From the desk of Keely
48 HOURS IN THE BLACK HILLS – For the Foodie
Quite often when customers call to book a hot air balloon flight with Black Hills Balloons, Damien And I are asked about our favorite restaurants, hikes and day trips here in the Black Hills. It’s such a beautiful place full of hidden gems, its easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to do. And there’s SO MUCH TO DO, for everyone really… how lucky we are to live in a place with something for everyone.
We also find that when we host a houseguest, we try to gear their visit to what they like most; fine-tuning itineraries for friends from different backgrounds. It’s so much fun to share our favorite spots with friends and family and make suggestions to those that inquire over the phone, we just had to share it with all of you. Here is our take on “48 hours in the Black Hills”, geared towards The Foodie; a person who not only loves food but considers it a hobby.
48 Hours in the Black Hills – The Foodie
Try Skogen Kitchen in Custer. Focusing on breakfast and dinner, this restaurant could compete with any high-end restaurant in NYC, and yet it’s located in Custer SD, population 2000. Choose the Morning Walleye with potato-bacon hash, mint emulsion and sunny side up egg, the Ma & Paul Pancakes topped with fried chicken, franks hot sauce and maple syrup, or the Avocado Toast featuring 9-grain bread, avocado, shaved red onion, chopped eggs, sprouts, and lemon pepper. Just make sure you make reservations (they only serve breakfast on Saturday and Sunday) and be prepared to be blown away.
(2023 update: Skogen Kitchen is now focusing exclusively on dinner service, but it’s amazing! They’re still highly recommended by the team at Black Hills Balloons, in fact. Our friend/chef Joseph Raney was just announced as a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award! Our advice: stop what you’re doing and make a dinner reservation for Skogen Kitchen, then make a breakfast reservation for their sister restaurant Hjem A.M. and read our Eat Like A Local – Breakfast Blog to get up to speed.)
Your 48 hours in the Black Hills wouldn’t be complete without a brewery tour with Black Hills Tour Company. Allow them to escort you to multiple Black Hills breweries in their custom VW limo bus. Along the way, skip lunch while sampling brews at Lost Cabin, Miner Brewing, Mount Rushmore Brewing Company and more. Most of the breweries have food available via full kitchen or visiting food truck to tide you over until dinner.
South Dakota might not be known for its curries, but maybe it should be. For dinner, we recommend Everest Cuisine in Rapid City for some of the best lamb curries you can find in the states… it’s true! The cozy restaurant greets you at the door with that delicious smell of curry, friendly smiles and a menu full of all your favorites. It’s almost impossible to stick to one item, so bring friends and share to get the best variety on your plate.
Start traditional with Jerry’s Cakes and Donuts or modern with Harriet and Oak, either way, you’ll need to save room for lunch and dinner. Jerry’s is one of those neat old donut shops that has stood the test of time. Get there early because they sell out almost daily and enjoy a traditional donut and cup of joe. Or, Harriet and Oak for a house-roasted coffee drink and a sweet potato breakfast burrito, acai bowl or organic oatmeal. If you are vegan or gluten-free, they can accommodate, and they do it well.
No visit to the Black Hills is complete without a visit to Mt Rushmore’s Carvers Cafe for a bowl of bison chili. The monument’s restaurant is full of delicious items but it’s the homemade chili featuring locally sourced bison, that continually keeps us coming back for more. The view isn’t so bad either and if you can manage it, their famous Monumental Scoops of ice cream makes for the perfect presidential selfie. Did you know Thomas Jefferson brought the first recipe to the states? Mount Rushmore is the only place you can get a scoop.
For dinner, head to The Custer Wolf. Named after a legendary wolf who tormented the area in the 1920s, the restaurant is anything but scary. A local hotspot full of craft beer and fresh-made menu items, the Wolf is known for its wall of beer steins, each assigned to a regular customer. Stop in for Walleye Ceviche, added to the menu after the owners traveled to Belize, it’s a fresh South Dakota take on the popular seafood dish, the Shredded Buffalo Sandwich or their signature Bread Pudding topped with Whiskey Caramel Sauce. You won’t be disappointed. Grab a board game and a pint for a fun evening in this cozy spot. The friendly place will treat you like family. It’s the perfect spot to wrap up your 48 hours of the Black Hills.
Of course, speaking of wrapping up. If you’re looking for a nightcap, check out The Custer Beacon. The new Custer venue regularly hosts touring and local musicians, serves wine and beer and has a fun late night menu. A mix of comfy couches and tall wooden tables, you’re guaranteed to find a good spot to absorb some local tunes, digest and reminisce.
Between meals, we recommend touring the beautiful area. The Black Hills area is perfect for hiking, kayaking, hot air ballooning (obviously) and visiting local wildlife, but we’ll save specifics for our next “48 Hours in the Black Hills” list. Have you checked out any of the restaurants we mentioned? Any tips or locations we missed? Please share, there’s just too much good food in the Hills for 48 hours, wouldn’t you agree?