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Nebraska, SD, ND, Iowa Trip

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My husband & I (we are from New Jersey) are visiting states #41-45 on our list, and we have always depended on Chowhound for good dinners. This is our next trip with where we are staying and what we have planned so far:
Omaha, Cornerstone Maniosn, Gorats; same next night, Bohemian Cafe;
North Platte, Knoll's Country Inn,??Rogers Fine Foods??
Custer,Sylvan Lake, Lakoda;
Rapid City, Audrie's, Alpine Inn; same next night, Corn Exchange;
Medora, Rough Riders, Rough Riders; same next night, Pitchfork Fondue;
Fargo, Hotel Donaldson, HoDo;
Sioux Falls,The Victorian, Minerva's;
Atlantic IA, Chestnut Charm, Redwood Steakhouse

So what do you think? Any suggestions? I promise to take & report notes.

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  1. Not sure if you got the referral to Rogers in North Platte from one of my posts, but I highly recommend them. Serious home cooking. Make sure you save room for pie.

    And I have to agree with Devotay about Iowa. I don't think you can get through the state without stopping somewhere else. I assume you're flying in and out of Omaha, driving in a big circle and coming back down I-29 through Iowa?

    Sioux City has a relatively large Vietnamese and Latin American population. You might be able to get some really excellent pho or chile rellenos if you ask around a little.

    Places I've liked include:

    The Daily Grind in downtown Sioux City -- excellent coffee

    Tastee Inn and Out in Sioux City -- a drive-in only restaurant with very good loose-meat sandwiches and onion chips (rather than rings)

    Bob's Drive-Inn in LeMars -- another great loose-meat sandwich with the advantage of being right across the street from the Blue-Bunny Ice Cream Factory attraction

    The Dutch Bakery and Woudstra Meat Market in Orange City -- both in cute little downtown Orange City (think windmills), with dutch letters and sweet rolls (bakery) and some scary-good coldcuts and cheese (don't go on Sunday, everything is closed)

    1. Redwood is a great choice. The Iowa chop is something else. I've also had the fried chicken which was also great, but the chop does surpass. When I had the chop, a friend at the table had a steak which looked impressive as well. Note that this is actually in (or just outside of) Anita, near Atlantic, but down the road.

      If you're staying there, for breakfast, there is a place downtown Atlantic called the Farmer's Pantry (I believe). The owner is a world champ chili maker, and he serves it on top of eggs and potatoes for breakfast. I'm sure the rest of the menu is good, too. Then, in Anita, there's a funky little coffee shop attached to an art gallery that serves breakfast as well. Forget the name, but the main strip is 3 blocks long so I think you'd find it easily.

      If you're still somewhere in that area near noon, you could go up 71 from 80 to Hamlin and try Darrell's place for the tenderloin sandwich. My mom said that Darrell's son bought it and may have changed the name to his own, but it's the only thing in Hamlin I think. Ask someone and they'll point the way.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dennis S

        "The only thing in Hamlin, I think."
        Other than a few houses, but I still missed it. I had to ask someone. Hard to find someone.
        I went on Sunday, and found they are closed on Sunday. Word is the tenderloin at Darrell's Place is the same as Michael's in Des Moines. If true, it will be one of the best, at a much better price.

        1. re: Dennis S

          I would highly recommend Darrel's in Hamlin as well for DELICIOUS tenderloins. Or, if you are looking for good steaks, the only thing in Brayton is a really good steak and ribs place whose name I cannot remember--I just know that my mom always tells me its really good. THe Redwood is great for fried chicken, onion rings, and the GINORMOUS app plate--you get cut up veggies, cubed cheese, braunschweiger, olives, pickled herring, a delicious cheese spread, pineapple, etc. AND an ice cream drink called the Pink Squirrel that relies heavily on amaretto and is wonderful.

          1. re: Dennis S

            It's the Farmer's Kitchen. We ate lunch there last summer on a similar trip, but without all of these great suggestions. I had a terrible time finding information and as a result when we drive across the country this year will avoid "the heartland." I will save all of these recs, however, just in case. But I wanted to echo your praise for the Farmer's Kitchen. At lunch we had cups of chili (great flavors), his pork loin sandwich (which was a first for me and excellent), and wonderful pies made by the owner's mother. I have since posted a review on Roadfood forums. Have a nice trip AGH and do report back!

          2. HI AGH,

            In Sioux Falls, the Victorian is no longer open. Minerva's will be there until forever, it never goes away. Minerva's is always a safe bet in Sioux Falls, nice wholesome food with great service. Not always the most interesting though.

            I think there are more interesting places.

            Food and Fermantation - super wine selection, Good food in non-absurd proportions. A limited selection of choises but with high quality. Also, you can ask for a cheese tray for 3 people, or for a dollar amount, the staff will make really good choices for you. They are at a new location further north on Phillips avenue.

            La Libella - Ethiopian. Never busy, I don't know why, the food is really good.

            Taste of India - Very good food, rarely busy, crummy location. Worth the effort. Much better than the indain restaurants recieving hig kudos in Omaha.

            Try to avoid franchise heaven around the Empire Mall, and the interstate exits for 41st St. and 26th St.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Tubadave

              Thanks, Tubadave, for your all your good suggestions. the "Victorian" I mentioned is a B&B, not a restaurant. Were you talking about the restaurant or the B&B that closed?

              1. re: Tubadave

                I went to college in Sioux Falls many years ago and went back to Sioux Falls about 20 years ago .I did eat @ minerva's ..the food was Ok and the salad bar was the high lite ..question.. is the best a city the size of Sioux Falls has to offer ?

              2. Hi AGH,

                I don't know how your palette runs, mine tends to be more on the international side, but here are some favorite spots in the region:
                Omaha - Ahmad's Persian (Fessun Jun - a chicken dish with pomegranate is my favorite), V Merts has excellent steaks, wine, and midwestern fare in a classic brick lined environment.
                Sioux City - The choices can be slim, but one of the best spots in town is actually a sushi restaurant, Fuji Bay downtown on 6th street, (712-277-3633), call first because sometimes they are open and sometimes they aren't. All of the fish is flown in fresh weekly, it's always been fresh, and I'm very picky about my fish. Another good spot is a newly opened restaurant, Diamond Thai on 7th street. The Thai basil fried rice and the fresh spring rolls are excellent. The owner recently moved to the area from Berkley, CA, and has his whole very nice family working in the restaurant.
                Rapid City - You're right on track with the Corn Exchange. Fantastic food and a great wine list. Across the street there is a place called the Firehouse or something like that, and they have terrific hamburgers and salads.
                Sioux Falls - Minerva's is quite reliable, but I agree that it is not very unique. I recently had a terrific meal at Sanna's (near 10th street) which is a Lebanese restaurant. They are open for dinner starting this month. A great lunch place in Sioux Falls is Rue 41 Bakery and Cafe. Charming french style cafe with made to order salads, soups, pannini, and a nice selection of wine by the glass.
                Have a great trip and be sure to check out the badlands!

                1 Reply
                1. re: ExercisetoEat

                  Been years since I've been to the Firehouse. Remember decent food and good beer. I just took a look at them on Beer Advocate. They score an 88. That's pretty impressive.

                2. Consider stopping in North Dakota's capital city, Bismarck, for a wonderful dining experience at Pirogue Grill, www.piroguegrill.com. People are raving about it these days. The ambience reminds me of big city restaurants. It features prairie cuisine and seasonal food--walleye, bison, duck, housemade sausage and North Dakota lamb and beef.

                  Other possibilities: my neighborhood restaurant Walrus. Food is good, reasonable. It's always busy. For ethnic German flavor, stop at Kroll's kitchen, right off the interstate, for knoephla soup. I like to order a shrimp quesadilla at Meriweather's as I look out on the Missouri River

                  The Bistro is always nice. Fiesta Villa has good mexican food.

                  This is Lewis and Clark country, and also Custer country. We have beautiful capital grounds. Have a good trip.

                  1. It has been about 10 years since my stay at Chestnut Charm but I was disappointed. May I suggest that you drive about an hour East to Des Moines and stay at the Butler House? http://www.butlerhouseongrand.com/ It is a wonderful B&B......plus there are some great restauurnats in DSM and the owners can ssist in making recommendations and reservations. My hubby and I stayed there for our recent anniversary and were thrilled with the accomodations and dinner assistance!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: msb

                      Oh, my good ole' hometown!! I would actually agree about Chestnut Charm, some family came for my wedding and stayed there, but had a bad experience as well. While I think my hometown is worth visiting :), I would suggest a drive to Perry, which isn't even an hour, and offers the HOtel Pattee, which is a lovely restored hotel with themed rooms. Or, on the cheesy but wonderful end, the A Ford O Motel in Atlantic is a great little family owned hotel which hasn't been touched since the 70's--in a good way, and is owned by my third grade Sunday School teacher!!

                      1. re: thebeavises

                        Alas, the Hotel Pattee with its terrific dining room closed its doors on Jan. 1. It is missed. The Butler House is a nice place to stay and close to downtown. Plus, it's across the street from our underappreciated art museum and near the Salisbury House, an English Tudor Mansion that is spectacular.

                        1. re: jwagnerdsm

                          Oh, that's too bad. I was a little afraid when I tried to look it up and the website was gone. But you are correct, Des Moines Art Museum is amazing, and very underappreciated, so I will third the Butler house instead!

                    2. Thanks everyone for all the great leads and opinions. We'll do our best to follow your advice, and if you have any more ideas, we are open.

                      1. Hi AGH,
                        Not sure if you'll get this before you go. I thought I could give you some suggestions in ND since for the last year and a half spent traveling there on business. But nothing stood out for me there. SF, SD Minervas, has great food, down home atmosphere. If you go theough Sioux City, IA, find the Milwakee Weiner. It's downtown. Great Coneys!! Open from like 11-5:00 I think. Fargo has much to offer as well. If you want to come into MN about an hour east of Fargo, Spankys Stonehearth grill in Vergus, MN is second to none. Just a suggestion. My wife and I go there when ever we can. Only 30 minutes from home for us. Just a thought. Happy travels. Steve

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: shumansky56567

                          Thanks steve,
                          No we haven't gone yet. We're planning way ahead because where and what we eat is very important to us. Thanks for the suggestions.

                        2. Looks like you'll be traversing I-80 in Nebraska. If that's the case and you're craving Italian, I'd recommend stopping in Cozad (approx. 50 miles East of North Platte) for dinner at Bella Italia. I can't remember the full story, but the chef/owner hails from NYC where he ran a restaurant that Rudy Giuliani frequented. He fell in love with a Nebraska woman, moved to Cozad, and opened Bella Italia a few years ago. Where the ambiance lacks (I was told that it was formerly a Napa Auto Parts store), the food makes up for it. Excellent fare that draws crowds from hours away.

                          Though it's fast food, Runza offers another taste of Nebraska.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: ggriffith

                            I hate to bear bad tidings, but I was in Cozad in January, and Bella Italia had a big "For Sale" sign in the window. Maybe just selling the building? That being said, it was a pretty good restaurant.

                            Also in Cozad is the Green Apple Cafe, one of those Main Street diners that small towns always have in the movies but seldom have in real life. Hot beef, chili, broasted chicken. And NOT TO MISS pies and apple dumplings.

                            1. re: heatherkay

                              So sad to hear! Was there around Christmas (have family in Kearney)--guess I should be happy to have enjoyed it while it lasted....

                              1. re: ggriffith

                                On a whim, I just called their phone number, and it's still in service. So maybe the building was for sale and not the business. So maybe they're still a going concern!

                              2. re: heatherkay

                                NO, NO! They are still there! The brother of the chef at Bella Italia ran a pizza joint next to them, and that was sold because the brother moved, but Bella Italia is still there and still very wonderful:-) It is a must if you are in the area!

                                1. re: heatherkay

                                  The buidling on the corner was for sale. Not the Bella Italia. It is still alive and well. Please stop.

                              3. Redwood in Atlantic has great steaks & be sure to order the onion rings (best I've ever had). Omaha - Gorat's & Bohemian are both good choices - at the Bohemian order the boiled beef in dill gravy with the liver dumpling soup, also sweet & sour cabbage & apple dumpling (I know it sounds wierd, but trust me it's great! Also the neighborhood looks time-worn, but don't be put-off by that as I go there a lot at night & always feel absolutely safe).

                                Second The Dutch Bakery and Woudstra Meat Market in Orange City - love those Dutch letters!

                                1. ah Fargo - HoDo has great martinis. I would recommend Monte's, backyard patio. Very quaint and private - out the front door of HoDo, take a right, and cross the street up a bit.

                                  I would also recommend - Nichole's Fine Pastries LLC www.nicholesfinepastry.com
                                  13 8th St S, Fargo, 58103 - (701) 232-6430 - for dessert and coffee (cute date night)

                                  1. Omaha is the only place i know on this trip--I spent some time there 8-10 yrs ago. Discount for a weak East Coast bias--I really liked O. Best resto in O by far is Le Cafe de Paris, run by a refugee from Sans Souci, a DC hot-spot in the 70s, who followed a damsel out to the prairie and stayed (or so he told me). Perfect execution of traditional recipes. very classy in all ways, and a member of Dirona. Not to be missed.

                                    I have found the steaks in O disappointing, altho I never tried Drover's Gorat's may be Warren Buffett's fave place (and I even saw him there), and it shows Buffett's enduring quality--value. Enormous amounts of mediocre-plus steak that's not expensive. the ambiance resembles Peter Lugar's, but the meat does not. You're going to be eating steak for most of the trip; just don't do it in O. Go instead to the OLd Mkt where there is (or used to be) a French place where you could get wine and simple, wonderful food.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: tartuffe

                                      You have got to be kidding, tartuffe! AVOID steaks in Omaha? Not only have I "spent some time 8-10 years ago" in Omaha, I've lived here all of my life & sampled many of the best restaurants. I actually avoid steaks anywhere else when we travel as they never come up to the quality of Ne./Iowa beef. I thought that AGH was seeking "authentic" dining experiences of memorable high quality chow - which brings us to Gorats.........no it's NOT trendy, with overpriced food in a stuffy, snobby restaurant - it's great steak presented by a friendly efficient waitress who actually does look as if she has been there since the restaurant's beginning, and true, the decor does come straight out of the 70's - but you go there for an authentic Omaha steakhouse with great steaks! (If you want the same steak for twice the price in a new up-scale place - go to Flemmings in Regency - the food is great, but honestly, this steakhouse is part of a chain & could be the same experience that could be duplicated all over the U.S.) But - I beg of you, do NOT avoid the steaks in Omaha - you won't be sorry.
                                      I've never been to Le Cafe de Paris, from those who have, I do know that you better bring your hefty wallet along for the oversized bill you will receive. Probably the most expensive place in town. The french place in the old market is one that I've been to a few times for lunch and the food was very good, in small portions, & expensive again in an interesting dark room that can have a stuffy snobby feel to it at times.

                                      1. re: tartuffe

                                        Wanted to let you know that Cafe de Paris closed earlier this year.... sad but true, you can still find some great French cuisine at La Buvette and the French Cafe in the Old Market.

                                      2. Maryjane. I stand by my earlier post. I've had great beef in the far Midwest, but not in O. My friends who had lived there all of their lives were also not high on Gorat's--as I said it's a good value place, but there are much better steaks around elsewhere. I do not eat in chains like Fleming's, Morton's or Ruth's (at least on my dime), for their beef is not of the highest quality, either. Nor do I necessarily go to "stuffy, snobby" steakhouses; as I said Gorat's ambiance is no better than Peter Luger's, the gold standard for steak (and the waiters at Gorat's are nicer). But the long dry-aged staeaks there are probably the best in the world, and I have eaten in many places ranking between Gorat's and PL's in the quality of their steaks.

                                        Nor am I an East Coast fanatic. I love Cafe de Paris and wish it were near me. Its closest analog is Montrachet in Tribeca, which is very high praise indeed. I suggest you go there immediately.

                                        I believe you're confusing value with quality. As i said, Gorat's is good value; it's just not on my must list of restos (there is also the local mystique thing with Buffett). Nor are any other of the O steak plaves I've tried. But to not go to Cafe de Paris, which is not that much more expensive, because of its price, suggests that value is your main concern.

                                        Similarly, the French place in the Old Mkt is describes as "small" portions, "expensive," and "snobby"--which I never saw. Maybe all of that's true, but it still had wonderful food, and I wish that it too were near me. Quality costs money; it's not all about big portions of pretty good food at comparatively low prices.

                                        And you must go to Peter Lugar's in Brooklyn.