Charlie's Pizza

2013 S. Minnesota Avenue
1810 S. Minnesota Avenue
6213 South Old Village Place
In September, 1958, Charlie Chado and Don Gstohl opened Sioux Falls’ first pizza restaurant. Charlie’s Pizza House, which stood at at 2013 S. Minnesota Ave., was similar to the pair’s previous business in Fort Dodge, Iowa. In addition to serving what was promised to be a genuine Italian recipe, the Sioux Falls restaurant would also serve beer, and eventually offered other foods and entertainment. There was room in this small storefront for 60 patrons, and depending on the level of business, a carry-out pizza could be prepared in about 15 minutes. By September, 1960 the restaurant moved into a larger space at 1810 S. Minnesota.
Chado would go on to open additional Charlie’s Pizza House locations in Mitchell, Vermillion, Huron, and Yankton, all in the early 1960s.

Chad had a reputation. He once told Ken Hladky, the man who bought the Yankton location from him in 1960, that he used to do a vaudeville act in Chicago with Paul Capone, Al's brother. Paul wasn't in the family business, but Charlie and Paul did get to go to Florida on vacation with Al at one point. He might have been yanking Hladky's chain, however. Al had many brothers, but none of them were named Paul.

Don Gstohl owned Charlie’s Sioux Falls location until 1962, when Merle Houck purchased the business. By this time, the restaurant had a dance hall license as well as a class D liquor license, meaning that only low-alcohol beer could be sold there. By this time Charlie’s had become known not only for pizza, beer, and dancing, but also chislic. For years, the restaurant operated with no major changes. For a short time, delivery was offered, but was discontinued after it proved unprofitable.
In 1974, Charlie’s Pizza House changed its name to Charlie’s Loft, and added pinball machines and live music. The restaurant had become an excellent place for college students to stop in and blow off some steam. Beer could be purchased for 25¢ a glass, or 75¢ for a pitcher.

By the early 1980s, the business had changed its name to Charlie’s Video Arcade & Pub to capitalize on the video game craze sweeping the nation. Around the same time, the business was also attracting the ire of its neighbors. Upon leaving the bar, patrons would often loudly bid their farewells to friends, throw garbage over the eight-foot wall separating the parking lot from the neighbors, and reportedly used nearby lawns as bathrooms.
Every year Charlie’s liquor license was in danger of being non renewed because the city didn’t think enough was being done to curb the unneighborly behavior. On at least one occasion, the city said nay on license approval, only to have the ruling overturned by a judge.

In 1987, the state voted to raise the drinking age to 21 in order to get funds from the federal government for highway upkeep. The 19 and 20 year olds who had made up 95 percent of Charlie’s clientele were no longer allowed in. The 5 percent who remained were not enough to keep the doors open.

Many remember Charlie’s for its pizza, chislic, dancing, and live music. The business existed in Sioux Falls for almost 30 years. The other locations folded much sooner, save one: The Charlie’s Pizza House in Yankton still remains, as it was, a restaurant. It is the oldest still-operating pizza house in the state, and has been selected twice by Food Network Magazine for serving the best pizza in South Dakota.

Charlie's returned to Sioux Falls in March, 2022, at 6213 South Old Village Place. It is different from the location that last existed on Minnesota Avenue, however. The focus is less on drunken college students and more focused on some of the best pizza South Dakota has ever known. If you’re ever down there and have the desire for something different, try the Festus. Not many pizza joints can pull off a spicy meatball and sauerkraut pizza and make it work.