Outside of Washington, D.C., South Dakota is probably one of the top family travel destinations in the country. Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, and the Black Hills all make for lasting family memories. And with all those tourists clogging I-90 between Souix Falls and Rapid City, they’re going to have to find a few places to eat. Find out the details in our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Dining options in the Mount Rushmore State aren’t limited to tourist traps though. It’s also a hot bed of biker bars thanks to the annual Sturgis rally, so we knew where to start our search for the state’s best dive bar. Not surprisingly, the rest of our selections are meat-centric – from a pot pie as our best soup to a reasonably priced steakhouse as the state’s most expensive restaurant.
Bikers G. via Yelp
Throttle Saloon, created by Michael Ballard, is an adult playground replete with the Flaunt Girls (a burlesque dance troupe), little person wrestling, a burnout pit for bikes, a mechanical bull, a zip-line, a body paint area, and numerous concerts featuring big-name bands. There’s also a cabin area, open June 1 through the last day of the rally, and theme nights to add to all the shenanigans. This biker bar also ranks as, not surprisingly, the best dive bar in the state.
Courtesy of The Knuckle Brewing Company
South Dakota isn’t necessarily known for its stellar beers, but The Knuckle Brewing Company’s flagship beer Knuckle Head Red is a fine beer. Amber ales are often underrated, but this coppery beer has nice caramel notes with a slight grassy, floral taste that’s worth appreciating.
China Luck via Yelp
Straight ahead, well-made Chinese-American fare was tough to find in South Dakota before China Luck opened several years ago. You’ll find all the classics here: sesame chicken, fried rice, lo mein, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour pork, all prepared with skill and at very reasonable prices. There’s also a lunch buffet that’s a big hit with the locals.
If you’ve got a hankerin’ for something sweet, this is the place to go. The Cake Lady does a touch of everything, but the cupcakes are certainly standouts. It offers fresh-batch cupcakes in a rotating catalog of flavors daily and even creates artisanal event cupcakes to make your momentous occasion a little sweeter.
South Dakota is just full of dive bars, like, really. But we have to give props to the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis. Can a dive bar really have its own TV show? We’ll say it can. This tourist destination is the largest biker bar in America, and it’s grimier than any other dive on this list. It’s a must-see though as it’s the best bar in the state as well.
Ryan M. via Yelp
Two words: Oreo doughnuts. This is all the explanation you need to understand why this family-run doughnut shop is such a resounding success with a keen, intensely loyal clientele: Even Hillary Clinton took the time to try one of these famous creations when she was visiting.
A warm and inviting family-owned Black Hills destination, the 20-year-old Botticelliwas run by Michelle Peregrine for 16 years before she handed the keys to her daughter, 32 year-old chef Aleaha Ghere, earlier this year. The menu has a nice selection of bruschetta (including one that changes seasonally); pastas (including house-made ravioli and pappardelle bolognese); chicken dishes; steaks (including one topped with roasted garlic, gorgonzola, mushrooms, and red wine demi-glace); and, in a nod to the region, bison osso bucco.
Believe it or not, you can find great tacos just a stone’s throw from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills’ Rapid City. Just head down East North Street until you reach the small and unassuming Sabor A Mexico, where you’ll find Michoacán-native Ana Line Munoz cooking her traditional family recipes in the kitchen. Scratch-made salsas, tamales, and sopes are definite crowd-pleasers, but make sure you sample some tacos, especially the chicken mole, with a labor-intensive sauce made by hand by Munoz.
Established by Myril Arch in 1986, the no-frills, no-reservations Cattleman’s Club is the best place in South Dakota for a steak, and also the state’s most expensive. Prime rib ranges from $15.50 to $27 and bone-in steaks cost from $26.50 to $32. That’s one good thing about South Dakota: Even the most expensive restaurants aren’t too pricey.
Yelp/ Gene A.
We turn to our best Italian restaurant to find the state’s best pasta dish. A warm and inviting family-owned Black Hills destination, the 20 year old Botticelli is so low-key that it doesn’t even have a website. It was run by Michelle Peregrine for 16 years before she handed the keys to her daughter, 32-year-old chef Aleaha Ghere, earlier this year. The menu is going through some changes, but you can never go wrong with the mainstay tortellini alla panna, a hearty serving of tortellini in a creamy sauce with sundried tomato and grated parmesan.
Yelp/ James P.
This Aberdeen gem is turning out some truly fantastic slices, custom pies in four sizes, and creative pre-designed ones. Choose from a wide variety of toppings or take your pick from super-creative styles including Spaghetti Pie (spaghetti, sausage, tomato sauce, parmesan, and mozzarella); Hot Ham and Cheese (Canadian bacon, white cheddar, mozzarella); Chili (chili, onions, and jalapenos); Taco (chicken or ground beef, refried beans, hot sauce, olives, tomatoes, white Cheddar, mozzarella, and crushed tortilla chips); and even Pot Roast (shredded roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, red onions, and black pepper).
You might not expect to be able to find Philly-quality cheesesteaks in the Black Hills, but thanks to Philadelphia native Ted English, who opened Philly Ted’s in 2001, you can. English starts with a fresh-baked loaf from a local bakery and loads it with thin-sliced griddled steak and your choice of cheese and onions. Nearly 20 specialty steaks are available, but the classic is as good as it gets. Okay… maybe you should add some bacon to it.
Yelp/ Lisa H.
Purple Pie Place is a Custer institution in the shadow of Mount Rushmore, and its homemade pies are the stuff of legend (and yes, the whole restaurant is purple). If you’re in the mood for something savory before your piece of bumbleberry pie, go for the chicken pot pie, which can certainly be considered a soup in this case because it isn’t in a pie crust. It’s rich and hearty with bug chunks of chicken, peas, and carrots, and you’ve gotta love the chicken-shaped pastry on top.
Facebook/Cattleman's Club Steakhouse
Steakhouses are not known for being inexpensive so we reconnect with our most expensive restaurant in the state for its best steakhouse. Cattleman’s Club is exactly the type of steakhouse you’d home to find while ambling through South Dakota. Celebrating its 31st year, this legendary steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of USDA Choice beef a year, and is located on an expansive tract of land overlooking the Missouri River. Today it’s run by founder Myril Arch’s daughter, Cindy, and the menu has changed little over the years: 8-, 12-, or 16-ounce top sirloins; 10-, 16-, or 20-ounce prime ribs; and 24-ounce porterhouses, T-bones, and bone-in ribeyes, rubbed with seasoning and grilled. The restaurant is also one of the best places to sample the South Dakota regional specialty known as chislic, deep-fried chunks of sirloin sprinkled with house seasoning. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.