Stakes don’t get any higher than a 3-foot golden spoon, encrusted with diamonds.
That will be the prize as a dozen Mitchell-based restaurants and eateries duke it out in the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce’s Restaurant Rumble from Jan. 27-Jan. 31. Each location has created a “Restaurant Rumble Special” and the public has a chance to decide the winner by posting on Facebook.
The Chamber held its first edition of the Rumble in June and received 60-70 votes. As the food service industry not only looks to offset challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, January and February is typically the slowest time of the year as folks hunker down during the cold weather. So, Chamber event coordinator Jared Indahl decided to tweak an idea stemming from the annual Sioux Falls Burger Battle.
“I wanted to make this broad to be as inclusive to as many restaurants in town as we could,” Indahl said. “I also want to be inclusive to the chain restaurants and a lot of times they don’t have the freedom to create a brand new menu item, so something like this, they can still participate without having to break the rules. We have a wide range of places to eat from.”
In order to vote, visit any of the participating location — Big Dummy’s, Blarney’s Sports Bar, Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse, Coborn’s, Culver’s, The Depot, Elixir Roasterie, Fika/Cornerstone, Papa Murphy’s Pizza, Pizza Ranch, Subway and Whiskey Creek — and post where and what you are eating, while tagging @MitchellChamberOfCommerce or @VisitMitchell. Posting also automatically enters people into a random drawing for several prepaid gift cards.
The event has been extended from three days to five this time, with restaurants attempting to dethrone last year’s champion: Elixir Roasterie.
When the Rumble was held June 25-June 27, many restaurants were still limited due to COVID-19 concerns and some opted not to participate. Fika/Cornerstone was one such restaurant that was not open then, but its ability to cater to in-house dining patrons and carry-out made participating a logical decision this time.
“This time of year is always just a little slower,” Fika/Cornerstone owner Gwenda Koch said. “We felt it would be a good time to give a break to our good customers. … I think the timing is right not only in the month, but in the latter part of the week. Those are times when we have good lunch business and this will probably increase our carry-out orders, as well.”
Finding a special to feature is often key to participating in such an event, as Elixir’s fajita chicken burrito bowl sold out in less than two hours during the first day of competition. Some places went simple, as Culver’s is featuring its signature frozen custard and butterburgers, while Pizza Ranch is offering an 8-inch chocolate chip cookie.
Others went with popular menu items, as Fika/Cornerstone opted to feature it’s signature tomato soup, which is available daily, but paired it with a popular ham and cheese panini, along with jalapeno cream cheese. Big Dummy’s has a slew of burger options, while Blarney’s is spotlighting chicken parm bites or a spicy ranch burger.
The Depot — another new addition to the contest — also decided to pick a mainstay on the menu such as the Gangway Connection. Meanwhile, The Depot also featured a popular concoction developed by chef Rachel Stanage. The BLT chicken alfredo sandwich is two pieces of crispy chicken on a toasted bun, topped with creamy alfredo, bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, green onion sauce and tomato, served with French fries.
“It’s a good idea to get all of the restaurants in town involved. It’s just something fun to do,” said Stephanie Vaughan, co-owner of The Depot. “If people are going to come out and eat, they’re going to come out and eat anyway. But if they want to participate in this, it’s a great way to get some interaction with different customers. Maybe someone who wouldn’t normally eat here might want to stop in and give it a try.”
Along with Blarney’s and Whiskey Creek, The Depot is also competing in Wingapalooza simultaneously. But Vaughan does not think the two competitions will create a schism with potential customers.
“I think any and all attention at restaurants right now is a positive,” Vaughan said. “People that are going to come for the wings and not the Rumble — you’re going to have one or the other and I don’t think it’s going to be an issue with either one.”