“The pool hall that I loved as a kid is now a 7-11…”

I’ve lived in Brookings, South Dakota, since August 2004. I’m coming up on my 7th “anniversary” of sorts, of my throwing caution to the wind and taking a chance with my life (one that I’d say has paid off considerably). I still somewhat feel like an outsider–I wasn’t born here, I didn’t go to school here…No, I dealt with some serious culture shock and a long period of adjustment before I could handle life in a small town. I still miss the city. I miss Cincinnati. I even miss Columbus (even though I still like to make fun of it). I miss the amenities, I miss the conveniences, I miss the opportunities and selections that a larger city offers you.

But the longer I’ve been in Brookings, the more I realize it’s not as stifling as I thought when I first arrived here. I can still see why people leap at the chance to get the hell out of Dodge at the first chance they get, but I can also see why people like my husband return. Nothing against my dad or my sister, but I’d rather raise the bambino here than in either one of their neighborhoods.

And the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve grown to focus on my community. I can’t appreciate what I have if I don’t put any self-investment in it. Jay & I have been talking about the possibility of going “off the grid” at some point in our lives, which I think means we’re not retiring to South Padre Island & I don’t get my beach-front condo. No, if we get serious about it (and there’s no way this is happening any time in the near future…This is something that would be at least 20-30 years out probably), I’ll spend my “golden years” (if I’m lucky enough to have any–But that’s another post for another time) on a plot of land somewhere in Wyoming or Montana, living in a house powered by solar panels and wind energy, with resources like a garden, a small grain field, and whatever else we’ll need to eat (I drew the line at butchering our own meat–At most we’d have a cow for milk and chickens for eggs).

Why am I bringing all this up? Partly because Jay’s been on this kick of watching end-of-the-world/last-human-to-survive-the-apocalypse movies, and we’re both getting fed up with a lot of things in government. Even local government makes mistakes, and I think the Brookings City Council made a big one last night at their meeting when they chose to deny the Old Market Eatery a liquor license.

And why do I think this is such a bad thing? Well, for one, if you read the post on the Old Market’s blog, you’ll note that the city has 1 liquor license they’re not doing anything with. They’re holding on to it in the event that someplace like Chili’s or Olive Garden or whatever decides to set up here in Brookings. Now, I’m not going to pretend I know anything about any goings-on in Brookings. I don’t. I don’t have “my ear to the street,” and I’m not buddy-buddy with any of the council members (who probably couldn’t discuss anything anyway). Maybe there’s some big name in the works, I don’t know. What I do know is that there’s a new restaurant that’s going to be ready to go later this year, that won’t be able to do as much with their atmosphere or menu as they could otherwise. Coming from a food blogger’s perspective, that kind of blows chunks. I don’t get many crumbs living in a small town, and the possibility of a funky new food place to try out, then blog about is pretty freakin’ cool as far as I’m concerned.

Another reason I think this is bad, is due to the fact that this will be a local business. The owners are Brookings residents.The money they make will stay in Brookings. The more people they attract, the more people who come will spend money in Brookings. This is a good thing. Say the city manages to attract Olive Garden. The franchise could be owned by someone in Sioux Falls or Watertown, or Nebraska or Minnesota. That means money leaving the community. Besides that, I don’t think Brookings is going to get the “big bucks” they’re desperately after. I’ve lived here almost 7 years now. The only new restaurant chains I have seen open have been fast food joints, one of which has since gone under. And the fact that Applebee’s managed to get in here hasn’t lured any other casual dining chains. I haven’t been to Applebee’s in almost 4 years. The food is crappy at best, and the service is atrocious. When my sister Kendra & her family came to visit, we went there for dinner one night. I was so embarrassed by the service (it doesn’t help that my brother-in-law is a chef & I’ve worked in food service long enough to know how it’s supposed to be), I haven’t been back. Instead, when Jay & I eat out, we go to places like Guadalajara or George’s or Nick’s Hamburgers. Jay & I used to order George’s a couple times a week when we lived downtown. I still have Spiro asking me why I don’t come see him any more (we’re lazy & get delivery now that we can’t just walk down there). Jay used to work with the wife of the owner of Nick’s Hamburgers & now that we’ve started taking the bambino there, Dick always makes it a point to come talk to him. Gregorio at Guadalajara does the same thing when we go there. I wouldn’t know the manager at Applebee’s if he walked up & smacked me right now. He doesn’t know that he lost a customer that evening 4 years ago, and I doubt he would really care. When I have family from Ohio come to visit,  I don’t take them to Applebee’s. I take them to Nick’s and George’s and Guadalajara.

You have to give people a reason to come to Brookings, besides just food. Most people here in town are used to driving to Sioux Falls or Watertown if they want to shop as well as eat. We do it too. We’re planning on it this weekend. But I think how cool it would be if I didn’t have to do that (not to mention how much money I could save on gas!). If Wal-Mart had some competition, I think more people would stay here and spend their money in Brookings. But until that aspect changes, I don’t think the city is going to get the big names they’re after. We’re not going to steal Target from Watertown, even though our population is now bigger. Having the Children’s Museum here is a good start. But rather than help out a local business, the councilors are clinging to a pipe dream.

So in the spirit of being local and whatnot, I decided to pop over to the farmers market this afternoon (I even walked, despite the ungodly heat!). I wanted to get more beef, although we still had a pound of the ground stuff in the freezer. I picked up more, as well as some minute steak, and more beef bacon:


I have some beef bacon in the oven at the moment for tonight’s dinner. I made up some homemade BBQ sauce to pour over it (I cook it like brisket, since that’s basically what it is).

I also picked up some bread and dinner rolls:


The dinner rolls will be part of dinner tonight, as well as this:


Sweet corn that Jay got from work yesterday. And I just realized that with that addition, our meal will consist of all local foods, which I think is pretty cool. And with that, I’m off to go shuck some corn!

7 thoughts on ““The pool hall that I loved as a kid is now a 7-11…”

  1. I refuse to eat at Applebee's too. Either my Honey or I have always gotten sick whenever we ate there. The last time I got a serious case of food poisoning that laid me up in the bed for two solid days. To make matters worse, we were out of town at the time, so I was laid up in a Holiday Inn. Ugh, nothing worse than being wretched sick away from home! Then I have heard that TWICE an Applebee's employee "accidentally" put booze in a baby's juice cup. (no, that's not an urban legend, it actually happened in the town where my sister lives, it made the news there.) Oh no, my family and I will never return to Applebee's. I know exactly what you mean by restaurants too. It seems like my town is always putting up a new big-chain restaurant. You'd never know there was a recession and serious unemployment issues where I live, because the restaurant parking lots are full just about every night. I'm not talking cheap-o Mickey D's either. I mean big-time places like Red Lobster and Sho-gun. I know it's sounds snobby for me to say, but I really prefer my own home cooking to the flash-frozen crap the big-name restaurants serve, I don't care how pretty it is on the plate. And with two wiggly kiddoes, it's just easier if we stay home. On a side note, I looked up Brookings. It seems like a nice little town! I would love to have a little hometown like that. The downside is that people stick to themselves, and don't let "outsiders" in. I've lived in towns like that, and it was very depressing to me. I guess that I am a very outgoing and social person, especially since I was an Army wife that moved around so much and needed to make new connections so often. But my heart longs to have a "hometown" where people know each other.
    • Oh, I heard about the Applebee's kiddie-cup-booze mix-up too. Yet another reason NOT to go there! I do know what you mean about preferring your own home-cooking...I think that's why I prefer the local places rather than eating at places like Olive Garden, etc. At least if I'm going to eat out I somewhat know the people prepping my food! But more often than not, I enjoy a nice family dinner in my own home, at my own table. Brookings is a pretty nice place & it's not all that exclusive...A lot of my friends are from surrounding towns or states, and I'm obviously from farther away than that! :) You could always move here!
  2. We'll see where the job offers come from once my Honey graduates from college. I think I'd like Wyoming, Montana, or the Dakotas. (We lived in Germany for three years, and I LOVED having the cold and snow. Weird, I know.)
  3. Good for you for writing this post. A poor choice on Brookings' part -- you're right on, that's super disappointing on many levels. Keep writing, woman -- we're reading. :)
  4. Stacie--I wouldn't wish a Dakota winter on my worst enemy! My husband swears up & down that there are "mild" winters, but I don't believe him. Every year I've been here, it's gotten worse & there's been more snow. Maybe this year will be the year we get a break! Kristin--Thank you. It's nice to hear that my words aren't falling on deaf ears.

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