umami cafe

November 9, 2022

airport restaurants are usually thought of as a place to get sustenance and while away the hours when stuck between flights, but occasionally, you find one that can easily become a destination diner

in the beginning years of my culinary career, I worked at Connell’s II at the Airport, a very successful Wisconsin restaurant in the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport…learning under the local industry legend, Lynn McDonough, was an honor…not only did I get a wealth of experience but saw first-hand how hard an entrepreneur must work to market their establishment, especially when you are in unconventional location

Jess Blodgett, owner, chef of Umami Cafe

so, when I saw that a new restaurant, Unami Cafe, was opening at the local private airport, my nostalgic curiosity was awakened…located in the Signature Aviation building next door to the Sioux Falls Regional Airport, it was easy to find with ample parking…owner, Jess Blodgett, promptly greets you as you enter the lounge…her enthusiasm and desire to please is immediately evident

it showed even before I got there…contacting her about the seating arrangements available, she promptly replied, informing me that most of the chairs are at cocktail tables or window seats at a tall counter overlooking the runway…after expressing a need for lower seating to accommodate the comfort of my dining guest, Jess assured me that we would have a table reserved for us that would make our experience enjoyable

and that is exactly what we had…the brightly lit room was cheerful and filled with the chatter of lunch-goers straight up at noon as if it was a magical dining time, guessing a lot of area employees now on break…you order at the counter off a small but well curated menu…when asked which was her favorite, Jess suggested the banh mi wrap or grilled chicken club

banh mi wrap…
grilled chicken club…

traditionally served on a baguette, the flour tortilla twist on the banh mi allowed the flavors of the plentiful pulled pork and veggies to stand out…the Korean bbq sauce was tasty, folded into the meat just enough to keep it moist but not soggy…pickled carrots, cucumber, and napa cabbage added the freshness and crunch…for the cilantro haters, there was really only a hint of it, I would’ve personally liked more for a bigger green accent, but that’s my personal taste…I didn’t think I’d eat it all, but it disappeared along with the fries that were crisp on the outside, hot and fluffy inside with an addictive spice coating

the star of the chicken club was the house-made focaccia, not to offend the other ingredients, the lettuce, tomato, and avocado were fresh, the bacon was crispy, and the chicken breast was moist, everything you would expect, but the focaccia bread was perfect…unfortunately, when forced to purchase it at the grocery, I have found this type of bread to be dry but hers was very fluffy with a thin, flaky crust that was decorated with herbs and vegetables before baking for a beautiful presentation…Jess said she spent a month perfecting this recipe and it shows

it’s hard to pass up on dessert, especially when they offer something you don’t see on everyone else’s menu…Umami Café has two, baklava cheesecake and hummingbird cake, a southern delicacy made with pineapple and banana, topped with a classic cream cheese frosting…rumor has it the cake was named this because it is sweet enough to attract hummingbirds

hummingbird cake…
baklava cheesecake…

I was personally drawn to the baklava cheesecake, a unique combination of two popular desserts…the phyllo crust rose above the luscious cheesecake in spires of honey soaked flakes, a pistachio glaze added the perfect crunch to the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the cake…truly the best of both worlds

open Monday thru Friday from 8am to 2pm, Umami also offers a breakfast menu with tempting items such as the caramel apple French toast and a version of avocado toast on focaccia…there is a conference room that will accommodate up to 20 guests and a room on the upper floor for a cozy gathering of eight

I believe this little airport café is worth a visit, you don’t have to be a weary traveler to partake in her meals…eat in or carry out, you get first class food