25 Sep Special of the Day~ Best Bites of South Dakota and Better Burger Tips from Black Hills Burger and Bun
Always an exciting highlight of autumn, our annual college girls’ getaway reunites eight of us close sorority sisters from the University of Washington for an extended weekend away to a different state to discover, explore and appreciate the best of what each locale has to offer. Having already enjoyed incredible escapades in California, Louisiana, New York, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, North Carolina, Wyoming, Maine, Illinois, Arizona, and Tennessee, our group had thrown around Kentucky or Washington, D.C. as possible venues for this year’s excursion.
The Girls Trip 2016 email from our terrific trip planners arrived in early July declaring,
“With so much going on in all of our lives, we think we deserve a weekend of total joy, absolute beauty, wide open spaces, and truly inspiring landscapes. So we’re going to…South Dakota! It is home of the “Great Eight”: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Crazy Horse, Deadwood, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave and the Missouri River.”
I’ll admit I had to go back and reread the message a time or two to make sure it actually said South Dakota. Not knowing exactly what to expect and still a little uncertain about the worthiness of our destination for a four-day once-a-year girls’ getaway, South Dakota turned out to be such a pleasant surprise!
From marveling over experiencing the magnificence of Mount Rushmore up close and personal to feeding friendly burros carrots and gazing at beaucoup de buffalo, deer and antelope right off the side of the road on the wildlife loop to exploring both Wind and Jewel Caves to hiking in the unbelievably beautiful Badlands National Park, South Dakota proved to be a fabulous feast for the eyes for all of us. A thousand thanks to Jenny and Danielle for all of the time and effort you poured into creating the extraordinary itinerary for us.
As for the food, best bites of South Dakota included the hearty skillet breakfasts we enjoyed our first morning at Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park, burgers to write home about at Black Hills Burger and Bun in Custer, and a delectable dinner at the Alpine Inn in Hill City our last night together.
I caught up with Black Hills Burger and Bun owner Claude Smith this week to gather some basic tips for the home cook on creating a better burger.
- Use high quality ground beef to hand form burger patties. At Black Hills Burger and Bun, they start with high quality chuck that is about 20% fat which yields a lot of flavor. Smith admits that some people are hesitant about that much fat, but says that most of the fat cooks off when the burger patty is grilled.
- Make sure to generously season both sides of the burger prior to cooking it.
- Let the burger patties cook on the grill, resisting the temptation to press down on them. Doing so will squeeze out the moisture and dry out the burger. Wait until burgers are cooked halfway and then flip, taking care not to overcook.
Clark prefers a soft bun, but one that can stand up to the burger. They make all of their buns from scratch at Black Hills Burger and Bun, as well as the bread and butter pickles they serve alongside.
As for burger toppings, it’s really personal preference, Smith said, but they like to mix it up at the restaurant, using spicy, sweet and smoky flavors to please the palate.
The night we dined at Black Hills Burger and Bun, we enjoyed the daily special: a delectable burger concoction topped with a parmesan crisp, sundried tomato pesto, fresh spinach leaves and red onion on one of the freshest burger buns ever…surely one of the best things we ate the entire time we were in South Dakota.
We landed at the Alpine Inn in Hill City for our last supper, after a long day of exploring in the beautiful Badlands and savored their signature bacon-wrapped filet mignon steaks, grateful to have had such an unforgettable adventure in the great state of South Dakota.
If you go:
25453 SD Highway 87
Custer, South Dakota
*Hearty skillet breakfasts and friendly, attentive service in a charming rustic lodge.
Black Hills Burger and Bun
444 Mt. Rushmore Road
Custer, South Dakota
*A not-be-be missed stop for lunch or dinner if you are in the area.
The Alpine Inn
133 Main Street
Hill City, South Dakota
Set menu: Salad with homemade ranch, bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon served with a baked potato and toast or Spaetzle Primavera.
*Very reasonable prices ($11.95 for the 6-ounce filet dinner) for a lovely dinner out if you are in the area. This is a popular dinner destination, so do expect to wait for a table. Grab a drink in the bar and linger on the porch until your name is called.
Memorial Team Ice Cream
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream
Based on Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe from 1780.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at email@example.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at sydnegeorge.com.