chocolat poster near the front. If you have a Chocolat poster around, I’m already a fan (hello, houseboat Johnny Depp?!). There were also pieces from a piano used as art on the wall, as well as part of the custom host stand and bar in the corner.
We were greeted by a staff member who took us outside on the patio, per our request for food lighting (though I wish we could have stayed inside for the unique ambiance).
Receiving the giant paper menus, we read the restaurant was “beautiful, flavorful, nutritious cuisine from Mexico, South America, and Spain.” Alright, alright (throwback).
Let’s do this.
I also noticed that, once again, somehow Spearfish seems to be ahead on restaurants being very vegetarian and gluten-free conscious, as options were noted on their menu. Even Leones’ Creamery in town has gluten-free ice cream (duh, did you think I could talk about food and Spearfish and not mention this?).
Owner and chef Jared DeGraaf came out to say hello, as well as owner and chef (also DeGraaf’s mother), Sabrina Heredia. That’s when we found out that Heredia was also a level one sommelier. Holy wow.
“I feel that South Dakota is wide open for new wines and flavors to come in,” said Heredia, who is from California. “[We want] to be bold enough to make a demand for those and pair
She asked if she could pair wine and beer with our meals. It’s like we won the lottery or something. I looked for Ashton Kutcher to see if we were being punked, but lucky for us, we were not (throwback).
First up, the Pork Carnitas. The menu is helpful and also has some fun descriptions. For example, “the taco that helped put them on the map” is “a party in your mouth” with pork shoulder spiced with house rub and slow-roasted, piled on warm corn tortillas, and topped with homemade cilantro aioli, cabbage slaw, cotija cheese, and cilantro and onion.
I could see why this is their number-one seller. But before I really even dug in, I went for the side of rice, because. Well. Rice, right?! It was nice and light, which is good to have with a heavier meal.
The other side was Mexican pinto beans, which were made with pork belly. I never just eat beans, and I had to focus on the main prize after finding myself eating more beans than I anticipated.
The main dish was on top of a shell, so we couldn’t find a way to pick it up, nor did we think we should after some quick dialogue on the topic. We grabbed a fork and went to town.
There was definitely a party in my mouth with all of the fresh flavors. Liz commented, “The aioli is fantastic.”
It paired well with a Dos Equis to showcase their draft beer selection.
Next up, the Spinach & Mushroom Enchildadas, which had two enchiladas rolled with corn tortillas, with a “mouth-watering” blend of spinach, mushroom, diced green chiles, and herbs. They were topped with verde sauce, cilantro, and a sprinkle of melted cheese.
The side of Cuban Black Beans was very good and flavorful. I thought I would be polite and try them as I’m not normally a fan, but I had more bites and realized… maybe I was eating black beans at the wrong places? This dish was swimming in verde sauce, which is everything I could ask for. I could drink it. Not really, but doesn’t it sound kind of good? What a great option in general and for a vegetarian for sure.
Also, this was paired with a rosé. Trust me, I was still pinching myself at
A white wine came out with Smoked Salmon Tostadas. This consisted of three freshly fried corn tortillas, topped with smoked salmon, homemade chipotle crema, avocado, cucumber, crispy pan fried onions, and cilantro. “A heavenly union of flavors,” said the once-again clever menu.
The shell was so crispy, and it was a delight. It was all so light, and the flavors went so well together. Smoked salmon for sure was a homerun, but my favorite was the onions… until I ate more homemade crema. Die.
When I handed the plate to Liz, I stared at it longingly.
“Heavenly it is,” she said after a taste.
As if this wasn’t enough, out came the Dry Aged Beef Boneless New York Steak with Saffron Butter. The 12-14 oz. steak dry aged in-house at Spearfish’s Prairie Harvest was seasoned with house rub, grilled “to perfection,” then plated with house-made saffron compound butter.
Because there were two of us, we asked for it to be done medium, which super annoyed Liz because she’s a rare steak kind of gal. She took the first bite.
“If this was medium rare, I would cry,” said Liz, genuinely.
I took my first bite, and the saffron butter hit my entire body.
I mumbled, “Omg, omg, omg,” and made other noises that could be confused as otherwise. It was even better with the red wine pairing.
“This is straight up fine Spanish dining,” I said, realizing I said it in the least “fine dining” sounding way.
Finishing up, we chatted about what could possibly be our favorite part, as DeGraaf came out to chat and told us we had to try their dessert. We looked at each other and nodded, as in, “Let’s do this.”
Dessert meant a piece of Chubby Chipmunk Chocolate, which, if you haven’t heard of it yet, do it now. These South Dakota truffle delicacies are based out of Deadwood, and also have a location in the Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City (also, fun fact, Chubby Chipmunk has been found in Grammy and Academy Award celebrity gift bags).
Impressed? I was even more impressed that DeGraaf said Antuñez has a special Chubby Chipmunk made just for their eatery – Chocolate Spice.
I took a bite and kept making “wooh” noises, as the sweet turned into a spicy kick. So many “woohs” were made, in fact, that the guy at the table next to us was like, “Yeah? Is that pretty spicy?”
In the most delicious way, yes, sir.
What an experience. This is a must in South Dakota as a whole. DeGraaf sat and chatted with us for a while, and soon after I saw him talking to a couple and giving them tips on what to do around the area. The food was so fresh and uses local ingredients, as well as having a sommelier on hand (what?!). Go. Now. Go.
Sabrina the Sommelier
Owner and chef Sabrina Heredia is also a level one sommelier, which is a wine steward, or a knowledgeable wine professional who goes through impressive formal training. Heredia can take patrons’ dining experience several steps further by pairing each dish with a recommended wine.
This is one of the cutest new eateries I’ve seen in a while. It felt like I stepped out of Spearfish and walked into Europe. Every single one of the staff and family members were so kind, it’s like we’ve known them forever. With the piano art, the unique blue walls, and the intimacy of maybe a dozen tables, this is an experience. Also, the restroom had a cell phone holder. It’s the small things.
Lunch ranges around $10-$13 for exquisite dining. Expect more the $20-$30 range for dinner, but it should be that, if not more. And budget for wine, because if you don’t, you’re foolish.
Before I even get to the actual real things, let’s talk about what’s important to me. They had huge Diet Cokes. Already winning. The wine selection is insane, the food comes from local sources and is catered to all types of clientele. Saffron butter, we will see each other again. And Chocolate Chipmunk… I see you.
It’s the Facts
- Open Tuesday to Thursday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Atuñez is very much a family business, with more than half the staff and owners consisting of relatives.
- Currently there are no to-go orders, and they don’t accept reservations.