SIOUX CITY | At the start of the 20th century, a trained troupe of diving elk would plunge off a platform into the Big Sioux River at Riverside Park.
More than a century later, "Princess Trixie" and "Pacing Johnnie" -- the stars of animal impresario Grant Henderson's turn-of-the-century show -- have been immortalized at the Diving Elk, a new gastropub located at 1101 Fourth Street.
Owner C.J. Perera has redesigned the Historic Fourth Street space that was formerly home to Rebo's, a Caribbean- and Mexican-influenced eatery that relocated to 1107 Fourth St. last summer.
"I wanted to redecorate the space to combine both country elements with stuff that was strictly urban," Perera said, pointing to a wall made of repurposed barn wood co-mingling with upscale light fixtures and a modern copper bar.
Creating the proper mood was important to Perera, who wanted The Diving Elk to be "a relaxed setting" for a wide variety of beers, mixed drinks and a revolving menu of "continental bar food."
"Customers tend to get into ruts when it comes to beer choices," he said. "Instead, we try to encourage people to try different kinds of craft beers, many of which are local in origin."
Out of The Diving Elk's 18 tap beers, more than seven are from Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Likewise, Perera is quick to talk up an expanding menu of mixed drinks, which utilize fresh fruits and bitters.
"During and after Prohibition, people became accustomed to mixed drinks that contained overly sweet additives," he said. "All you really need is quality liquor and a few fresh ingredients to have a great-tasting cocktail."
Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are also a hallmark of The Diving Elk's food menu.
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Among the most popular pub food offerings are the restaurant's 14-ounce bone-in Heritage Farm pork chop, served with patatas bravas (fried potatoes in a spicy red sauce); and blackened mahi mahi, served with cilantro-lime quinoa and braised greens.
While Perera recommended such hearty fare as The Diving Elk's chicken and Waffles (breaded wings served with jalapeno-cheddar cornbread, whipped butters and bourbon-maple syrup) and Elkwurst sandwich (elk bratwurst served with sauerkraut and stone-ground mustard), his appetizers are a great way to share a plate.
Thus far, the most popular appetizers have been the poutine (house fries served with a cheddar curds and beef gravy) as well as a vegetarian-friendly brussels sprouts (served deep-fried, with a sriracha-honey sauce) and a red pepper-and-IPA hummus (served with pita bread, carrots and celery).
"Our food pairs perfectly with our drinks," Perera said. "I think people will like it a lot."
Indeed, The Diving Elk also pairs old elements (an elk head features in the decor) and with more modern amenities (banquette seating is arranged against a wall of exposed brick).
Perera said this eclectic vibe is exactly what he was aiming for.
"There are many places in town where you can get a beer," he said. "But at The Diving Elk, you also get a friendly atmosphere where you can relax with your friends and enjoys great food and great drinks."
But no actual diving elk, right?
"Nope," Perera said with a smile. "I think that would be frowned upon nowadays."