For the owners of several local restaurants, serving customers goes far beyond traditional flavors and recipes.
It’s about building a community and sharing a taste of their cultures.
In Sioux Falls, Lalibela Restaurant serves traditional Ethiopian dishes, and Khorasan Kabob House offers a variety of Middle Eastern cuisine, including Afghan, Moroccan, Indian, Turkish, and more.
Sabor a Mexico brings authentic Mexican cooking to Rapid City, and just down the road in Box Elder, Baan Thai is one of the only places in the state where you can find Thai food.
The restaurants are all owned by immigrants, who have found a new home in South Dakota and are making it their own.
KHORASAN KABOB HOUSE
Arian Wisaal first arrived in Sioux Falls in 2003, after escaping the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
He started out working at John Morrell’s, but in 2004, he and his wife had the opportunity to sell Chicken Kabobs at the Sioux Falls Festival of Cultures.
Their booth was an instant success.
“I saw the reaction of people and how they liked to try different things, and that encouraged me to open a restaurant,” said Wisaal.
That same year, he opened a location called Global Village Café. The following year, he changed the name to Khorasan Kabob House to clarify that they were a restaurant, not a grocery store.
The name, Khorasan, refers to a historical region of the Middle East that includes Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, among others.
At the restaurant, customers can try a variety of popular dishes from the region, as well as some extending further to countries like Greece and India.
Wisaal says he chose dishes to reflect his experiences traveling the world.
And with such a varied menu, Wisaal says there’s no need to be hesitant about trying something new.
“Many people are nervous at first, but then they try something, and all of a sudden they are asking me for the specials,” he said.
MORE ON THE MENU
» GRILLED LAMB CHOPS: Half rack, rice, lime, and raita.
» CHICKEN KABOBS: Two boneless skewers, yogurt marinade, salad, basmati rice, and chutney.
» CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA: Boneless chicken, creamy yogurt sauce, and basmati rice.
» EGGPLANT BOURANEE: Eggplant, spiced tomato sauce, yogurt, and roti. (Vegetarian.)
Popular menu items include Grilled Lamb Chops (Wisaal’s personal favorite), Indian dishes like Butter Chicken or Tikka Masala, vegetarian options like Eggplant or Kadu Bouranee, and of course, kabobs.
To top it off, customers can try something sweet like Baklava or a refreshing Mango Lassi.
Finally, in addition to their delicious food, Khorasan also sells beautiful handmade carpets made by his family members in California, as well as back home in the Middle East.
The restaurant was originally located on 41st Street in Sioux Falls, but it had to close a couple years back due to issues with the space they were leasing.
They remained closed for a year, but Wisaal says they received so much encouragement and support from the community that they knew it was time to find a new location.
With over 15 years of experience, Wisaal and his wife say they are blessed to have grown such a loyal following of customers.
“Sioux Falls is a strong community,” said Wisaal. “The people are very kind.”
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday).
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT KHORASANKABOB.COM.
Geng Tanawong was still a teenager when his family moved from northeast Thailand to the Rapid City area.
What he found when he arrived was a complete lack of Thai restaurants— not only in Rapid City but across the entire state.
So, in 2014, he opened up his own with a few friends. After three years, his friends ended up selling their shares to Tanawong’s parents, turning it into a true family business.
Baan Thai, which means House of Thai, is located just outside of Rapid City in Box Elder.
Much of the cooking is done by a woman Tanawong calls Grandma Lily.
“She’s not really my grandma, but a friend of my mom’s,” explained Tanawong. “She took care of me when I was a child, and so she moved here with us.”
MORE ON THE MENU
» THAI BEEF SALAD: Stir fry beef, special sauce, fresh vegetables, shredded lettuce, and sticky rice.
» TOM YUM SOUP: Thai vegetable soup, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
» PAD THAI: Brown sweet sauce, rice noodles, green onions, bean sprouts, and your choice of pork, chicken, beef, or shrimp.
» PANANG CURRY: Coconut curry, peanut butter, peas, carrots, bell pepper, jasmine rice, and your choice of pork, chicken, beef, or shrimp.
Baan Thai’s menu is inspired by the cuisine in the Isan region of Thailand, where Tanawong is from. It features Pad Thai, a variety of soups and curries, and traditional desserts, such as Sweet Mango Rice and Fried Crispy Bananas.
Additionally, customers can try Thai iced tea or one of Thailand’s local beers, Chang or Singha.
Tanawong has worked to create a family style atmosphere at the restaurant.
“Thailand is about being friendly to people, so we treat people like they’re our family,” he said.
Open Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT BAAN THAI ON FACEBOOK.
Mulugeta Endayahu first opened Lalibela Restaurant in 2003, at a location on Grange Avenue in Sioux Falls.
After development and construction in the area forced them to close, the community missed Lalibela’s food, coffee, and atmosphere for a year before they were able to reopen in August of 2018.
“I wasn’t ready to close the door when the time came, so that’s why I came back,” said Endayahu.
Now Endayahu says he’s very pleased with their new location on Kiwanis Avenue.
“Everyone has been very positive with the new space,” he said. “We are grateful for this community.”
When he first arrived in Sioux Falls, Endayahu says the community had a variety of ethnic restaurants, but nothing Ethiopian.
“My wife is a good cook, so we thought it’s a good thing to start for Sioux Falls,” said Endayahu.
Endayahu says they try to cook in a way that’s welcoming for everyone.
MORE ON THE MENU
» SAMBUSAS: Pastry shell filled with onions, jalapeño, and your choice of lentils, beef, or chicken.
» TIBS: Choice of beef, lamb, or chicken, marinated with peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary. Served with salad and Ethiopian injera.
» SHIRO: Spiced chickpea flour, berbere sauce, salad, and Ethiopian injera. (Vegetarian.)
» DORO WOT: Chicken leg, spicy sauce, hard-boiled egg, homemade cottage cheese, salad, and Ethiopian injera.
“Don’t be scared to try it for the first time,” he said. “The sauce we do, everyone can handle, but we can make it spicier if you like.”
Like many other ethnic cuisines, Ethiopian food starts with a traditional flatbread called Injera that is served with the meal. The bread is served with chicken, lamb, beef, or vegetables, all cooked in a flavorful spice blend, such as Berbere or Mitmita.
To go along with the meal, Lalibela serves tea, coffee, espresso, or a selection of Ethiopian beer and wine.
One of the greatest rewards, says Endayahu, is sharing his food and culture with the community in Sioux Falls.
“We get people from all over the community,” said Endayahu. “Often they are introducing people to this food for the first time, teaching their kids about different cultures and bringing their family and friends.”
Open seven days a week, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. (opening at 3 p.m. on Mondays).
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT LALIBELASF.COM.
SABOR A MEXICO
Mother and daughter pair, Ana Line and Idalynn Muñoz, have been running Sabor a Mexico in Rapid City since 2008.
“My mom always wanted to open her own restaurant,” said Idalynn. “We used to sell tamales to car dealerships or people who would order them, and finally we decided to invest in a space.”
Idalynn was born and raised in Rapid City, but her mother is from a town called San Pedro Bocaneo, in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. Ana Line came to the United States in the early 1980s, graduating from high school in California. A few years later, in 1987, she found her way to South Dakota when she married Idalynn’s father.
Like most towns, Rapid City has its fair share of Tex-Mex style restaurants, but what makes Sabor a Mexico special is its authenticity.
“A lot of people think that Mexican food is all very spicy and hot and with a lot of cheese, but in reality, what we have is flavorful but not very hot,” explained Idalynn. “Our food is homemade and 100 percent Mexican.”
MORE ON THE MENU
» TAMALES: Choice of pork and red sauce, chicken and green sauce, or jalapeño with cheese and red sauce. Served with sour cream, rice, and beans.
» CARNITAS: Deep fried pork, pickled jalapeño, tortillas, rice, and beans.
» ENCHILADAS: Homemade sauce, corn tortillas, choice of filling, lettuce, sour cream, quest fresco, rice, and beans.
» CHICKEN MOLE: Shredded chicken, chocolate and pasilla pepper spice blend, tortillas, rice, and beans.
Additionally, the flavors and traditional recipes vary greatly throughout the country.
“In our region, we’re known for the carnitas and enchiladas,” said Idalynn.
Other popular menu items include Chile Rellenos, Tamales, and desserts like Flan, Fried Ice Cream, and Sopapillas.
The restaurant is small, “kind of a hole in the wall,” according to Idalynn. Inside, they can seat around 30 people, but the food is also available for takeout or catering.
Building up a customer base in a smaller community can be a challenge, but the women say they’ve benefited from word of mouth.
And according to Ana Line, the best feeling is when people come in and say they feel like they’re at home.
Open Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT SABOR A MEXICO ON FACEBOOK.