When we first ate at the Tea Steak House several years ago, it was in the middle of nowhere. Just about ten miles south of Sioux Falls, nowhere is becoming somewhere as houses go up in the countryside all around. Still, this combination restaurant and bar in the charming little community of Tea has an unspoiled rural character that adds an especially appealing flavor to supper.
Start with onion rings or deep-fried cheeseballs, then move on to an iceberg lettuce salad that you dress yourself from a caddy that contains ranch, 1000 Island, and French dressing. A selection of bland white rolls and cellophane-wrapped crackers is the standard steak-house breadbasket in this region.
We love the pound-plus T-bone, a cushiony slab of meat that oozes juice at the first poke of a knife. It's a good thing to order hash brown potatoes on the side to soak up the beef's seepage; they are great potatoes in their own right (much better than the foil-wrapped baked potato or uninteresting French fries). We also ordered filet mignon, which came splayed open and wrapped in bacon, and it was amazing just how different these two cuts of beef were: each excellent, but while the T-bone had a vivid, almost gamey smack and tight-knit texture that rewarded serious chewing, the filet was cream-gentle in flavor and wanted to melt on the tongue.
The Tea Steak House serves more than steak. You can eat chicken or ham, halibut, perch, lobster tails, or a Saint & Sinner supper of one lobster tail and one small sirloin. Don't ask us how any of the other stuff tastes. When we're in Tea, we'll eat beef. And don't ask about dessert, either. This place doesn't bother making any. You need something sweet, you go next door to O’Toole’s Bar and have a Grasshopper or Pink Cadillac.