To its many fans, it's called "getting your taco fix," according to Dave Brueckner, who along with his wife, Wendy, has owned and operated the Cheyenne Crossing Restaurant and Store in Spearfish Canyon for the past nine years. This month, the longtime eatery gained a big-name fan when Food Network Magazine named its Indian taco the best in South Dakota as part of its "50 States, 50 Tacos" competition.
Brueckner is quick to credit Ansel and Teresa WoodenKnife, Interior, as partners in his taco's success. He uses the couple's WoodenKnife Indian Fry Bread Mix to make the dough for his signature entree.
In fact, he says Cheyenne Crossing's Indian taco is very similar to the one formerly served at the WoodenKnife Cafe in Interior. The WoodenKnife family closed the cafe to concentrate on making and distributing its special fry bread mix. Today, the small manufacturing plant located behind the original cafe sells its product at stores and online to customers around the world.
To make the frybread, Brueckner heats water to 105 degrees, stirs the proper amount into the fry bread mix and lets it stand for 20-30 minutes. The dough is "quite sticky," he said, adding "like any kind of dough, don't work it too much."
When it is ready, "take a little bit of flour so you can handle it well and work it with your fingers," he said.
Brueckner then rolls it out with a rolling pin on a floured board before dropping it into hot oil. For home cooks, Brueckner advises heating about an inch of oil to around 350 degrees in a cast-iron skillet. An electric frying pan is also an option. He prefers using canola oil because it contains zero transfat.
It takes about three ounces of dough for a small taco and five ounces for a larger version.
"Some folks like it thin and crispy," he said, "but most like it puffy."
He fries the dough about a minute and a half on each side, until the taco is golden brown. Some instructions for fry bread call for poking a hole in the middle of the dough before frying, but Brueckner's tacos are solid.
Next comes the meat and bean sauce, with Brueckner's recipe being similar to the one found on the WoodenKnife box. He sautes lean hamburger and then mixes it into the slow-cooked sauce using dried pinto beans and onions. Tomatoes, taco seasonings, chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic can be added to taste. Brueckner also offers a vegetarian sauce to his Cheyenne Crossing customers, using black beans instead of meat and spicing them with green chiles to add flavor.
Piled on to the taco and meat sauce are shredded cheddar cheese, red-leaf lettuce, red onion, black olives, chopped Roma tomatoes, jalapenos, salsa and sour cream.
"It is the legendary item around here," Brueckner said.
Customers can order the Indian taco any time of the day, and some days, orders make up 20 percent of his business, he added. While the Indian taco is featured prominently on his menu, Brueckner doesn't otherwise promote it.
"Lots of folks hear about it from others," he said. "The house has been built on it."
That word-of-mouth popularity is why folks at South Dakota Magazine suggested Cheyenne Crossing when Food Network Magazine was searching for entries for its competition, published in its May edition. Orders have increased since the publicity, according to Brueckner.
"It's the reason a lot of people come," Brueckner said, and with the summer season fast approaching, Cheyenne Crossing can count on selling even more Indian tacos to hungry locals and tourists alike.