“You take care of people in the city for long enough and you start to get a feel for what they’re after,” said Sara Benson. “We thought Sioux Falls was ready for something fresh.”
Benson and Pat Nelson had been bartending in downtown Sioux Falls for years. It was time for a change.
So when Brandon De Jong approached them about opening a new bar, they jumped at the chance, opening The Hello Hi in mid-November 2020.
“Having traveled quite a bit, both Brandon and I were really excited about tiki and the cocktail scene that that evokes,” said Benson, who is a managing partner.
Served in an ornate peacock mug, the signature Beetle in a Haystack cocktail elicits plenty of excitement from customers during preparation.
It’s made with Appleton Estate 8 Reserve rum, Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum, Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum, a handful of tropical fruits, and li hing mui syrup, which is a dye made from red beetles.
“It’s one of those things where it’s like, once you make one and someone sees it, you’re making them all night,” explained Benson.
Have a Sip
Here are some of the other concoctions.
La Favorite Rhum Blanc, sugar cane, lime.
Espolon, Reposado, Torres Magdala, lime.
Bombay Sapphire, lemon, passionfruit.
Virgin Islands (N/A)
Passionfruit, lemon, bitters.
“In the Midwest, we have a tendency to say hello several times. [The name of the bar is] just a little tribute to our place in the world.” – Sara Benson
The other signature cocktail, Smoothed Edges, is a much calmer drink with many subtle, nuanced steps in making it.
“It’s one you have to care about making,” she said.
It’s made with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, Highland Park Magnus Scotch, Lillet, house bitters, and lime. Smoothed Edges is also available to-go.
“We know a lot of people are staying at home,” said Benson. “We want to be able to provide them drinks.”
The Hello Hi At Home Sip Kits can be picked up on site and come with five of the most popular cocktails, twisty straws, and some drink parasols.
“Get out the beach towels, set your screensaver to a beach, and make it fun,” she encouraged.
But the cocktails aren’t all to be found at The Hello Hi.
“I don’t want people to not come because they think they have to get cocktails,” said Benson.
Nine beers, two cocktails, and the Songbird Kombucha are on tap behind the bar. Among the beers on tap are brews from Remedy Brewing Company, Fernson Brewing Company, and Look’s Beer Company.
There is also an extensive bottled beer selection and a few choices of wine.
“One of the overwhelming themes of tiki is escapism, and that’s what guided us here.” -Brandon De Jong
The Hello Hi has something to offer everyone’s palate.
“You can get a shot and a beer for $6 here, but you can get a $13 fire drink, too,” she added.
You can even pick from a handful of non-alcoholic options, called “Virgin Islands,” like the High Thai’d, made with spicy Thai broth, lime, and sugar.
In the main bar space, the mid-century modern style and psychedelic touches take the tiki bar influence and make it into just what they want it to be.
“It’s just our own version of creating a space that’s unique,” said De Jong.
The décor is from many places, styles, and centuries, from the handmade fixtures to booth lights made of real pufferfish. Adding to the eclectic collection, there are pieces like an infinity mirror and lamps that harken back to the ‘70s in the back den.
Back there, settle a case of munchies and grab pizza by the slice or by the pie from Pizza Cheeks. (For more info check out 605 Profile | Michael Charpentier)
There are plenty of comfy spots in the back and up front to sip your beverage of choice while taking in the experience, including a hanging wicker chair.
“A lot of the stuff we got second hand, off Facebook Marketplace and options like that,” said De Jong.
To balance out the drinks, try on of Pizza Cheeks’ signature pies.
Chili garlic oil, fresh and dry mozzarella, herbed ricotta, pecorino, breadcrunch, basil.
Gochu red, char siu pork belly, pineapple, jalapeño, fresh and dry mozzarella, scallion, pecorino, sesame seeds, cilantro.
The vibes also have made The Hello Hi a popular spot for Instagram pictures.
But Benson says one of the most frequent shots they’re tagged in happens to be from the flamingo-themed women’s bathroom.
“We intentionally designed [The Hello Hi] in a way that different people like different areas of it,” said Benson. “Apparently, [that room] has a really good selfie mirror.”
De Jong says that is what The Hello Hi is all about: “creating memorable experiences and inspiring.”
Benson, De Jong, and Nelson say they are excited to be part of the downtown Sioux Falls scene.
“The emphasis is just community,” said Benson. “We’d like to provide a space for people to come up with ideas and just be around for it.”