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Good restaurants in South Dakota, Nebraska?

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We are planning a trip that will take us from Denver (flying in) through Nebraska to Mt Rushmore, the Badlands, Yellowstone and Devil's Tower.

We'll have 2 kids with us, an 8 year old carnivore and an 11 year old vegetarian (She's not picky though) ...any recommendations for good local places in any of the above areas would be very welcome! Trying to avoid the chains and sample the stuff you can't get elsewhere, or just really good food. Thanks!

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  1. Denver to Nebraska is pretty bare along I80. Ole's in Paxton is o.k. My husband is a vegetarian and usually gets a salad and onion rings - that's about the best you'll do in western Nebraska for vegetarian food.

    In the Badlands go to the Cuny Cafe in Pine Ridge. I love that place! It's south of the badlands national park and it's great and very kid friendly. You're basically having lunch in a grandma's kitchen.

    1 Reply
    1. re: willad

      Thanks so much!

    2. Could you provide a little more information about your routes etc? We're talking about a 150,000+ square mile area between the two states. I grew up in SD and live in NE. I can definitely help if you can narrow things down a bit...

      2 Replies
      1. re: smarsh

        Thank you! Here's our itinerary: Flying in to Denver, then driving up through Alliance/Hemingford/Chadron area towards a 5 day stay in the Mt Rushmore area. Planning to visit Jewel Cave, Wind Cafe, Mt Rushmore, the Badlands, possibly Wall, and Hot Springs.

        Then to Devil's Tower with a stop I think in Buffalo? and on to Yellowstone for 6 days there. Driving through the Grand Tetons, then a night in Casper WY, on our way back to Denver for 2 days before flying back home.

        We're going this summer, with plans to avoid the Sturgis motorcycle rally...!
        Any suggestions would be very welcome, thank you so much!

        1. re: pringle347

          While you are in Casper, have dinner at The Silver Fox (aka Armor's -- name changed in the 80's, but the locals refuse to use it so both signs are still up). My fav is blackened prime rib. Their chicken fried chicken is also really good. Meatloaf is fabulous. Nothing bad on the menu & good prices (because the locals at cheap here!). Have breakfast at Eggingtons -- another locally owned spot.

          A couple of tips for the Black Hills. Nothing is as close as it looks on the map -- so make sure you have extra time alloted. Wall is no big hairy deal -- skip that. Bear Country is too expensive for the product. Reptile Gardens IS a good deal. Get there first thing in the am if it's a hot day. There are a couple of hotels in Rapid City wih water parks attached -- that's a great deal if you've got kids. There are a couple of dude ranches w/ chuckwagon dinners -- go for the buffalo, the steak & chicken are too dry for their cooking methods.

          When you are going from Jackson Hole to Casper, you'll go through Shoshoni. Stop at the Yellowstone Drug Store & get a malt. They've got sandwhiches & stuff as well. The malt shop is just like it was 50 years ago.

          When you go to Devil's Tower -- take a sack lunch or eat before you get off the interstate. Otherwise you'll be eating lunch at the gift shop or KOA campground. You can camp or rent cabins @ the KOA campground. It's right at the base of the tower. They show Close Encounters pretty much every night in the summer. The fireworks on the 4th are some of the best I've ever seen -- they resonate off the tower & the cliffs. If you can swing it, I'd do that over staying the night in Buffalo.

          Also, there hot springs in Thermopolis in Wyoming. If you are getting squished for time in the Black Hills, you could hit Thermop instead.

          One more thing -- don't be in a hurry. I'm from LA & it took some adjusting. None of the locals are in a hurry and trying to get them to hurry just makes them go slower. Give yourself a bunch of time, relax & go with the flow. It's almost like Europe -- small towns, family owned businesses & no one does anything if they don't feel like it!

      2. My in-laws live just outside Hills City and we live on the east side of SD so here are a couple of recommendations: The Alpine Inn in Hills City makes the best steaks. In fact, that is all they make (so your vegan won't be so happy). You have a choice between a 6-oz or a 9-oz filet mignon. There are also 30 desserts to pick from.
        Go to Mount Rushmore, but don't plan on eating there. The prices are uber-expensive for cafeteria style food.
        Another place is the Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City. This was actually shown on one of the Food Network shows. It's in an old Firehall.
        One thing to keep in mind, the time of the year that you come make a huge difference in what will be open. The whole west side of SD revolves around tourism. So, if you come between May and Sept, you will have everything to choose from. Any other time of the year and things are pretty sparse.
        Hope this helps.

        1. Thank you so much for all the recommendations, this is hugely helpful and I really appreciate it!!