While there are more than “six decades of memories,” general manager and head chef of the Pheasant Restaurant & Lounge, Michael Johnson, says they want guests to have signature favorites mixed with new and unexpected experiences.
Johnson is also the grandson of owners Ronald and Georginia Olson, who have been the owners since 1966. The oldest full service restaurant in Brookings was established in 1949.
“It was honestly hard to pick just a few items that represent us,” said Johnson.
This is because the Pheasant’s menu is inspired by a number of influences, like the culture and heritage of the area, for example.
“As we move forward in all of our traditions, we have chosen to lean into micro local food traditions, and it seems like a lot of restaurants in this part of the country lean away from it,” continued Johnson, “and we’re really proud of what this place has to offer. We not only use local ingredients, but we use it in a way that honors what people have been eating around here for a long time.”
Johnson says the Pheasant tries to find a balance of representing Scandinavian, German, and Native American food culture with its dishes.
One item is the Lefse Dog Platter (Pølse Og Lefse) with local, old-world style beef sausage, wrapped in smoky bacon, and served on Norwegian potato lefse with stone-ground mustard and house Norweigan-style caramelized red onion marmalade.
“We were recently visiting [Norway] when my grandfather sent us as a thank you and to learn about food culture and about our family,” he said. “There we came across this particular lefse. We have the old world style wieners made for us by Deutz Brothers over in Marshall, Minn.”
The weekends bring more Norwegian flare with Weekend Waffles brunch (or “brunsfj”) on Saturday 9 a.m. to noon and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are wide varieties for the palate, like “vaffels” with eggs and bacon, smoked salmon and cream cheese schmear, slow-roasted Black Angus roast and whipped potatoes, and banana, Nutella, and whipped cream.
“Each waffle on the menu has its own fans for different reasons,” said Johnson.
The Scandi is a semi-sweet and tangy option with lemon-infused sour cream, gjetost (mild, caramelly Norwegian cheese), and lingonberry preserves.
“[The Scandi] is vegetarian, and it’s heavily Scandinavian-influenced,” said Johnson. “Norweigians would typically eat a waffle with lingonberries, or brown cheese, or some kind berries with cream, so we put it all into one waffle.”
For a side option, the Pheasant serves tater tots with a (smokey) twist.
“I was trying to think of a side for a Nordic-central brunch menu and I set up smoked tots in the middle of the night and thought, ‘Has anyone ever smoked tots?’” Johnson said, “Those have been a real hit, and people come just for them sometimes.”
More of eastern South Dakota is shown in the lineup with meats like bison, lamb, and steaks. A Native American focused dish is the South Dakota Bison Filet with Wojapi Sauce with six ounces of choice, grass-fed South Dakota bison tenderloin wrapped in bacon, fire-grilled medium rare, and topped with a First Nations-inspired sauce of raspberries, herbs, and local honey.
“We wanted to show the more traditional side of native foods, so it’s a fire-grilled piece of meat, and we use a honey-raspberry wojapi made with local honey, local raspberries, and sun-dried herbs,” said Johnson.
More On The Menu
Large duck wing drumettes dusted with truffled sea salt and drizzled with red chili-fused olive oil.
FRESH ENTRÉE SALADS
Café-Style Taco Salad
1950’s Café Mex-Americana. Mixed greens and cheesy seasoned corn tortilla chips, house taco beef, shredded cheddar, and grape tomatoes, served with sour cream and salsa.
PB & JJ Burger
A Cajun-seasoned burger topped with melted pepper-jack and a dollop of house private-label jalapeño jelly served on a toasted, peanut buttered bun.
Eighteen-year balsamic-glazed mushrooms and onions, fresh sliced tomato, and melted swiss cheese on rustic parmesan-crusted toast, served with classic fries and fresh vegetables.
FROM THE WATER
Wild Caught Walleye
Caught wild just north of the border in Canadian waters, lightly breaded, pan-fried in olive oil, and served with fresh lemon.
Chicken Spätzle Alfredo
German-style “little sparrow” dumping noodles tossed in a creamy white wine-infused parmesan cream sauce, topped with char-broiled breast of chicken with sautéed mushrooms, scallions, and parmesan cheese.
Trevor’s Famous Artisan Ice Cream
Hand-crafted in house “premium ice creams” in classic and innovative flavors.
BRUNCH VAFFEL MENU
Café-Style Hot Beef Waffle
Stuffed with slow-roasted Black Angus roast beef, whipped potatoes, and savory beef gravy.
The Pheasant Salad Lettuce Wraps is another way to showcase South Dakota meat with ring-necked pheasant with dried cranberries, apple, and pecans, served with heart of Romaine cups. Johnson says the salad was put together for a culinary competition years back and was created as an elevated version of the pheasant sandwich that was once served during World War II to service people in Aberdeen.
“The [pheasant salad] sandwich has received a lot of recognition from media like [O, The Oprah Magazine], and a lot of people don’t know we offer a [lettuce] wrap version,” explained Johnson. “We wanted to come up with something that was a four season thing that had ingredients you could find all year long and was freshened up.”
Drinks are also concepted with fresh details in mind. Trevor Clements is the assistant manager and house ice cream artisan and cocktail artisan (pictured above). He uses both of his areas of expertise with concoctions like the Beer Float.
“Occasionally we’ll have dessert drinks,” said Johnson. “In the fall Trevor makes an awesome pumpkin ice cream. There’s nothing chocolate in the float, but once you combine the carmelized, cinnamon ice cream with an oatmeal stout, it takes on a Mexican chocolate flavor.”
Lunch // Monday to Saturday // 11 A.M. – 5 P.M.
Dinner // Monday – Wednesday // 5 P.M. – 8 P.M. | Thursday – Saturday // 5 P.M. – 9 P.M.
Norwegian Waffle Brunch // Saturday // 10 A.M. – Noon | Sunday 10 A.M. – 2 P.M.
The eatery also has a wine club and the Pheasant Wine Cellar and Oil & Vinegar Tasting Bar. Because of this, the staff will make a shrub cocktail “that uses vinegar in some form.”
The one created for 605 included brown sugar bourbon with maple-infused balsamic vinegar, a cinnamon stick, and apple garnish.
From café classics like hot roast beef to wine dinners, Johnson says the Pheasant appeases to a vast audience.
“It’s really kind of a hub and it really reflects who we are, and I really hope everyone sees themselves represented in the menu.”