Michael B. Haskett got married, opened a restaurant and found out he and his wife were going to have a baby all within three months. If that’s not the definition of entrepreneurial risk, Haskett said he doesn’t know what is.
Haskett is the owner of Sioux Falls’ M.B. Haskett, a deli on Phillips Avenue known for its downtown charm, homegrown aesthetic and promise to serve only the best local ingredients. M.B. Haskett is a community staple in Sioux Falls, and that’s exactly what Haskett envisioned when he opened the restaurant in 2012.
“People always ask me, ‘what’s your concept,’” he said. “It’s simply to serve good, honest food that doesn’t cut corners. I wanted this to be a fun, community place with fantastic coffee.”
A self-described coffee nerd, Haskett was barely out of diapers when he discovered his passion for cooking. Undergoing jaw surgery at 15 and not being able to eat solid food for six months may have contributed to that interest in food.
“Being constantly hungry during those six months may have had something to do with it,” Haskett said.
The Culinary Institute of America graduate has worked in restaurants from Seattle to Colorado, spending time as the head chef of South Dakota’s renowned Sutton Bay golf resort before coming home to Sioux Falls in 2011.
In December of that same year he bought former downtown coffee shop Michelle’s, renovated the space and turned it into what M.B. Haskett is today, well, sort of.
“When we opened the place we had a prep table, two crock pots and a crepe maker,” Haskett said. “We were primarily open for breakfast and lunch, but I always wanted to have a restaurant where we could do fine dining in the evenings and have a casual, un-pretentious atmosphere during the day.”
Pretentious is probably the last word one would use to describe M.B. Haskett today. Mismatched tables and chairs populate the space—local antique shop finds—while recycled barn wood from Haskett’s mother’s farm house lines the walls, giving the space a homey feel. There’s still a crepe maker and crock pots, but they have since multiplied to include an industrial stove and larger prep area.
“The old space was stuck in the ‘90s,” Haskett said. “I’m most proud of the fact that we bootstrapped this whole renovation process and didn’t spend a ton of money on it. We did the work ourselves, 10 hours a day. It was really a homegrown project.”
Also a homegrown project, the food M.B. Haskett serves each day. Haskett said he’s always been fascinated by the politics behind food, so much so that finding quality ingredients to use is almost more fun than preparing a dish.
Though he said the coffee shop history and imagery of M.B. Haskett is important, highlighting the food is what really matters. Haskett achieves that quality over quantity goal by sourcing his food locally, think Breadico bread, The Breaks coffee beans and collaborating with food co-ops. Haskett even does some of the work right in his backyard.
“I’m a South Dakota-licensed egg handler,” he said. “We have about 50 chickens at our farm in Dell Rapids, and I use those eggs here.”
At some point, Haskett said he may want to bring a restaurant similar to M.B. Haskett home to Dell Rapids, which is about half an hour from Sioux Falls. Conducting food research through a local co-op is also on the list of future plans, as is expanding the restaurant into a farm to table catering business that could handle weddings and other large events.
But for now, Haskett said he’s content to keep doing what he does every day, which is run one of the most community-centered restaurants in Sioux Falls.
“My favorite aspect of M.B. Haskett is that anyone can eat here,” he said. “I’ve served a $36 entrée to a business man on a Saturday night, and I’ve also given the guy off the street a turkey sandwich. Food is art, it’s politics, it’s people. It’s pretty all-encompassing, which I think is kind of cool.”