Over Labor Day weekend, we used the holiday as a chance to hit the Black Hills and have some fun. Living in west central North Dakota, the Black Hills of South Dakota provide an easy and convenient escape. We started visiting South Dakota more once we moved to Hazen and each time I go down there, I fall in love with it more and more. I wouldn’t mind living there. Gorgeous weather, beautiful terrain and friendly people. Of course, the Black Hills are much busier in the summer for tourists to see Mount Rushmore, Spearfish Canyon, Sturgis, Deadwood and more. It’s great to visit in the off-season when there are fewer people and hotel rates are drastically cheaper. Anyway, enough of my love letter to SD. Here are a few popular, tried and true places to visit if you make the trip “down south”.
I loved this random street art we saw in downtown Rapid.
Main Street Square, Rapid City above. It was a hot day and the kids were enjoying the fountains. The brick building is filled with shops and restaurants. I’d love to see a concert here! In that building is The Silver Lining Creamery – a can’t miss on a hot day. Unique flavors (I tried the tequila and it was amazing), super creamy and rich. The ice cream sandwiches also looked great!
Rapid City – Rapid reminds me a bit of Fargo size-wise. It is very spread out but easy to navigate. We usually make a stop out to Cabela’s and then go downtown to walk around the beautiful Main Street Square area filled with shops, boutiques, restaurants, hotels and bars. There are tons of places to pick from. For us, we prefer to go to restaurants that are NOT chains, are NOT family focused and bonus if they have a variety of tap beers. This particular day we found just the place, recommended by a couple different friends. Independent Ale House on Joseph Street, in the heart of the downtown area. They have 40 rotating beer taps and handcrafted pizza. Thank you for a bar that serves something other than fried appetizers. We tucked in and quickly got our drinks. We each ordered our own pizza. I didn’t have trouble eating my own, my parents did share one. They also had some super fresh looking salads on the menu.
The interior and my pizza below. I had the Spicy Chicken for $9. They have a great happy hour and 1/2 price wine night Wednesday.
Spicy BBQ Sauce, Chicken, Red Onion, Smoked Gouda & Cheese Blend with Fresh Cilantro
Hot Springs – we stayed our first night in Hot Springs which is quite small and is dubbed the southern gateway to the Black Hills. There aren’t a lot of restaurants to choose from to visit. One thing my husband and I always like to do is visit the American Legion, AmVets, Elks, VFW, etc. places in small towns. You will always get an affordable drink and a chance to visit with locals. We were on our way to the American Legion when we were stopped by a local. After chatting with her, she suggested eating at Wooly’s Western Grill for the best option in Hot Springs. This is a family owned and operated restaurant with a large menu featuring steaks, burgers, soups and salads. They tend to be quite busy during supper hours, so come early or late or sit at the bar while you wait.
Looking towards Hill City from Miner Brewing.
Hill City – a MUST for me if travelling through the Black Hills is Hill City to visit Miner Brewing Company. I really love their beer and the atmosphere of that brewery.
Enjoying a flight on their outdoor patio with my love.
I have been there a few times but we are usually in a hurry and I haven’t had the chance to check out other places in town. I made it a mission of mine to step next door to visit Prairie Berry Winery and try some wines. I definitely prefer tasting beer over wine, but this place is pretty popular in the Dakotas so I had to see it first hand. I also found it more interesting once I learned the same family runs the brewery and the winery, in particular, it sounds like mostly by a woman. Female power. There are tasting rooms in various SD cities but this is the flagship store. Walking up to it, it doesn’t seem like much. But I was stunned to open the large doors into a huge, bustling tasting and sales area with plenty of seating inside and outside. They sell more than wine, including a gourmet cheese stand, jams, candles, t-shirts, honey and more. I had looked online prior to our visit and their kitchen sounded right up my alley. From their site:
At Prairie Berry we’re committed to creating the highest-quality products we can, in both the winery and the Kitchen. That means we’re picky. And we like to make it ourselves. We use fresh, locally-grown, seasonal ingredients whenever possible. Many of our vegetables, herbs and greens come from Gregson’s Gardens, just 12 miles down the road. We roast our meats in our own ovens. When our desserts enter our kitchen they’re just sugar, flour, cream and butter and fresh fruit.
For only $12 I ordered half a turkey sandwich (oven roasted turkey, smoked Provolone cheese, basil aioli and roasted red peppers) with Greek Orzo Salad studded with fresh tomatoes and feta cheese. For dessert, I ordered the Chocolate Pots de Crème to share. The salads, soups and desserts change daily. Everything was super fresh and amazing. The dessert is like the thickest and richest pudding of your life.
Lead – I haven’t yet found a place in Deadwood that really turns my crank for casual eating. Our friends tipped us off to Lewie’s Saloon, located just minutes away from Deadwood in Lead. We rarely make it over to Lead and I don’t know why. It is fun to look around there and I’ll be making it a point to visit more next time. We ordered the Southwestern Dakota Burger (1/2 lb. maybe? It was huge!) with onion rings for around $8. The burger comes with the fixings including jalapenos. We were tickled to order a large mason jar of Busch Light (ice cold) for about $7. The good news I heard is if you eat it on the deck (overlooking the main highway) it is fat free. Awesome!
Spearfish – Once we find a place we like, we aren’t afraid to return time and time again. This is the case with Dough Trader’s in Spearfish. The unassuming pizza joint is tucked into a hillside and has a lovely outdoor patio. The ambiance is quiet and they offer a wide selection of beer and wine. They are closed Tuesday and do not take plastic so be sure to have some cash – there is an ATM available. Everything we have ever ordered has been good and leftovers reheat well. Here are a few of my faves:
Sister Marguerite $13 – Marinara sauce, Roma tomato, garlic and basil- a traditional Margarita pizza, fresh and fragrant.
Scarborough Fair $18 – Marinara sauce, grande pepperoni, fennel-infused sausage, red bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme- pizza as poetry
They serve the pizza on a tray with a candle underneath to keep it warm. Ask for parmesan and they will sprinkle your slice with freshly grated cheese.
OK, my last place and new to us this year was Leone’s Creamery. Ice cream just tastes better when you are on vacation. This cute shop is right off of main street tucked in behind a little park with some outside seating available. They have a Scoop it Forward board where you can buy for your friends. The flavors are unique and the service was superb! I had a peach ice cream with homemade caramel sauce and granola and it was wonderful. High quality!
This concludes the good food we had in the Black Hills – if you make a visit I’d suggest any of these places!