HURON — With an ideal downtown location, and a long history of great food and a fun atmosphere, The Tailgate, one of Huron’s most popular eating establishments, has reopened its doors under new ownership for the first time in years. As of March 14, Scott Gaulke and Lisa French, of Artesian, officially became restaurant entrepreneurs.
Gaulke, a carpenter and self-professed “jack of all trades,” has spent most of his career in management, including a position as a retro-coordinator that involved remodeling seven Best Buy stores. French, on the other hand, has been in the culinary business off and on for 30 years.
“Regardless of what my immediate job was, I kept gravitating back to restaurants, it’s what I love to do,” she said. And with that thought in mind, they began to explore the possibilities. Initially, they had considered purchasing a food truck, but the cold South Dakota winters made them question the long-term feasibility.
As they were familiar with Huron, they remembered the past plight of the Tailgate and inquired about its status. The popular downtown destination had been closed for several years after changing hands numerous times and had suffered an extensive fire in the kitchen area.
“We got it right before the bank was going to list it,” said Scott. Since purchasing the business in July of 2016, the couple has spent the last six months jumping through a lot of hoops, dealing with an extensive kitchen remodel, and searching for a crew who shared their passion for food.
“It’s been a long process,” Scott stated. “Everything in the kitchen was ruined; the appliances, the coolers — it all had to be resurfaced with stainless steel. We’ve put in a lot of 19-hour days.”
Now that they are up and running, the focal point is all about the cuisine. They have brought back many “Tailgate classics” but with a twist. Whether it’s appetizers, entrees or desserts, they are committed to making as much as possible from scratch. “Food tastes so much better when it’s homemade, you can really tell the difference,” Gaulke said. “We are so excited about our kitchen crew, they are not just line cooks, they are actual chefs who enjoy the freedom they have to create and experiment with recipes.”
Gaulke admits there are occasional hiccups when they fall a little short of their expectations, “In that case, all I can do is apologize, we are all learning from each other.”
Both owners are involved in the dessert making process, French with her rendition of lava cake, pineapple upside-down cake, and two kinds of cheesecake topped with homemade sauces. And Gaulke is an avid pie maker, something he attributes solely to his grandmother. He reminiscences her teaching him how.
“Grandma never measured anything, it was always a handful of this and a handful of that,” Scott said. “I can remember her looking at my small hands and saying maybe we should use two handfuls!” From 2 to 4 p.m., they offer coffee and a slice of homemade pie at an unbeatable price. His pies are so good, Gaulke said he’s been asked to donate 15 to the annual Pie in the Park event this August.
The new Tailgate owners describe themselves as just a couple of people following their passion to own a great restaurant with awesome food that they can share with a welcoming community, one that has always treated them very well.
The Tailgate is open for lunch, dinner ... and pie, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 554-0500 for reservations.