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Aug 1, 2012 11:12 AM

Great Plains Road Trip

My husband and I will be traveling through the Great Plains en route to a wedding in Spearfish, SD in mid-September. Our time in each city will be very limited, so I'm looking for some star suggestions for places to eat. Like most hounds, we eat anything prepared well. I'm especially interested in experiencing the local flavors. At least one BBQ joint and one awesome mid-western steak are a must. With a good butcher recommendation, we could even purchase steaks along the way and grill them when we get to the Rockies where we'll spend two nights.

Here's the itinerary:

Monday lunch: St. Louis, hopefully somewhere convenient-ish to the Arch.

Monday dinner: Kansas City (No idea where we are staying. It's just a quick overnight.)

Tuesday brunch or lunch: Somewhere along the Oregon Trail between KC and Kearney, NE. Towns we'll be passing through include Topeka, Manhattan, and Marysville, KS & Fairbury and Hastings, NE.

Tuesday dinner: Somewhere between Kearney, NE and Estes Park, CO (not part of the Great Plains, I know.)

All day Wednesday is in Estes Park and the Rocky Mountains.

Thursday we head toward Spearfish where we'll be through Saturday for the wedding. Any suggestions in the western part of SD are welcome.

Finally, on the way home we'll probably hit Omaha, NE around dinner time on Sunday. The rest of the trip east will be quick road food between Omaha and Charleston, SC.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Have your bbq in Kansas City and go to Oklahoma Joe's. As for your lunch in St. Louis, you could also do bbq and be happy, either at Bogart's or Pappy's, both of which are reasonably close to the highway and the Arch (within 10 minutes). On the other hand, you might want to try Crown Candy, around 5 minutes from the Arch, which has incredible, authentic old-timey ambience (the place dates back to 1913), terrific malts, and a very serious BLT.

    1. What route are you taking from Estes Park to Spearfish?

      4 Replies
      1. re: wyogal

        Google suggests I-25 to Cheyenne and then US-85 north to Spearfish as the fastest/most direct route.

        Without turning this into a travel thread, I'd be open to other routes if there was worthwhile food or sights along the way. We don't have to be in Spearfish at any particular time on Thursday, so we're flexible.

        1. re: hprincedoss

          Or, take the interstate further north and turn east at Orrin Jct. More interstate that way, and you can stop in Chugwater, Wy and get a milkshake, and some Chugwater Chili (at least the mix)

      2. How about Anthony's bar on Market? You can park at the Arch and walk. Less than a mile, mostly on park walkways.

        1. For Lunch Monday, i would suggest Pappy's Smokehouse. I would send you to Bogart's (sister restaurant) but Bogies is closed on Monday.

          1 Reply
          1. re: FriendOfTheDevil

            Anthony's Bar is a great suggestion. Run by the same folks cooking in the same kitchen as Tony's, for decades St. Louis's most recognized fine-dining restaurant. Good quality in a more casual, much less costly setting.

            So is Pappy's, just a ten-minute drive away. The best BBQ St. Louis has had to offer the last few years. They have a special where if you order a rack of ribs you get a quarter-pound of another meat at a great price -- it might be good on a half-rack, too, so ask. The ribs are outstanding. The brisket or pulled pork (order it untrimmed, so you get the bark) very good. I'd put Pappy's up against the BBQ you can get in KC.

            If you can work in Ted Drewe's, south city on the old Highway 66, definitely do so. Frozen custard mixed into "concretes," and the happiest place in St. Louis.

          2. Between Kearney, and Estes I'd probably go by either Kearney. if go into town I can usually find a decent place. My favorite is closed sorry, not much there. All the decent places would be north of the interstate quite a ways. Lexington has a decent Mexican place too. If you like antiquing there are a some shops. It's all high end and you're not paying NE prices, it's east coast prices. They have some really cool stuff. Most any town you go though should have a bar with good food. Look for all the beat up ranch trucks. If I were in the mood for that I'd probably try Cozad or Arapahoe.

            KC vote is OK joe's. Call ahead and have it ready. They're only open until 9 or so if I remember right.

            In Omaha, do a search for places that have been suggested before. If you want to wait, right off the interestate in Des Moines is a place I always hit up for road food before I visit my parent's named Saraj It's Bosnian. You get a ton for your money if you get something with bread and the leftovers are good cold IMO. As much as I love places in Omaha, that might be a better option if you don't get there too late.

            You mentioned buying a steak. This summer I stopped at (I think the safeway) and bought two of the most beautiful no roll (should have been graded prime) porterhouses I've ever seen. I grew up eating home butchered meat. I payed out the nose for them from what I'm used to which would still mean they were over $6 a pound. I aged them for a few weeks on my trip, ate one, and took the other two my dad. He was pleased and this is a guy with a freezer full of steak.

            Ogalalla also has a good chinese place. We asked them for some authentic dishes and they girlfriend was talking to them in Mandrin so that probably helped. It's the one on the east side of town. I probably got something with sole in it, and I'm sure she got ma pao dofu.

            Anyway, I hope that helped a bit.