A Bull Market For Bison

Range roamers on the Dakota menu.

Chefs nationwide are reformulating menus to use nonprime beef cuts and alternative red meats. The spike in feed-corn prices over the past three years has resulted in beef prices that are eating into restaurants’ bottom lines. Bison is becoming a competitive substitute.

Fitting, given the animal’s former range in the prairie states, that one of its most ardent proponents locally is at the Dakota. Jack Riebel, a one-time Goodfellow’s and La Belle Vie understudy, now does a superlative and under-recognized job running the Dakota’s kitchen, and he doesn’t like bison just for cost reasons.

There’s a misperception that bison has a “gamey” taste, Riebel says. “In fact, I find it to have a more minerally and richer flavor than beef.” Some people like it for health reasons, too. Bison contains roughly one-quarter the fat of prime beef, and it’s lower in cholesterol than chicken.

Riebel is not a huge fan of pure grass-fed meat—he says it doesn’t develop adequate marbeling. He gets his bison from the North Dakota–based North American Bison Cooperative, because NABC’s TenderBison brand relies on both pasture grazing and grain-feed finishing.

There’s no better way to enjoy the results than ordering Riebel’s bison red chili burger or bison rib eye and listening to one of the Dakota’s top-notch musical guests. If you want to try TenderBison at home, find it at Byerly’s, Kowalski’s, Coborn’s, and other grocers.

Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant
Dinner entrées, $24–$34