Whether you are a long-time member of the community, a student who has made Brookings your temporary home, or a visitor exploring the area for the first time, The Pheasant Restaurant is woven into the culture of Brookings and is a great stop to get to know the area on a new level. The Pheasant has many draws to entice patrons. Here are a few of our favorites!
SD’s favorite bird perched on the roof
Standing 8 feet tall from foot to head, the pheasant sculpture has a deep history within the Brookings community. The original pheasant made its debut when the restaurant first opened as a gas station café in 1949. By the time the current owner, Georgie Olson, grandmother of current operator Michael Johnson, came into possession of the restaurant in 1966- there was not much left of the iconic pheasant. The roof of the restaurant remained bare until its 70th anniversary in 2019 when Johnson surprised his grandfather with a brand-new Pheasant to stand on the roof once again. The majestic pheasant is truly a must-see when in Brookings.
Taste the flavors of the community
The Pheasant showcases the authentic micro-local food culture of the Brookings area. Instead of replicating what is being done on the coasts, Johnson is embracing the history of the area by offering items like the lefse dog, bison steak with wojapi sauce, or German spaetzle instead of an Italian-style pasta dish.
“I feel like we have a unique cultural melting pot here made up of Scandinavians, Germans, Native Americans, and for many generations people from all over the world including India and the middle east- all part of our authentic local flavor. We try to pull that all together into our menu and into our concept,” said Johnson.
Nordic brunch experience
Scandinavian culture has been intertwined into area communities for over 150 years. Sweet, savory, or even a little spicy, you can try out several different Nordic “vafler” or waffles Saturday and Sunday for brunch at The Pheasant. Nordic waffles are unique because they differ slightly from your typical waffle being heart-shaped, soft, and crêpe-like. The Pheasant has given these Norwegian treats a fun South Dakota spin. To pair your stuffed waffle with a Midwestern classic with a bit of a twist, try the smoked breakfast tots. What a fun addition to your cozy Nordic meal!
Feel like you are a part of the community
The Pheasant sees a large cross-section of the community pass through, so it is a perfect place to soak in who the people of Brookings are and how they contribute to their home. Since the restaurant has been in business in some capacity for the past 72 years, there are so many stories to be told.
“In almost every interaction we have with customers, there are conversations involving people’s memories, people experiencing local culture for the first time, or just expressing pride that it’s being preserved,” said Johnson.
The environment of the restaurant is unlike most. “The Pheasant, in a sense, is like the cool grandma’s house in town because you come in whatever door you want. You sit wherever you want. Everyone is welcome and it does not matter what you are wearing. You can come in to experience something more formal and upscale, or you can come in with the kids and grab something on a weeknight.”
About the board member
Michael Johnson, General Manager and Head Chef at The Pheasant, has been a member on the CVB/Visit Brookings Board of Directors since 2015 and continues to serve the Brookings tourism industry with his endless commitment and passion for the community.