South Dakotan foodways are most famously defined by chislic — deep-fried skewers of cubed red meat. It’s not as simple as it sounds. There are several regional variations within the state. Seasonings usually are minimal, but they can vary. In the North, beef is more common. The farming town of Freeman, which hosts an annual festival celebrating the regional specialty, is considered the capitol of chislic culture. Here, lamb and mutton are the pretty much the only meats you find on toothpicks or tiny skewers.
The Chislic House, being a butcher shop/restaurant, will put chicken and beef on skewers, but they won’t dare call it chislic. The restaurant is a new concept attempting to elevate and celebrate Dakotan foodways and the bounty of local agricultural products. The servers and management here will happily talk you through the Volga (Russian-German) origins of the dish. They will even give you a complete history of the many restaurants that have occupied the building, which is also chronicled with a photo essay on the wall.
As the name suggests, chislic is the right thing to order here. Don’t get distracted by the grilled or marinated variations. The Greek marinade on the mutton, while flavorful, leaves the meat too soft and a tad mealy. Stick to local tradition and get your meat fried. The fried lamb Chislic here is classic, served with garlic salt and presented as dark brown cubes. The skewers themselves are quite generous, making the minimum order of six a filling snack for one person.
The night we visited, Minnesota sports were playing and the mood was joyous. An all-South Dakotan list of draft beers helped to keep things festive, especially thanks to an amber ale brewed especially for the restaurant by the Firehouse Brewery in Rapid City, dubbed “Chislic Beer.” The nutty red beer is a thoughtful match for tender lamb.
The menu also offers Bierock, a yeasty Nebraskan handpie that, like chislic, has Russian-German origins. Skip it. This isn’t Nebraska, and this isn’t a best dish. Save room for extra skewers of chislic, and save room for house-made ice cream, which is delicious. We enjoyed a special strawberry scoop made with berries sourced from one of the owner’s farms.
Homesick South Dakotans rejoice! The Chislic House offers vacuum packed skewers of chislic and many other varieties of kabob available shipped to all corners of the U.S.