Monday, September 20, 2004

Siouxland blog.

Sioux City, Iowa, is across the Missouri River from South Sioux City, Nebraska, where I stayed two weeks ago. A few miles away on the Big Sioux River is North Sioux City, South Dakota. The area doesn’t include Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or, it seems, very many Sioux Indians, Lakota, Dakota or Nakota, who live elsewhere, though not all that far away. According to the radio, and the tourist materials I saw, the Sioux City-South Sioux City-North Sioux City area plus their counties are called “Siouxland.” Nomenclature is such fun.

The big wheel of the area –- relatively speaking –- is Sioux City, where has about 85,000 people. I got a look at its downtown after I arrived, as well as the next day after my excursion into SD. It’s a modest place, with a mix of a few fine old blocks, a couple of minor modernist monstrosities, and a run of structures in between, at least in aesthetic terms. It even has a “warehouse district” –- one block, Historic Fourth St. I think –- of renovated buildings, once places of work, now places of entertainment. Restaurants, mostly, some of which doubled as music venues. Even on a weekday, downtown Sioux City isn’t teeming with pedestrians, or car traffic either. Maybe it did 50 years ago, but not anymore.

If I’d known about Historic Fourth the first night I was there, I would have gone there to eat (as I did the second night, to some satisfaction). I’d neglected to do any research on eateries, so I struck out on my own a little after dark, trusting to chance. I drove up and down a couple of major arteries, and besides fast food –- I always try to do better on an expense account –- my choices eventually boiled down to Chili’s or a Mexican restaurant I’d never heard of.

Naturally I gravitated to the Mexican place, whose name was incongruously Irish –- I remember it as Bernardo O’Higgin’s, but that wasn’t it. Anyway, it had all the hallmarks of a chain restaurant: menu, seating, bar and décor all just so (pics of Mexico ca. 1910), but I still couldn’t place it. Ah, well. They served me a decent plate of enchiladas, which, if you think about it, is a small marvel in its own right, there in the deepest heart of North America.


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