“We were open for about five weeks before we had to shut down,” recalled William “Bill” Nooney. The chef and co-owner of Bur Oak Diner in downtown Yankton had just opened the new restaurant’s doors on February 5 with co-owner and wife, Hannah. I was chatting with the pair at a table in the eatery as their kids played around us on the official reopening on June 15, which was a Monday.
At one point Bill realized the opening day sign was still inside.
“Oh, I should probably put that outside, huh,” he laughed.
Right now Bur Oak is doing a take-out menu that is limited, and they’re currently only serving lunch. This was a major bummer, as the restaurant’s breakfast menu looked epic. My eyes bulged when I saw the Breakfast Pot Pie on the normal menu. It has sausage, egg, and hash served in a puff pastry pie and is topped with country gravy.
“It’s like a biscuits and gravy pot pie. It has a pie crust with all of your fillings—you know, your country gravy, your sausage, and your bacon,” Bill continued, “and then we took a crispy layer of hash browns and made that the top. There’s lots of nice textures in it.”
Another best seller on the breakfast menu was the Desayuno Burrito with chorizo sausage, bacon, egg, hash, and avocado, topped with green chili.
“Mexican food is like my favorite thing on the planet,” he said with a smile. “A few years back, me and two of my friends almost opened a burrito truck … we ended up not doing that. [My wife and I] waited it out, we got this building, and now we’re doing this.”
Here are a few items I’m excited to try next…
+CHICKEN AND WAFFLES
+STEAK AND EGGS
+APPLE SPINACH SANDWICH
The former bar has been transformed into a modern venue filled with hanging plants and a visible refrigerator filled with fresh ingredients. Coffee bags are hung on the walls from the coffee company Bur Oak gets its beans from, which is Coffee King out of Sioux City. Hannah raved about it, and I had zero caffeine and was elated when she poured me a cup (or three).
What Bill didn’t know is that sandwiches and burgers with a lot of toppings are my nightmare. One of my ultimate nightmares is mustard.
“It’s just like a basic Cuban sandwich done with a little extra love,” he explained. “We have pit-smoked ham on it. We have slow-roasted pork shoulder, like barbecue pork shoulder. And we make our own homemade Cuban mustard sauce for it.”
A FAMILIAR FACE:
If you’re from the Yankton area, you’re probably familiar with chef Bill Nooney. “I’ve made food for pretty much every single person’s wedding for years and years and years [at Minervas],” he laughed. “I feel like once people found out that I had my own thing, it just snowballed.”
His culinary résumé also includes food and drink pairings with Ben’s Brewing Company and catering other large events. Bur Oak carried several beers from the local brewery pre-pandemic and the Nooneys say they hope to again, when they get back to normal hours.
“It kind of just blew up. We made a Facebook page before we were even open, and we went to 1,500 followers in like a week.”
That would excite a lot of humans, but I was nervous. Also, I literally only eat a plain burger with a bun or a mushroom and Swiss burger if I’m feeling adventurous. And my typical sandwich choice is a bland turkey with some oregano. During moments like this I would normally hand it to my Try It buddy, but I was solo.
I took a bite of the hamburger first. People… How have I never had an onion ring on a burger before that moment? And the barbecue sauce didn’t shoot out of the sides like I feared, which probably was kudos to how large the patty was. It came with a side of waffle fries, and they were cooked perfectly and weren’t diner fries that sometimes get too greasy.
Before I finished it and totally shocked myself, I tried the infamous Cubano. Everything looked so fresh, including the bright green pickles peeking out through the bread. Bill wasn’t kidding. The meat was juicy and full of flavor with every bite. This dish had a side of onion rings, and they not only were cooked just right, but the onion inside broke apart with no trouble.
It’s always the worst when you eat onion rings with someone and you have the moment when you continue to make eye contact as you can’t seem to chew through the onion and it dangles.