Friday, June 3, 2011

South Dakota*

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-Cruisin' Country (The Black Hills of SD)

*With a day trip to Wyoming and not a stop at Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug or the damn corn palace

June is travel month here at chibbqking. Today's adventure takes us to South Dakota and the Badlands territory. Interestingly enough there was just a piece on Deadwood in the Chicago Tribune Travel section for possible visitors this summer. I took a roadtrip out there last Fall and it was perfect with the weather being 75+ and sunny each day. It was a classic All American roadtrip and this is it's story. We went into Sioux Falls, SD which is in the southeast corner of the state for a stop and quick browse before we made the push from one side of the state to the other in a days work. We got into town at about 12:30p and I was pleasantly surprised with it. It was a gorgeous day and there were way more people than I thought there would be and it also had way more culture than I thought. I enjoyed my two hour visit to the point I'd go back for a night or two if the situation came up.

Old courthouse turned museum (Sioux Falls, SD)

If you've been following my site of late you know I've been on a burger binge and my reason for visiting the beautiful well kept city/town of Sioux Falls was actually so I could check out another burger joint featured in Hamburger America, not to check out the historic downtown district or visit the local museum which is free admission and features ever changing displays. I wanted to get a famous egg burger at the longtime locals favorite Hamburger Inn located downtown and housed in a tiny little brick cylinder building with an old grill and seats for about 12. We rolled over a little after 12:30 and even though they stay open til 2p and it says so on the door they were closed and the grill person was just getting ready to leave, rarely do I have bad luck on the road or vacation but in this case I had a little. Oh well, maybe next time.

Famous for egg burgers in Sioux Falls, SD

So after being mad for about 30 seconds I said lets go check out the museum and take a walk around town. Just to my surprise and luck, one of the exhibits featured on display was "Cruisin' Cuisine: Drive Ins of Sioux Falls" the description from their website said "Cruisin' Cuisine takes a nostalgic look at several early drive-ins of Sioux Falls, including The Barrell, Bob's, The Cottage, Cutler's, Dal-Ray, Herbert's, Kirk's, Lee's, Ray's, and Rickey's. Relive times gone by with music, images, and artifacts from these city hot spots." So on in we went to check it out

The history of Drive In's in Sioux Falls (click pics to enhance)

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Could of been McDonalds...

Signs like this told the story of Drive In's of the past (click pics to enhance)

All in all a very cool exhibit...

...they also had a room on the history of underwear, interesting

Well that Drive In exhibit sure got me hungry and I was still jonesin' for a burger. We decided to take a walk around downtown and take in the old buildings and walk Main street and see what else was out there and boom, luck hit me again and my good fortune continued. We walked past an old building that turned the bottom and basement into a complex that had a sitdown restaurant and a burger joint along with offices on the 1st and second floors. You had to walk into the building to get to Hemmer Brothers Hamburgers which looked like a legit place despite the food court type location.

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Hemmer Brothers Hamburgers in Sioux Falls

I'm glad I stopped in and I never really did have any doubt. Its an old school burger place that does it up right. I'm guessing its two brothers who own it and on the day I visited it was one of them, an older guy and his wife doing the days duties. I asked the old guy if the Hungry, Hungry Hemmer Burger which was a double cheese was his most popular and he told me it was actually the Squealer bacon cheeseburger which he explained was butcher made bacon that was ground in with the beef fresh that morning which is how they always do it. So I got myself one of those with American cheese (you have options) and an order of hand cut fries.

Squealer bacon cheeseburger from Hemmer Brothers in Sioux Falls

They do it how it should be done with grounding their own beef and hand cut perfectly fried french fries. They had a topping bar with a nice selection so you could put what you wanted on your burger. I just had mustard, onions and pickles on mine. Being a man who's had many, I would say this was a premium top notch burger and fries. The fries were as good as they get.

The insides

As much as I wanted to continue on in my exploration of Sioux Falls we still had to drive 5-6 hours to the other side of the state and it was already afternoon so we got moving west after the hamburger, until we spotted Bob's Drive In Cafe on the way out of town. Who am I to just pass on by? so I had to stop in and get a taste of tradition.

a Sioux Falls tradition since 1956

This was one of the spots featured at the Drive In exhibit over at the museum and it was the only spot of the ten featured that was still in operation. The building that houses Bob's was built in the early 1940's and used to be Pete's Pickle Palace, where they served burgers and root beer but Pete then sold it to a guy named Ray and it became Ray's Drive Inn. In 1951 Bob started managing Ray's and soon purchased it and then became Bob's Drive In. The neon sign seen above is a local landmark and in the 50's airplane pilots used the sign to line up for their landings at the towns airport. They had carhops from the 50's thru the 70's and still have them twice a month in the summer when the old timers roll by in their classic American vehicles.

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The tiny little spot where it rests and the grill inside

Originally Bob's was famous for their burgers and fries but then McDonald's came to town and they started selling broasted chicken so they could have something McDonald's didn't. The chicken became one of the more popular eats in town and has been ever since. When I was there I saw the grill lady do up a burger and it was a fresh ball of beef that looked great and there were also some really tasty sounding scrambles that could of fed a family of four but we had to get some of the chicken. It took about 15 minutes and it was worth every second of the wait. I don't eat fried chicken that much for someone who really likes it so I'm not the expert, but this was excellent. Virtually greaseless yet fried to a perfect crisp exterior with a juicy interior. I wanted more as soon as I was done but we were already 50 miles out of town.

Bob's bodacious broasted chicken

We had a wonderful cottage lined up and were anxious to get to the Black Hills so we drove on and got to watch a beautiful sunset while en route. We wound up getting into our destination around 8:30p.

Sunset in South Dakota

I chose Deadwood as the place of stay for our three nights in SD for a few reasons. I love the old towns with real history and historic buildings throughout our great country and this is about as historic as it gets for a town with the entire community being a National Historic Landmark. I also happen to be a huge fan of the no longer running HBO series Deadwood which depicted some of the towns most infamous residents and was as good a show as there has ever been when it was still running, if it wasn't abruptly ended it would of most likely been the best series ever. But that's a conversation to have over whiskeys at da bar. I also thought that with its gaming and Historic Main street it would be a nice place to stay and be able to walk around and do things at night, because this city boy aint driving thru those mountains in the pitch dark.

Welcome to fu#k!ng Deadwood! Classic television, it doesn't get any better

This was a great call since we weren't going to be around all that much during the day it was nice to come back and have some things to do at night. Deadwood legalized gambling (slot/poker/roulette machines and poker tables) in the late 90's in order to use some of the profits to help with maintaining and upkeeping the historic site that it is. Since then with the gambling and then the emergence and popularity of the television series it has become a big tourist destination to stay at for a day or two. In the summertime it gets busy and then biking and hunting seasons come around in the early and late fall and they get some more people but the town is virtually dead in the winter and isn't quite the lawless madhouse it once was. The history of the town is so deep that it would take chapters to go thru which makes it worth a day stop or camp out destination if traveling thru the Black Hills or to Mt. Rushmore. Here's a little tour thru it and what I saw and ate.

Part of Main street as it stands today

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Deadwood is not destination dining by any means but as long as you arent East coast snobs from Yankton you should be able to get by for the night or short time your there. You can expect alot of eats like those you would get in casinos and saloons. One interesting place I wanted to try was the Chinatown Cafe which was it's only Chinese restaurant around and made dishes fresh on site. It intrigued me because there was once such a huge Chinese presence in Deadwood during the gold rush that there was even a Chinatown run by Mr. Wu himself, who is portrayed in the series which does a good job with keeping most of the history in its true historical content. Tours of the underground tunnels from old Chinatown and the area where it was are still available today. I didn't get to try the cafe but the menu looked interesting with the beef dishes standing out, after all we were in cattle country.

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The Buffalo Bodega Complex (Deadwood) Chicken fried steak on bottom right

Dinner on the first night was at the Buffalo Saloon and Steakhouse. It was empty on the Tuesday night we rolled in around 9p but I was attracted by the best prime rib neon in the window. This place like most other spots has gaming machines and a bar in the building next door that its connected too. There's alao a big outdoor drinking area for bikers during the season. I went with the smallest choice of prime rib ordered medium rare and at $12.99 I was very happy with my meal. Even though it was the smallest piece, the thing wasn't small. My wonderful travel companion went with the chicken fried steak and she liked it as did I but I would still recommend going with the prime rib as I did mention this is beef country.

Buffalo Bodega Saloons prime rib

I really only got to see Deadwood at daytime on our last day there since we did alot of daytrips, so most of our time in town was spent there at night. Whenever I go on vaca I always end up finding a spot where I drink at on a few occasions and on this trip it was the Oyster Bay Saloon. Its been a fixture in Deadwood since 1877 when its original owner brought boxloads of oysters in on ice shipped from the Mississippi and it became a popular eat amongst the prospectors and has since been as a famous saloon. Their slogan is "shuck me, suck me, eat me raw".

Historic Deadwood restaurant

The menu at Oyster Bay has many oyster options including fresh shucked, fried, and shooters which were a shucked oyster in a shot glass with a little bloody Mary mix, hot sauce, Worcestershire and beer that you shot down. The people were friendly in that wild west way and the bartender was really sweet and took good care of us and also did the cooking. They have a casino attached but do not serve hard liquor for some reason. The kitchen is open late and I liked my shooters and we had a couple fried oyster sandwiches on each visit. Simple and good, just fried oysters on a cheap hamburger bun with tarter sauce and pickles. Locals like to eat the pickled eggs which are in a jar at the end of the bar.

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Oyster shooter and jar of pickled eggs

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Fried oyster sandwich and clam strips from Oyster Bay

The lower end of Main street was referred to as The Badlands and got its reputation from its abundance of saloons, brothels, theaters, gambling halls and opium dens which provided raucous entertainment for the mostly male population. With whiskey going for 50 cents an ounce as well as providing other adult entertainment and gambling, saloon owners made more money than the miners and prospectors. While its nothing like yesteryear lower Main street still seems to be the place with the best bars and casinos in Deadwood. Its nothing like it used to be but I guess there have been some crazy happenings in the town on Main street during the Sturgis rally which is just a 20 minute ride away. So make sure you don't take a family visit the week of Sturgis.

Sign hanging in the window at a bar

The "Badlands" still bad today? (click pic to enhance)

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The original location of Saloon no 10 (where Wild Bill was killed) is for sale, I'd love to buy and own a piece of American history like that

Nowadays its just mannequins in the upstairs windows of Badlands buildings...that I know of

The stories this staircase could tell...Deadwood is said to be haunted

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More from Main street

My favorite place to gamble on Main st. was the Mineral Palace which was also a hotel and housed the Gem Steakhouse & Saloon. Anyone that watched Deadwood knows that the Gem was Al Swearangens spot where he was said to take in $10,000 a day and triple that on a busy one. When he arrived in Deadwood from Chicago he had his theater (term used loosely) built and running in a week. Today its a steakhouse that serves prime aged meat both beef and buffalo which is upstairs from the casino. I didn't have any steaks but we stopped in for the chicken fried steak seen in the neon during happy hour and it was a good choice. The steak was good but even better by the fact it was happy hour and a Seven and 7 and Vodka/soda were $3.50 total per order. Dirt cheap, I felt like I was drinking at the old Gem the way I was getting loose.

The Gem's chicken fried steak

So I have many more pics from town but that was all the eating we did in Deadwood and I threw it all together into one. On Wednesday morning our first full day in the Black Hills we were up early and off to Spearfish Canyon which is a beautiful state park located in Spearfish about 20 minutes up into the Hills from Deadwood. The scenic drive is listed as one of the best in the country and during the fall its said to be at its peak. We were blessed with a temp in the lower 80's and it was as beautiful as a drive as I have taken and I've been on a few. Your surrounded by steep limestone cliffs and creeks and plenty of different tree species as you zip and wind down the roads and can hear the wonderful sound of nature at its finest all while taking in some breathtaking views. The state parks around Deadwood are amazing.

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Views from the Spearfish Canyon scenic drive

One of my favorite stops on the whole trip was along the scenic drive through the canyon. Called Cheyenne Crossing its located right along the route. This little country store/cafe is the winner of many "Best Small Town Cafe" awards and has twice been featured in Midwest Living magazine's "Best Breakfast Spots in the Midwest." After skipping breakfast at its usual hour so that we could take in the scenes of the canyon we arrived hungry and ready to eat and they were happy to have us. The people there were really great and as nice as I've experienced at any place around the country. Breakfast is served all day but hours vary by season so call ahead.

Cheyenne Crossing cafe at the junction of US Hwys 14A and 385

I'm not one to hold back on the food while on a trip and I didn't do so here. I wanted to try a few of the things they were known for and went with all of them. Nothing wrong with leftovers right? I ordered their specialties which was an Indian fry bread taco, sugared fry bread and a sourdough pancake. We also got an order of scrambled eggs and buffalo sausage with hash browns as well as some biscuits and gravy. What a great breakfast/lunch/brunch or whatever you want to call this 2p chow session.

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View into cafe (up L) Biscuits & Gravy (Up R)
Indian fry bread taco (low L) Buffalo sausage with egg and hash browns (low R)

I've always been fascinated with Indian tacos and was so happy to try these but it was the most disappointing eat of the whole trip. It wasn't bad but it was basically a taco salad and they used way too much lettuce and it was the fancy stuff at that. The fry bread and ground beef/bean mixture was lost in the leaves, cheese, sour cream, olives and other ingredients typical in a taco salad. Standouts were the biscuits and gravy which had a real nice homemade sausage gravy, the sugared fry bread which was just downright addicting and the sourdough pancake that was great with the flavored locally made Black Hills bottles of honey that were at the table. The butter pecan honey made in the Black Hills was awesome on the pancake and the fry bread. I grabbed one to take home.

Cinnamon sugared fry bread

Sourdough pancake with locally made honey at each table

After the excellent meal we finished the scenic route and took a ride back into the town of Lead which is a mining town that shares schools and other stuff with Deadwood, it's located about 10 minutes up into the Hills from the outskirts of Deadwood. What a great little town to walk thru for an hour or two and take it all in. I've never been to San Fran but my with me girl kept saying how much it was like it due to it being really hilly with streets going up and down, I couldn't imagine driving in that place in the dead of winter. It is the home to the Homestake Mine, the largest and deepest gold mine in North America which was closed in 2002. It produced over $1 billion in gold and cost countless lives while in operation.

Homestake Mines

As is portrayed in the HBO series Deadwood, George Hearst was hot for this mine and his pursuit of it was Satan like. Like Deadwood, most of the town has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Despite being next door Lead never really developed the rowdiness of Deadwood. Phoebe Hearst, wife of George put alot into it including a library and free schools for the miners kids in the early 1900's and her library and some of the churches she built still stand today. I wish I could of hopped around to a few of the towns taverns at night and met some locals.

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Lead, SD (Homestake Mine on bottom L)

Well normally this would be a nice days work right? with seeing the canyon and then walking around Lead? Nah not for me. Lead is about 30 miles from the Wyoming border and I had never been to Wyoming so that was our next stop. I guess the weather is usually not so great in early/middle October but it was as good as it gets while we were there and so on we rode.

Cruisin' Country

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I've heard nothing but good things about Wyoming and Yellowstone will be visited by me one day so the plan was to just kind of ride around and see what we crept up upon. The scenes were great and it really was desolate in most parts with their being way more cows than cars and only a few towns within an hours drive. After the big brunch we weren't riding for food and I followed the signs to take us to Devils Tower which is the first ever US National Monument named so by President Teddy. Its located in the Black Hills of Wyoming in Crook County near Sundance, WY. With it being nearly 1,500 feet above ground you can spy it from miles away and it just keeps getting bigger as you get closer. This is a fun daytrip from SD, not too far at all and worth the ride since its so peaceful. Even though we weren't all that hungry I said I would stop if I saw a place that was tempting me for a buffalo burger and that's what happened on our ride to the tower. We spied the Devil's Tower campground which claims the best buffalo burger in Wyoming.

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Devils Tower View Campground, Gift Shop & Restaurant

The sign seen above (notice Devils tower in the background) was telling me that this little campground/country store/cafe on the route to Devils Tower had the best buffalo burger around so I turned right and we stopped on in. It was another cute little spot with one lady working the gift shop and cafe so I asked her what the most ordered buffalo burger was and she told me the mushroom, onion and Swiss was by far the most popular so that's what I got. She went to work in the back kitchen and I popped open an ice cold beer which they sell by the bottle and case in the giftshop. It was ready in about 15 and I chose mine with the made on site chips as opposed to the fries which I suspected were just frozen. Great choice all around and better than I expected. I knew the burger would be lean and it was, but the addition of grilled onions and mushrooms made it the best buffalo burger I have had.

Buffalo burger in Wyoming

After the snack we rode over to see the tower which you can just drive by and get out the car and look or enter the park for a small fee and ride around. The tower is home to an abundance of wildlife with an amazing amount of birds that live from top to bottom including American bald eagles and turkey vultures. It's also known as bears lodge and is a sacred site to American Indians. I would of liked to spend more time around this area and will get back someday.

It's story (click pics to enhance)

Devils Tower National Monument

On our ride back we took in the scenes and stopped in at the general store that had been around since the middle 1920's. It was in an old house and they had liquor, groceries incl. buffalo steaks and an antique section upstairs. The place squeaked and made noises with every step you took but they had some great stuff and I purchased some old time glass beer mugs from some of the spots around town back in the day along with some whiskey and other stuff for the fridge back at the cottage. I couldn't even tell you the name nor can I find this place on the 'net but it was in route from Wyoming back into SD towards Deadwood. General stores like these are still around SD and I saw quite a few.

Old School General store/antique house

Wednesday night we spent out and about at the spots seen upthread in the Deadwood section. Our plan for Thursday was the scenic loop and area around Mt. Rushmore. This was my 2nd trip to SD, I came here on a road trip with my fam back in the day and saw the presidents, got my pic taken in historic costumes at the damn drug store and saw the corn palace, it was cool for 20 seconds. So I didn't need to do any of these popular tourist stops on this trip. So instead we took in the views and headed to Custer State park which is yet another absolute beauty and must do in my book.

View from the roads in South Dakota

My travel companion was a keeper and the only thing she wanted to do that wasn't in my interest was this winery famous for their fruit wines so I had to stop and let her sample them and buy some bottles to take back home. No pics but it was a cool place and I wanted to try a buffalo pastrami but wasn't that hungry and didn't want to spend the $15, but it was a nice cafe with fresh made salads, sandwiches and meat and cheese plates. The name of it was Prairie Berry Winery and it is not far from Mt. Rushmore and in that general area.

Cruisin' to Custer State Park

Getting to Custer is half the fun as you literally wind and turn up the hills thru small earthmade rock tunnels all the way to the top which is a ride that nobody would not want to take, even kids I imagine wouldn't get sick of being in the car for this one. There's also plenty of places to pull over and check out the scenes and explore the rocks and mountains. This park was the shit if I may say, state parks don't get any better.

Going thru one of many tunnels you go through to get around the park

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Views from Custer State Park

One of the real draws to Custer is the Wildlife Loop. Its yet another classic American scenic byway that offers a wide range of views and experiences. It'll take you thru grasslands, rolling hills and forests of trees and your sure to encounter plenty of wildlife since this is the area inhabited by many of the parks wild residents. Your almost positive to see buffalo (both wild and the countries largest herd), bighorn sheep, antelope, deer, elk, coyote, prairie dogs, and numerous birds. Although the stars of the animals might be the burros which are extremely friendly and cause traffic jams since they love to approach cars and stick their heads in and say hello.

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Wildlife Loop and the Burros along it

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Wild and herded buffalo, deer, mountain goats and pheasants were other species we saw

We had another little bit of bad luck in that the Haunted Deadwood tour was weekends only and it was Thursday. However later on in the night, the town came alive more so than it was the previous two and we enjoyed some drinks and gaming. It was a great trip and here is a hot tip: Great place to stay and we got a steal at $80 night for the two bedroom Wild Bill Victorian style cottage. It sleeps four but there were only two of us so we didn't even use one room and it had a deck with chairs, hot tub, satellite, fridge and was walking distance from upper Main Street which is where all the spots are. They were well taken care of and I was sad to leave and will for sure be back. I said goodbye and we were off on our way back east. Once you leave the Black Hills, South Dakota is just like the rest of Middle America, small towns with their Main street, plenty of cornfields and farms with a few rivers flowing thru here and there. Peaceful.

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Middle America South Dakota

We didn't have to be back the next day and weren't going to take the 15 hour drive back straight thru so I jumped on 90 and rode that for an hour or two until I saw the exit for Pierre, SD which you could of stumped me, is the capitol of South Dakota. I then had a plan which was to see the capitol building and then ride a highway into Brookings, SD where there was a spot I needed to check out.

Pierre, South Dakota and the states Capitol building

After a really easy 4/5 hour drive (I can travel wherever with Sirius/XM) including the stop at the Capitol we were in Brookings, SD. Yet again just another place I wasn't expecting what I got. It was a hopping little town on this early Friday afternoon and my destination was along Main street which was as good as any as I've seen the past year while taking these country journeys. It had it all and most every place was occupied with what looked to be generation old occupants. Nick's Hamburger Shop, the reason for the stop can be seen HERE.

Nick's Hamburger Shop (report HERE)

So after Nick's it was back on the road where we would knock some hours off the time it took to get back to the city. Stopping in Brookings also allowed us to go through Minnesota as opposed to Iowa (reports coming) so we would stop for the night in Rochester, MN and then I decided from there we would go to the Mississippi near Winona, MN and take The Great River Road down thru Iowa and into the Quad Cities (we stopped at Frank's for pizza) and back over to Chicago. So as always, stay tuned and see ya next time on S'C'&C.

"America: The Beautiful"

Hamburger Inn
111 1/2 e 10 st
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
(605) 332-5412

Hemmer Brothers Hamburgers
230 S Phillips Ave # 101
Sioux Falls, SD 57104-6321
(605) 334-3301

Hemmer Brothers Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Bob's Carry Out (Drive In)
1312 W 12th St
Sioux Falls, SD‎
(605) 336-7260‎

Bob's Carry Out & Delivery on Urbanspoon

First Deadwood Cottages

Buffalo Bodega Complex
658 Main St
Deadwood, SD 57732
(605) 578-1162

Buffalo Saloon on Urbanspoon

Oyster Bay Restaurant & Saloon
626 Main St 57732
Deadwood, SD
(605) 578-3136‎

Oyster Bay on Urbanspoon

Mineral Palace & Gem Steakhouse Saloon
601 Main St.
Deadwood, SD 57732
(605) 578-2036

Cheyenne Crossing
At the junction of US Hwys 14A and 385
21415 US Hwy 14A Spearfish Canyon
Lead, SD 57754

Devils Tower View Campground, Gift Shop & Restaurant
476 State Highway 24
Devils Tower, WY 82714-8703
(307) 467-5737


Garvey said...

Just got back from the Black Hills, and the buffalo burger at the Devils Tower Campground was, by far, the best meal we had the whole week out there. Never made it to Deadwood, unfortunately, but that buffalo burger was amazing. Very juicy and big--not dry at all. And the homemade chips were the best I've ever had. (Oddly enough, they did not say that they were homemade on the menu, so thanks for the tip!) I capped off the meal with a scoop of huckleberry ice cream--amazing.

Thanks again!

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