Gregory's Homesteader steakhouse has an Asian flairVietnamese couple find home, livelihood in small town.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
GREGORY — The Homesteader’s name makes it sound like a typical steakhouse. But this steakhouse has a twist. Its owners Chuc and Y Nguyen were born in Vietnam, and the menu includes fried rice dishes and other Vietnamese entrees. The couple owned and operated the restaurant from 1995 to 2005 before selling the business to spend more time with family in California. After The Homesteader was the victim of a 2009 fire, they agreed to come back to Gregory and help manage it.
“I said ‘Yes, I’d love to, but we don’t have much money.’ They said that they would help if we came back, so we did,” said Y (pronounced like the letter “E”).
Local contractor Scott Anshutz helped rebuild The Homesteader after the fire and has a contract-for-deed agreement with the Nguyens.
“I asked them if they would be interested in coming back and I just purchased the building, and we got some volunteers to help gut it out and help rebuild,” Anshutz said. “We needed it in the town. That was the main thing.”
The Nguyens’ specialty is their fried rice dishes.
“They try to copy, but theirs is not as good,” Y said of her dishes compared to the competition.
Both honed their craft with other jobs in Gregory. Chuc worked as a meat cutter at Buche Foods, while Y worked as a cook at the Corner Café, learning how to cook American food.
“I didn’t know how to cook a hamburger, so I did a lot of learning,” Y said.
They carried their new skills into the operation of The Homesteader, with Chuc cutting a lot of the meat and handling some kitchen duties and Y cooking.
The Nguyens moved to South Dakota in 1990 and did so without speaking any English. Y wasn’t crazy about having her sons join the Vietnam military, and she had a few connections with her sister, who had moved to the Gregory area in 1969.
“We just decided to come here, and the people were friendly and helpful,” she said.
With four grown children, Chuc and Y decided to get out of the restaurant business and visit their kids around the country. They would soon find out that they didn’t like the bigger lifestyle in California. So back to Gregory they went.
“The big city was not very friendly,” she said.
Perhaps the Vietnamese couple and the south-central South Dakota town were meant to be together.
“They’re so trustworthy and easy to work with,” Anshutz said. “Both of them are hard workers, and they want to do well for the city. The community is glad to have a supper club in town again.”
He has long had connections with the Nguyen family. One of the Nguyen sons worked for him in the construction business and was one of Anshutz’s hardest workers. Anshutz’s daughter worked for the Nguyens when they owned The Homesteader.
Y said she’s thankful for the second chance Anshutz and his wife, Judy, have given them. Anshutz said they were happy to help.
“They’re working people, and they’re great for Gregory,” he said.