Foodie Tour of the Black Hills - Our Itinerary for Where to Eat and Things to Do in the Black Hills | Black Hills Travel Blog

Foodie Tour of the Black Hills - Our Itinerary for Where to Eat and Things to Do in the Black Hills

  • Foodie Tour of the Black Hills - Our Itinerary for Where to Eat and Things to Do in the Black Hills
    Foodie Tour of the Black Hills - Our Itinerary for Where to Eat and Things to Do in the Black Hills
By : 
Mike

Jefferson's Vanilla Ice Cream has been insanely popular since its first debut a couple of years ago at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. There are many good eats and treats to be found around the Black Hills - flavors you'll only find here! While historically the Black Hills have not been known for culinary diversity (though a great steak could always be found), today there are many great hand-crafted offerings...and we’re not just talking about Mount Rushmore or Crazy Horse Memorial. If seeking out the culinary must-try’s of a region is your flavor, let us present you with our "Foodie Tour of the Black Hills," a foodie-centric itinerary for a memorable Black Hills vacation. (Author's Note: This condensed list is comprised of TripAdvisor, Yelp and Urbanspoon ratings; plus of course, our own taste-test ratings.)

Length: Five Days

Where to stay: The great thing about the Black Hills is that in reality, it's not that big of a region...so where you stay can be up to you. Just find what suits you best and sleep well knowing you aren't far from it all. Rapid City is the most metropolitan area; Custer, Hill City and Keystone are near most of the major parks and monuments; Spearfish is like something out a Norman Rockwell painting (except with some bigger city food and drink offerings) and Deadwood still enjoys a certain western reputation (albeit a much tamer one). Each contain some of spots highlighted on our list below. But again, don’t be worried to check out accommodations in some of the other areas including Hot Springs, Sturgis, Wall/Badlands, and others.

Day 1 - The Badlands Since much of the Black Hills’ traffic comes from the east, we’ll start here.  Badlands National Park is one of six national park units in the Black Hills region and is 244,000 acres of other-worldly landscape. One of the best ways to experience it is to get out of the car and traverse the mind-blowing terrain...and there are many trails to choose from. Notch, Door, Window and the Fossil Trail can be enjoyed by most all. Also be sure to check out the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, located right outside the Badland's east entrance on I-90 at Exit 131.

Must-try’s:

  • Breakfast: Since you'll want to spend every precious minute exploring the Badlands, breakfast should be fast and to-go; which is just another reason to grab some famous Wall Drug donuts, coffee, waters and snacks in Wall, SD. Though a fried cake donut may not as wise a choice as say a granola bar or bowl of oatmeal before a hike, it's okay. These donuts are a connection to a different era - one of simpler times - and they are just damn good! I never refuse a maple-glazed Wall Drug donut. Ever.
  • Lunch: Indian Tacos are a unique part of the Black Hills' culinary scene, and they are available within the park at Cedar Pass Lodge.
  • Dinner: If you're ending the day in Wall, the options can be limited but check out the Red Rock Restaurant. Or continue on to Rapid City and check out the options below.

Day 2 - Mount Rushmore/Custer State Park Region Highlights: Mount Rushmore National MemorialAmerica’s Shrine to Democracy, is the very obvious reason that brings most visitors to the Black Hills. It's an amazing piece of work, and not just in scale alone. Another marvel that some may not know of until they get to the Black Hills, is the larger and on-going mountain carving at Crazy Horse Memorial, some 15-20 minutes down the road. Also nearby is 71,000-acre Custer State Park, which recently was named as one of the ten best places in the world for wildlife viewing. All are connected by some the of the most scenic drives in America, including Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, along with dozens of attractions like the 1880 Train,  the Black Hills Institute, Alpine Slide, Rushmore Cave and Black Hills Balloons.  There are also countless wineries, breweries, boutiques and galleries to explore. Must-try’s:

  • Breakfast: Seek out a breakfast "pasty," which can be found at a few local grocery stores and gas stations throughout the area (most Fresh Start Convenience Stores, a regional chain, carry them). Pasties are a Cornish meat pie that was a popular eat of miners in the late 1800s. The ham or sauerkraut options are hearty and delicious and will fuel you for hours.
  • Lunch: The Alpine Inn in Hill City is considered one of the Black Hills' best restaurants. At night, your options are limited to some amazing filet in either 6 or 9 oz. and that’s not a bad thing; plus, they still have their full dessert list, which is what many love about this popular spot. For lunch though, they have a great short-list of German classics, which is why we put them as the must-try lunch option. Try the Schnitzel or the Kaes Spaetzle and save room (or order to-go) the Napoleon. You're welcome.
    • Alt - Prairie Berry Winery Bistro has a small and very fresh menu which emphasizes house-made product and vegetables from a family-owned greenhouse nearby. Try the Smoked Prosciutto & Peppadew Pizza, the Charcuterie or the Artisan Cheese Board. (Bonus: pair any of their lunch offerings with a delightful glass of Prairie Berry wine.)
  • Dinner: Black Hills Burger & Bun Co. is currently the number one burger joint (by a landslide) in America according to TripAdvisor. Their hours are short: they’re open 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. - 7 p.m., and this place is getting harder and harder to get into. Be sure to go early, stake out your place in line, and know that it's gonna be worth it. They grind their burgers and bake their buns daily, then combine both to make some of the most fantastic burgers that are the perfect blend of high-quality beef and inventive toppings.
  • Nightlife: Sick-N-Twisted Brewery and Naked Winery are a shared space, so no matter if you’re into wine or beer, there’s something for everyone (unless of course you’re into whiskey, rum or other hard stuff). They usually have up to 20 of their own brews on tap, along with numerous hard-to-find guest beers; plus coolers upon coolers of bombers to take back to camp.

Day 3 - Rapid City Highlights: Rapid City is the largest metropolitan destination in the Black Hills and offers up amenities of cities twice its size. Rapid City has been honored by Rand McNally and most recently USA Today as America’s most patriotic city, and it's not hard to understand why. Be sure to check out the amazing life-sized bronze statues of past presidents on the downtown street corners. I also suggest taking the City Tour so you can easily visit the Stavkirke Chapel in the Hills, Journey Museum, and more. Other classic Black Hills' attractions, including Reptile Gardens and Bear Country, are enjoyable for anyone. Be sure to browse Prairie’s Edge for amazing and authentic souvenirs. Must-try’s: (Author's Note: There are a great many food and drink options in Rapid City...this is a very partial list.)

  • Breakfast: The Colonial House for breakfast is a local favorite, especially for their old-school cinnamon and caramel rolls. The Colonial House is a great family restaurant that serves up diner fare morning, noon and night.
    • Alt - Speaking of diners, Tally's Silver Spoon was a long-time corner diner that was purchased by Chef Benjamin Klinkel in 2009 and taken to a whole new, and seasonal, level. I recommend breakfast and lunch; try the Duck, Duck Goose because when isn’t duck confit, foie gras and eggs better than at brunch. Also try the Migas, the Lox Plate w/ a four-minute egg, or the Buffalo Steak Sandwich which is a rich buffalo hanger steak, covered with fries and warmly blanketed by an amazing hollandaise sauce. Feed your inner child with a side of their delightful chocolate chip or blueberry pancakes. (P.S. Locals are constantly raving about Tally's coffee.)
  • Lunch:  For something not as classic as meat and potatoes, Everest Cuisine has been open for a couple of years and has some of the best Indian/Nepalese food you might find anywhere. One of our staffers swears that it's better than food she had on travels in India, and online reviews echo the same. Our recommendation - stop in during the week for their lunch buffet. It's a sure way to sample the widest variety of unique foods and flavors.
    • Alt - If curry isn’t your thing, another downtown option is Botticelli Ristorante. You can’t go wrong with their specials; Pollo Picatta, Tortellini Alla Panna or Fruitti Di Mare, plus a list of daily seafood specials.
  • Dinner: We mentioned steak (and buffalo and other game), because this is South Dakota and if there is a state dish, it would be steak and potatoes. Dakotah Steakhouse does it better than most and their Cowboy Bone-In Rib-eye will make your inner omnivore child giggle with glee, but don’t overlook their other menu items, especially the Elk Ravioli and even their burgers. Outstanding.
    • Alt - Minerva’s Restaurant and Bar is a very small South Dakota franchise with nine locations throughout the Midwest, each with a wide-ranging, upscale menu. Their Quinoa Chopped Salad is refreshing, and whether for lunch or dinner, it only sets you back $9; or give their Steak Michael or Blackened Pork Belly a go.
  • Nightlife: Independent Ale House in downtown Rapid City has recently been recognized as one of the Top Ten Beer Bars in America, and deservedly so. They have an amazing rotating tap list, wine list and a knowledgeable staff. There is also the Wobbly Bobby, the Firehouse, and the Blind Lion Speakeasy, or go to the top of the town and grab a Moscow Mule in the Vertex Lounge atop the Historic Hotel Alex Johnson (which does require a membership...so you'll have to stay at the hotel to get in, or buddy up quickly with someone that is a member).

Day 4 - Wind Cave/Jewel Cave Region Highlights: Edge to edge, the Black Hills are full of state and national park units, attractions, wildlife and so much to see and do. It's also home to some of the world’s largest cave systems with Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. If you didn’t check out Crazy Horse on day two, this is definitely a great time to do so. Also, on this loop you’ll find the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, or the George S. Mickelson Trail and/or the chance to spend more time in Custer State Park. Must-try’s:

  • Breakfast: If you haven’t found a pasty yet, stop at the Fresh Start truck stop in Hermosa on Hwy. 79.
  • Lunch: Lintz Bros Pizza is what locals will consistently state is the best pizza in the Black Hills, and a must-try. They have some pretty inventive toppings which help keep people talking and adding to their growing reputation.
  • Dinner: The State Game Lodge in Custer State Park does a great job incorporating ingredients native to the region into the menu. You can find inventive items like Rabbit & Rattlesnake Sausage; Elk, Bison and Beef skewers or Elk Osso Bucco.
  • Nightlife: Sick-N-Twisted/Naked Winery also has a Custer location, and also in Custer is Bitter Ester’s Brewhouse, a newcomer to the Black Hills' craft beer scene, and one of the few who has been offering the ever popular Siason style.

Day 5 - Devils Tower through Spearfish Canyon to Deadwood Highlights: Here’s where a sixth day is encouraged because if you only have five, you have to make some hard choices. This region encompasses what the locals call the Northern Black Hills + the Wyoming region, so it covers some ground. In this area you’ll find historic Deadwood, which tells one hell of a western story at places like Mt. Moriah Cemetery and along historic Main Street. You also have internationally known Sturgis, which each August is home to one of the world’s largest biker parties. Year-round, travelers can find the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally’s influence at places like the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. Sturgis is also home to the spiritual Bear Butte State Park - revered ground with the Lakota culture. There’s also Lead and its rich mining history which can be learned from the Homestake Visitor Center. Then there’s the town of Spearfish, with stops like the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery, Matthews Opera House and great restaurants. In Sundance, WY, you’ll find the Vore Buffalo Jump; in Belle Fourche, the Center of the Nation Monument, and on and on it goes. So if you can, give this region two days. If you just can't spare the extra day, head towards Devils Tower National Monument outside of Hulett, WY in the morning via Hwy 34/24 with a picture stop at the Center of the Nation Monument in Belle Fourche. Then head back via Sundance and Spearfish towards  Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway. This 22-mile stretch has three waterfalls and ample photo opportunities (don’t miss both Spearfish Falls and Roughlock Falls State Rec Area). From here, head to Deadwood where along with some amazing western history, you’ll find gaming and some fun night-time options. Must-try’s:

  • Breakfast: Cheyenne Crossing in Spearfish Canyon is fantastic and is worth back-tracking for. The Wild Bill Skillet with sourdough pancakes on the side is worth mentioning, and the setting is without compare.
    • Alt - Green Bean Coffeehouses in Spearfish and Belle Fourche are always busy, and for good reason. Great, quick breakfast options and locally-roasted coffee. Mm-mm.
  • Lunch: The Bay Leaf Cafe is a quaint Spearfish bistro that specializes in serving fresh consistently amazing eats since 1993. Try whatever their special is, or the Mediterranean plate with fresh humus, falafel, tabbouleh and pita chips.
    • Alt - Killian’s Tavern has a pretty unique menu and an impressive tap list (since you’re on vacation we won't judge you for having a beer at lunch). A Black, Blue and Peppadew Burger with a pint of amazing, hard-to-find craft beer…yeah, we'll judge that the thing to do.
  • Dinner: The Deadwood Grille at the Lodge at Deadwood was voted Best Overall Restaurant in the Black Hills in 2014 by local pollers, and because it's in the Black Hills, it is still very affordable fine-dining. We highly recommend the Filet Oscar or the Grille Pork Chop with caramelized pear & brie stuffed crepe.
    • Alt - The Deadwood Social Club sits atop the historic Saloon No. 10 and offers a unique wine list that’s received national recognition over the years, and an Italian-inspired dinner menu which covers the gamut. Try the Smoked Tuaca Pheasant Pasta or the Buffalo Ravioli.
    • Alt - While it's only a chocolate shop, don't pass by Chubby Chipmunk without stopping for some hand-crafted, chocolate delights. They're nationally-renowned and with their Truffle-matic Vending Machine standing guard outside, they are available to fix your chocolate cravings 24-7.
  • Nightlife: The Saloon No. 10 is always a good time and is complete with a mind-blowing collection from Deadwood’s western history. You can enjoy a local beer or a stiff drink ten feet from the chair that Wild Bill Hickok was shot while sitting in. In Spearfish, the Crow Peak Brewing Company puts out a short but amazing list of hand-crafted brews that you can find on-tap and in cans throughout the region. (It's great because you can enjoy them every day you’re here, and take some home with you; but, their tap room has an amazing view of the brewery’s namesake, along with beers on-tap you can find only there. So we'd still highly recommend a stop at the Crow Peak brewery.)

Trying to narrow down so many stops in so many days with so much to sample is an almost impossible task, but hopefully this list gets you started. And just think, your next trip can include even more great places that we couldn't fit in this list. Enjoy!

About the Author

Mike, by accident he ended up in sales and marketing; Mike's education and background is in journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism.

Having spent most of his life in various South Dakota towns on the east-side of the Missouri River – like Huron, Vermillion, Brookings and Pierre – Mike followed a girl west to Spearfish.  He has thoroughly enjoyed the past thirteen years there.

What Mike loves most is time spent around the Hills with his family, whether it's in Spearfish Canyon, at a Black Hills attraction or at Spearfish City Park and the DC Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery. He also loves dusting off his camera every now and then for a shoot, making a good meal and washing it down with a great beer.

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