A piece of history for sale: Well-known Tea Steak House owners look to retire



If you live in Tea, you know the Tea Steak House.

This well-known restaurant has boasted the best steaks in South Dakota for years.

According to owners Jim and Lisa Ihnen, it was in 1965 that Jim’s parents Lloyd and Rickie Ihnen discovered a new process called IHNEN Aging, for 14 days 6 hours and 37 minutes full loins are hung in their 34 degree cooler. The Ihnens say that what happens during that process is almost magical. The loins undergo enzymatic changes that intensify the flavor, deepen the color and tenderize the meat by softening the connective tissue.

That family secret is ready to get passed on to the next owner of the Tea Steak House.

Just last week, the Tea Steak House and O’Toole’s Bar were listed for sale for $1.3 million, a sale price that includes both the property and the well-established family business.

Lloyd and Rickie Ihnen originally purchased the Steakhouse in 1965. Jim was working for his parents long before he purchase the business, and his wife Lisa started working for Lloyd and Rickie when she was just 15 years old. Jim and Lisa purchased it in 1986. And in 1987 they purchased O’Toole’s Bar from Paul and Colleen O’Toole.

In the past 35 years, Jim and Lisa have remodeled the Steakhouse three times, the front bar and back bar once and they have added the events hall and pool hall. They also lease some outdoor space from the City of Tea for their sand volleyball and cabana bar.

Jim said the decision to retire was a tough one. Although their son Jesse and his wife Sarah have been working along side them for 25 years, Jesse had other opportunities that came up.

Jim said, “It’s been a really hard decision to make. It’s like family, it’s been with us since I was a small child, I don’t know anything else.”

He recognized the opportunity for someone new, however.

“It would be nice if they can carry on doing what we do,” Jim said, “A younger person could do very well here. There’s lots of opportunities here. I’d like to see them continuing doing this just because it has such a good reputation.”

That reputation has been known worldwide. Jim said the Steakhouse has been featured in write-ups across the US, and as far as Japan and even Germany.

“It’s nice to know that you’ve done something people appreciate,” Jim said.

That appreciation works both ways. Jim and Lisa said they are so thankful for the Tea community.

“The community has always been there to support us,” Jim said, “I think they kind of take pride in the Steakhouse, too… I hope. It’s unbelievable how it’s grown in the last few years, and that alone should give someone new comfort in knowing that when my parents started this place there was hardly anybody around here.”

And it’s not just Tea, said the couple.

“Although the people in Tea have rallied around us,” said Jim, “it’s Lennox, Chancellor, Parker, Iowa — they drive here just to eat here. Even the Sioux Falls customers that want to go to a Steakhouse, not a chain.”

When asked about the highlights over a lifetime in the restaurant business, Jim said he fondly remembers when the Corvette Rally was held at their place, and the many Halloween parties that they have hosted.

He assures people that the doors to the Steakhouse and O’Toole’s Bar will remain open though.

“It will not ever close,” Jim said, “we will keep right on going if it doesn’t sell.”

He added that the new owner would be able to step right in.

“There shouldn’t be much down time,” he said, “It’s turn-key, ready to go. If they want to know how I do my steaks, we will show them everything they need to know. We have wonderful employees and they will keep right on going.”

Gregg Brown with NAI Sioux Falls is the listing agent on the property. The Tea Steakhouse and O’Toole’s Bar is located at 215 S. Main St., Tea.