Local restaurants prepare for spotlight on upcoming ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ episode

When ‘O’ So Good owner and chef Omar Thornton received a call from a Food Network producer over the summer expressing interest in featuring his restaurant on an episode of “Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives,” his first thought was that he was being pranked or scammed. 

“I made the producer give me her phone number so I could call her back and make sure it was real,” Thornton said. “She got a real kick out of me doing that.”

Thornton soon learned that the call was real and that his restaurant was on a shortlist of South Dakota restaurants that were being considered for the show. After going through a screening process, ‘O’ So Good was confirmed for a visit by celebrity chef Guy Fieri and his crew to record an episode segment, which will air at 8 p.m. Friday.

Friday’s episode will consist entirely of South Dakota restaurants — ‘O’ So Good in Garretson and Urban Chislic and Lalibela Restaurant in Sioux Falls. The owners of each restaurant said they are excited to see the finished episode and are gearing up to watch it in their own ways. 

Thornton said ‘O’ So Good will operate with normal hours Friday evening but will bring in extra TVs so patrons and employees can watch the episode. Live music will be played up until the episode premieres, and service may briefly stop based on demand so closer attention can be paid to the episode.

Urban Chislic co-owner Hong Phrommany is planning a watch party Friday evening — an event he said he had to ask permission from the Food Network to hold. The restaurant usually doesn’t take reservations but will for the watch party. 

The Regret Burger and a barbecued pork chislic sandwich will take center stage on the episode, he said, and the restaurant will fry up free bite-size venison chislic during the show.

Lalibela owner Mulugeta Endayehu said he and his wife plan to watch the episode at home after their Ethiopian restaurant closes for the evening.

All three restaurant owners described the same thorough screening process they underwent before their businesses were selected for the show. They were contacted by a producer to confirm the network’s interest and be asked about more specific details on their business. They submitted a half-dozen meals for Fieri to review, which were then narrowed down to two that would be featured on-air. 

Thornton said he was thrilled by even the possibility that his restaurant would appear on the Food Network. He didn’t learn to cook at culinary school, instead teaching himself skills and picking up techniques by watching the network. 

“Food Network has always been one of those teachers for me,” Thornton said. “I love the network, and ‘Triple D’ and ‘Chopped’ are my favorite shows. To be on a show I admire is great, and a couple of our menu items were actually inspired by meals on ‘Triple D.’ ”

Once they were selected, the owners were given only a few days in advance to close their restaurants to the public, creating a controlled environment for the shoot. Once Fieri and his team arrived, Phrommany said he was excited to meet the enthusiastic and genuine celebrity chef. 

“There’s a reason people love to watch him, and it isn’t just his hair,” Phrommany said. 

Endayehu said the episode offers an opportunity for his restaurant to grow an already loyal customer base. 

“It’s a really big deal for us,” Endayehu said. “We’ve been in business for 17 years, and a lot of our customers have continuously been very happy with our service. I’d like to think that’s why we were chosen.”

Phrommany echoed this sentiment, adding that the episode can be a source of pride for the whole state, as the rest of the country can get a small taste of the delicious food scene in South Dakota. 

“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I was excited on many levels — for the business opportunity and also as something that South Dakota should be super proud of overall. I’m excited for the rest of the nation to see what cuisine the state has to offer.”

Future episodes Jan. 8 and 29 will feature Bread & Circus Sandwich Kitchen and Look’s Marketplace, respectively. Daily Clean Food and Drink also will appear in a currently unscheduled episode. 

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Local restaurants prepare for spotlight on upcoming ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ episode

Three restaurant owners are getting ready for the national spotlight. Here’s how they’re celebrating their Jan. 1 appearance on “Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives.”

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