The Best Food and Drink in South Dakota for 2019
December 20, 2018
What's better than Mount Rushmore and good food?
The Best Food and Drink in South Dakota
South Dakota is one of the best states to visit as a family. 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 second 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. And perhaps not surprisingly, many of the best things to eat in South Dakota are meat-centric.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs.We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our South Dakota gallery ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: SkyDine (Sioux Falls Regional Airport)
South Dakota’s airports are relatively small and, therefore, there are fewer dining options. At Sioux Falls Regional Airport, however, once you go past security you’ll find SkyDine, a full-service restaurant that specializes in wood-roasted pizza but also has the usual American fare such as burgers, salads, sandwiches, loaded fries, nachos, and more.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Sanaa’s Gourmet (Sioux Falls)
Sioux Falls is the last place you’d expect to find a restaurant that serves some of America’s finest vegetarian and vegan cuisine, but Sanaa’s Gourmet, run by chef and cookbook author Sanaa Abourezk, has been doing just that for more than a decade. Abourezk serves a full lunch and dinner menu of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes with a gourmet twist (along with a full gluten-free menu) along with a 10-item buffet for Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch and dinner. The buffet varies each week based on what’s fresh and in-season, but expect dishes including chicken shish tawook, tabbouleh, kibbeh, hummus, eggplant kufta, muhummara, falafel, saffron basmati rice pilaf, and a variety of breads and soups. There are always plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options, every item is cooked daily from scratch, they use only organic untreated flour and fresh-ground spices, and Abourezk can often be found doing most of the cooking herself. Add on the low price of the buffet ($11.95 for Saturday lunch and $15.95 for Friday and Saturday dinner), and you’ve got yourself a true winner.
Best Bar: Full Throttle Saloon (Sturgis)
Bikers G. via Yelp
The self-proclaimed world’s largest biker bar is a sight to behold, particularly during the annual summertime Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, when tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts descend on this South Dakota town to drink beer — lots of beer. The Full 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.
Best Beer: Pile O’ Dirt Porter, Crow Peak Brewing Company (Spearfish)
Don’t worry, this beer from Crow Peak Brewing Company doesn’t taste like a pile of dirt, it was just named after one. The only earthiness you’ll get from this brew is a slight herbal bitterness, but that’s to be expected from any well-balanced beers. Instead, Pile O’ Dirt has robust espresso and flavors that are similarly bold: dark malts, chocolate, roasted coffee, mild smoke, and brown sugar.
Best Brunch: Phillips Avenue Diner (Sioux Falls)
This retro diner may have that old-fashioned malt ship vibe, but the food served here is no gimmick. Crowds flock to this Downtown Sioux Falls destination on a daily basis, but the wait for a table gets especially long on the weekends. Arrive before 11 and you’ll be able to select from a wide variety of breakfast specials including house-made corned beef hash, berry-topped Belgian waffles, banana bread French toast, a huevos rancheros burrito, house-made biscuits and gravy, and breakfast poutine (fried potatoes topped with cheese curds, bacon, tomatoes, gravy, and a fried egg. And after 11 the entire lunch and dinner menu becomes available (along with plenty of breakfast favorites), opening up possibilities like fried cheese curds, pork wings (made with the shank), salads, pot roast dip sandwich, hot mashed potato and fried chicken wrap, seven burgers, meatloaf, chicken and waffles, and a Tater Tot hotdish. Diners don’t get much better than this, folks.
Best Burger: JL Beers (Various Locations)
JL Beers is a beloved local chain, with seven locations in North Dakota along with three in Minnesota and two in South Dakota. And with 40 beers on tap, a fun and welcoming vibe, and some truly great burgers, it’s not surprising to see why it’s so popular. More than a dozen burgers are available, made with never-frozen beef; The Original hamburger Stand Burger, topped with only pickles and special sauce, is definitely enough to satisfy a craving, but you might as well go all-in and try the JL Burger (topped with grilled onions, cheese, special sauce, and two patties); the Rajun Cajun (pepper jack, Cajun lime sauce, grilled onions, and Cajun seasoning); or the Not Just a Nutter Burger (fresh peanut butter, red pepper jelly, diced jalapeños, raw onions, and lettuce).
Best Chinese Restaurant: China Luck (Rapid City)
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.
Best Chocolate Shop: Chubby Chipmunk Hand-Dipped Chocolates (Deadwood)
This quirky chocolate shop has something for everybody, from smooth, handmade truffles to beautiful chocolate-covered caramels. They’re perhaps best known for “the ice box nugget,” a 100 percent chocolate replica of the largest gold nugget ever found in South Dakota.
Best Coffee Shop: Pure Bean (Rapid City)
Pure Bean lives up to its name, using exclusively ethically sourced green coffee beansthat are carefully roasted for the smoothest and most perfectly balanced cup of coffee. The convection heat used on the air-roasted beans also means that there are lower levels of the acids that tend to give you an upset stomach. It's also the perfect place to have a study session or to catch up with a friend, with benches and couches for customers to sit on.
Best Cupcakes: The Cake Lady (Sioux Falls)
The Cake Lady/Yelp
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.
Best Doughnut: Jerry’s Cakes and Donuts (Rapid City)
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.
Best Farmers Market: Black Hills Farmers Market, Rapid City
Best Food Truck: Backyard BBQ (Sioux Falls)
Like its northern neighbor, South Dakota has limited options when it comes to food trucks, but fortunately some brave entrepreneurs are entering the industry. Backyard BBQ has gained the respect from South Dakota residents by serving delicious barbecue out of its always on-the-move mobile location. The truck, which sells lunch but can also be booked for private events, serves a range of barbecue treats like smoked chicken sandwiches, St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, pulled pork, molasses baked beans, mac and cheese, and cornbread. Backyard BBQ, which also operates two brick-and-mortar locations, also serves up some terrific chicken wings. Think you can handle the heat? Go with their “flaming” or “mango habanero” sauce options.
Best Fried Chicken: Cluckin’ Good (Sioux Falls)
Ben Weiland spent 17 years turning out spectacular fried chicken at a restaurant called Bob’s Café (which opened as Ray’s in 1951) before closing up shop in 2017 and moving to a larger space across the street, which he dubbed Cluckin’ Good. Thankfully, the fried chicken on offer here is exactly the same, and just as good, as it’s always been. Chicken here is done the old-fashioned way, just as it was in 1951, and it’s crispy, juicy, and just about perfect. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Best Hotel Restaurant: Legends Steakhouse (Deadwood)
Deadwood Legends Steakhouse At the Franklin Hotel/Yelp
Located in the 1903 Silverado Franklin hotel in downtown Deadwood, Legends Steakhouse is a must-visit restaurant for those in town. The homey and elegant restaurant serves steaks dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days (top yours with crab and hollandaise, a lobster tail, or jumbo shrimp), and its slow-roasted bone-in prime rib is also incredibly popular. The classic steakhouse menu of escargot, Caesar salad, lobster, and cheesecake also has no shortage of creative surprises, like apricot-glazed duck wings, marinated beef tips with veal balsamic reduction, and shrimp crêpes with white wine cream sauce.
Best Italian Restaurant: Boticelli (Rapid City)
A warm and inviting family-owned Black Hills destination, the 21-year-old Botticelli was run by Michelle Peregrine for 16 years before she handed the keys to her daughter, 33 year-old chef Aleaha Ghere, last 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.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Monster Nacho Challenge, Overtime Sports Grill & Bar (Sioux Falls)
Overtime Sports Grill & Bar/Yelp
As far as over-the-top nachos go, Overtime Sports Grill & Bar has a monster platter that patrons can eat for free if they eat it all within 45 minutes. The Monster is made of a pound each of chips, seasoned ground beef, waffle fries, and cheese, as well as 4 ounces each of black olives, jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Minerva’s (Sioux Falls)
The original location of longtime Sioux Falls favorite Minerva’s hits all the right romantic notes: White tablecloths and well-spaced tables in a spacious dining room, plenty of dark woods and cozy nooks, arched mirrors, chandeliers… the list goes on. Since 1977, couples have been flocking to its upscale dining room for hand-cut steaks aged in-house, fresh seafood, pastas, and specialties including crab artichoke bake and a seafood-stuffed crêpe.
Best Pancakes: Tally’s Silver Spoon (Rapid City)
Tally’s Silver Spoon can trace its origins back to the 1930s, but today it’s a creative and modern restaurant serving unique locally-sourced dishes devised by chef Benjamin Kinkel. The breakfast offerings are fairly straight-ahead, however, which is great news for pancake lovers. The pancake recipe (which hasn’t changed since the 30s) results in perfectly light and fluffy, golden brown pancakes, which can be smothered in bananas, blueberries, or strawberries; stuffed with blueberries or chocolate chips; or served with eggs and bacon, ham, or sausage. However you take them, they’re going to be pretty much perfect.
Best Pizza: Thatzza Pizza (Aberdeen)
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).
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Baker’s Bakery & Café (Custer)
A quaint little restaurant in a quaint little town located in Black Hills National Forest about an hour’s drive from Rapid City, Baker’s opens at 6:30 a.m. daily, and during the tourist season it gets absolutely packed. Their motto (“You’ll love our buns!”) is admittedly pretty tacky, but it’s true: The homemade rye, wheat, sourdough, and black rye breads and cinnamon buns are delicious. Just about everything on the small but creative breakfast menu is delicious as well: breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, biscuits and country sausage gravy, a breakfast burrito (with eggs, sausage, hash browns, salsa and cheese and smothered in homemade green gravy), and loaded omelettes are all spot-on. The newest menu item, avocado toast, is a welcome nod to the health-conscious.
Best Sandwich: Cheesesteak, Philly Ted’s Cheesesteaks (Rapid City)
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.
Best Soup: Chicken Pot Pie, Bobkat’s Purple Pie Place (Custer)
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.
Best Steakhouse: Cattleman’s Club (Pierre)
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.
Best Tacos: Sabor A Mexico (Rapid City)
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. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.