Molded by frequent viewings of travel shows and food-centered TV programs hosted by celebrity chefs, foodies are everywhere these days.
They sometimes scour whole states, countries and continents looking for the best places to eat; a dining experience that’s unique and noteworthy and enjoyable enough to recommend to their friends and family members if they just so happen to come across these particular restaurants through various circumstances. Notable eateries can be found just about anywhere.
Yes, even Sioux City. Just ask Adrian Kolbo.
The event producer at Visit Sioux City, Tyson Events Center and Orpheum Theatre is the tour guide, host and taste-tester of Visit Sioux City’s latest web series called Sioux City Foodie.
The videos -- which were first released in June -- serve to “highlight the time-tested, trusted and locally-touted food spots that one might not want to miss when visiting,” according to a series description on the Visit Sioux City website.
With a camera crew led by Christopher Simons at Diesel Pictures, Kolbo sets out to local restaurants like Pierce Street Coffee Works and The Diving Elk to discuss and indulge in a few menu items.
The first episode in the web series released on YouTube and Facebook depicts Pierce Street Coffee Works owner Ron Johns serving Kolbo The Big Apple sandwich (cranberry sauce, mayonnaise, smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, red onion, lettuce and Granny Smith apple wedges), a Curry Chicken Salad Salad, an iced cappuccino and a slice of White Velvet Raspberry Cake with butter cream frosting.
In contrast to the long-established Pierce Street Coffee Works -- which was been serving customers since 1994 -- Kolbo’s second venture featured The Diving Elk, a downtown gastropub that opened in 2015. There, Kolbo sat down with owner C.J. Perera and enjoyed a meal of Goat Cheese Fondue topped with goat horn peppers as well as the House Burger (a blend of brisket, short rib and chuck on a brioche bun with Tillamook cheddar, red onion, a special sauce and a dijonnaise) and a Boozy Peach Pie Sundae. He washed it all down with a Golden Nugget IPA by Toppling Goliath Brewing Company and a Vieux Carre Cocktail made by bartender Austin Foster.
More Sioux City Foodie videos are expected to be uploaded about once a month, Kolbo said. Three restaurants have been filmed so far with five more approved works to be organized later on. Responses on social media have been positive thus far. The latest video spotlighting The Diving Elk’s menu has garnered 15,000 views and 98 shares on Facebook.
“As a function of tourism in Sioux City, we’re eager to not only promote local restaurants and local fare to people that want to come to Sioux City to visit, but also highlight some of these awesome spots,” said Kolbo. “It’s all about the rankings and what the public thinks about their food and the experience of dining there. Based on that, we’re going to slowly work our way through some of these places.”
Kolbo came up with the concept for the Sioux City Foodie web series some time ago. He first created a Sioux City Foodie Instagram handle with the intention of sharing photos of and promoting local food. But with the popularity of gastro-tourism -- what is essentially “food tourism,” in which people travel to different locations motivated by a specific area’s food experiences -- Kolbo thought of another way to inform visitors outside of Sioux City of the culinary experiences awaiting them in the tri-state area.
“They’re planning out their trip not just for the event that they’re going to,” said Kolbo. “They want to know where they should eat. And they are eager to see photos and experiences from other people that not only just show them the food in the photo, but tell them where it’s at, what should be paired with it [and] why they should enjoy it.”
The videos also benefit those living in Sioux City. Kolbo said there were some responses to the first Sioux City Foodie episode made by people Kolbo knew personally or met in town.
“They were like, ‘Oh I didn’t know a place like that [Pierce Street Coffee Works] even served food!’” Kolbo recalled. “So we’re also educating people in Sioux City so that they can tell their families or their visitors who are coming to town. You’re promoting the things that are already in Sioux City. And it’s been really rewarding so far.”
EVERYBODY SHOULD BE A FOODIE
You all know that your friends at The Weekender resent any notion that there’s nothing to do in Sioux City. That’s what we’ve always stood by. As an extension to that ideology, we also shake our heads to the idea that there’s nothing good to eat in Sioux City. On the contrary, the Sioux City Foodie himself said the town has “really competitive” food market.
“It’s not easy to do business in Sioux City as a restaurant,” said Kolbo. “People are very finicky. There are over 200 restaurants and places to eat and we’ve only got 85,000 or 87,000 people in Sioux City. And then there’s the surrounding area. It’s competitive but we still have these brands that have been around for a super long time.”
Kolbo added that he is not a “food guru.” He is as the title of the web series implies: a foodie, someone with an appreciation for quality, local cuisine.
“The thing is that everybody should be a foodie,” said Kolbo. “Everyone should have a concern for where their food is coming from and the quality of their food.
“In this area of Iowa where we live, we’re in a food desert. The majority of the crops that we produce in Iowa get exported. We have all this fertile land and I think that gastro-tourism, for me, is all about promoting the places in town that are doing it right and making quality food with quality ingredients.”
Those places are what Sioux City Foodie aims to give recognition to. Kolbo also narrows down his search by reading reviews on Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp. He’ll ask himself the question: “Is this a place where we can, without question, recommend to someone who is visiting?”
“From there, for me, it’s about what types of food they’re providing and what type of quality services they’re providing and how long they’ve been around,” said Kolbo. “I like to joke that we have an algorithm. But it’s a decision based on qualifications.”
Folks who have seen the videos are quick to offer future suggestions as well. And that’s good news for Kolbo who gets to taste all the food presented to him by the featured restaurants.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “One thing in Sioux City Foodie that we’re trying to promote is it’s not just the long-standing places in Sioux City that are killin’ it, but it’s also about the food trucks and the people that are innovating. It’s trying to highlight the places to come visit, but it’s also trying to promote that culture in Sioux City.”
Culture also plays a large role in the Sioux City food scene. Kolbo said the diversity of food available is what makes Sioux City stand out from other foodie destinations.
“You’ve got all these different demographics that are here to stay, and so they make restaurants for their families and their communities,” said Kolbo. “We’ve got a lot of different and great types of food set up.”
But no matter how different the food, the one common theme Kolbo has seen in the restaurants he has featured (or will feature) on Sioux City Foodie is the tenacity of its owners.
“The common thread is that they have passionate management,” he said. “They just keep going after it. They keep pleasing their customers and making great food. Those are the ones that have stuck around and those are the ones that we are trying to feature; the ones that are driven for success and driven to make Sioux City their home.”