Animal’s Bar and Grill in Canova serves up ‘the works’
From prime rib to chicken fried steak, hearty food always on the menu
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh article in the Battle of the Eats 2022 series, which features stories on favorite small-town restaurants as voted upon by Mitchell Republic readers. The series will appear Saturdays through Aug. 27 this summer.
CANOVA, S.D. — As Brenda Glanzer, co-owner of Animal’s Bar and Grill in Canova, recites a list of the eatery’s menu offerings, a pair of words spring forth that aptly describes the variety available to the customers who walk through the door.
Nestled in a small Main Street building in the village of 105 people, the restaurant boasts a menu that reads like a list from grandma’s recipe box. Chicken fried steak. Prime rib. Mashed potatoes. A salad bar. Lasagna. Tater tot hotdish. It’s a lineup that can easily satisfy the hungriest of the hungry.
Glanzer has owned and operated Animal’s since 2013, though she got her start at the establishment managing the operation for her brother-in-law Tim Glanzer, who owned the business for about a year and a half before deciding to step back after circumstances at his other business forced him to focus his efforts there.
The bar dates back to at least the 1970s, she said, and had operated as more of a traditional bar before her family took over.
“He just did it on a whim,” Glanzer told the Mitchell Republic about her brother-in-law’s leap into the restaurant business. “He owns Howard Cold Storage, and he said let’s branch out, let’s do some catering and own a bar. And I said I’ll join you right along with that.”
So the group established Animal’s Bar and Grill, which is named after her brother-in-law's high school nickname, and changed the format from an evening bar to more of a family-style restaurant that included a bar. Glanzer worked as the manager, utilizing some of the skills she cultivated working in a cafe in her youth.
When the chance for her to take over fully, it was a fairly easy decision.
“I managed it for him for that year and a half, and then I bought it from him. We decided to keep it just the same as it was,” Glanzer said.
Glanzer, 46, had worked in the food service industry in her youth, and had a knack for waiting tables, engaging with customers and developing a menu, citing her mother as a cooking inspiration. Those parts of being a restaurateur came naturally to her. What didn’t come as naturally was adjusting to life as an owner.
“Adjusting to being a bar owner was a little more challenging. You get up, you go to work at 8 a.m. and you should be home by 5 p.m. But you might not be done until 2 a.m.,” Glanzer said.
But the choice was worth it, she said. Canova, a tiny town perhaps most well-known for its history with amateur baseball in South Dakota, is a small place that needed an outpost for good food. That was something she could deliver to the area farmers and residents, all of whom have come out to support her efforts.
“I love our little community, there are only 105 people here, but we have baseball season. We have hunting season. And probably the biggest pride and joy is my senior citizens. We do senior citizen meals throughout the week (and I love) just listening to them telling their stories,” Glanzer said.
Those who come in love the food, too, and Glanzer makes an effort to focus on home-cooked style meals. A customer can grab a cheeseburger or chicken sandwich for lunch, but there’s much more to the menu than that. The menu this week featured a lunch special of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. Those who weren’t dining in would stop by the counter to grab some take out.
Support for Animal’s has been there since the beginning, Glanzer said, from customers enjoying the specials to taking advantage of the catering services. Other members of the business community were among the first to embrace them.
“Bankers were calling and saying hey, I want to take 10 harvest meals out to the field, can you have them ready? A feed salesman would call up saying hey, I want to bring a group of 20 in, can you accommodate us?” Glanzer said. “That was amazing.”
Of course, baseball plays a big role. The local diamond, home field to the Canova Gang amateur team, is a legend in the region and hosts youth and men’s baseball through the summer. Those participants invariably end up finding their way to Animal’s for a post-game bite or drink.
“During the summer we have ball games in town literally Monday through Saturdays and tournaments on Sundays,” Glanzer said. “We’ve been blessed for many years to host districts and regions for the younger kids. And teams come in and hustle and bustle amongst each other and give each other a little grief about winning or losing. And that’s good, you don’t always see that in the big towns.”
Hunting is also big in Canova, and hunters who flock there in search of pheasant also discover Animal’s. Home states of visitors include New Mexico, California, Washington and Pennsylvania, Glanzer said. Local lodges direct their guests to the restaurant, she said.
The restaurant draws South Dakotans from around the region, as well, just to enjoy the food and atmosphere. Glanzer said one couple from Mount Vernon makes a trip to Canova once a month for the prime rib, salad bar and homemade deviled eggs. They have been coming regularly four about four years.
“Every month like clockwork. That’s their date night,” Glanzer said.
It hasn’t always been easy. They had to adjust to the arrival of COVID-19, but they overcame those struggles. They had to shut down temporarily when her husband and daughter were both diagnosed with cancer, but they both beat it and are now doing well. And keeping a full staff can be challenging as young people graduate from high school and move on to college.
Glanzer said the community has been nothing but supportive through those challenges. When they had to close temporarily in December to handle her family’s health, the community told her to do what she had to do, they would still be there if and when she could get back to the restaurant.
“They said ‘you take your time, you’ll be back when it works.’ And we were back open for short hours in January. We had farmers in the community telling us that as soon as we were ready their bellies were getting thin,” Glanzer said.
Brenda’s husband, Todd, agreed that the community is close-knit and takes care of their own.
“The community is just great. It’s the only place to eat for 15 miles around, and they treat us well,” he said.
Nikki Muck has worked for Glanzer at Animal’s for about eight years. She said people are drawn to Animal’s because of its small-town environment, the friendly people and the good service. She’s partial to the prime ribs and wraps at the restaurant, but she said working for her boss is a pleasure as well.
“The boss is great. She’s not really a boss, she’s a friend and family,” Muck said.
Glanzer tries to treat everyone as part of the family. She does that at the “farmer’s picnics” she hosts that feature hotdogs, brats, cheeseburgers, hamburgers and baked beans. Or with the watermelon and wraps she serves up on particularly hot days. Or the Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter meals she prepares on a yearly basis.
And they’re always ready to welcome new members to the family.
“Some days you’re going to walk in and say it’s really quiet in here, and other days you’ll say where did all these people come from? There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but we’re always prepared,” Glanzer said.
Animal’s Bar and Grill is currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with additional hours on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays. Sunday breakfasts are served 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Sunday.