Dallas Garber leans against a downtown Sturgis building and finishes off the last bite of a skewer of fried ’gator.
“It’s not my favorite food, but it’s not bad,” said Garber of Minot, N.D. “It’s kind of a cross between steak and chicken, but has a fishy taste.”
Garber said he had never tried fried alligator and was curious about its taste, so he decided to give it a try at this year’s Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Danielle Pearson of Pearson’s food stand near One-Eyed Jacks on West Main Street is offering the ’gator along with catfish, shrimp and bayou chicken tenders. This is the first year at the rally for Pearson.
“We come with different flavors and people seem to like it,” Pearson said.
Just around the corner from Pearson is Glen Waltz’s sweet corn stand. Waltz, who farms near Roberts, Wis., brought the bounty of his sweet corn crop to the rally this year — three-quarters of a semi-trailer load, to be exact.
Waltz is using three oversized charcoal grills he built to cook the corn.
“We can make from 150 to 200 ears at a time,” he said. “It takes about eight minutes a side.”
Waltz and his staff are bowing to consumer demands when it comes to dressing the corn. They’ll dip the corn in a slow cooker full of melted butter and offer regular and seasoned salt as toppers.
“People have been asking for Parmesan and lemon pepper,” said Dani Brown, who’s hawking the corn to hungry rallygoers.
The One-Eyed Jacks kitchen may be off the beaten path at the rally, but its menu items keep customers coming back, said chef Jake Gigliotti.
“We had people waiting for us to open yesterday,” he said.
At the open-air food stop, One-Eyed Jacks offers pulled pork, grilled chicken, rib-eye steak and half-pound hamburgers. Gigliotti says he has made 2,500 pounds of pulled pork for rally week. He starts with pork butt, slow-roasts the meat, then finishes it with a combination of Open Pit BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey and spices. The dish has deep flavor and is a bit spicy.
On East Main Street in Sturgis, Jim Shafer, owner of Tailgater Toby, is serving brisket that has been slow-roasted for eight hours. The sandwich is 3/4 pound of the brisket on a bun with sauce.
Wally Fox and his crew at the Tiki Grill on Main Street are slow-roasting not beef, but mammoth turkey legs. They finish the legs with 30 minutes on the gas grill.
But if you’re hankerin’ for fried foods, the Tiki Grill has plenty of that, too, from its onion blossom and potato chips to corn dogs, chicken tenders and mushrooms.
Steve Tryggeseth’s At The Hop booth may have the ultimate in fried food items. Its “junk basket” includes jalapeno cream cheese poppers, mozzarella sticks, chicken strips, onion rings, mushrooms and shrimp for $8. His fried cheese curds are also a popular choice along with a 7-ounce fried boneless pork chop.
“Frying the pork chop keeps them juicy inside, but gives them a good crispy coating,” he said.
At International Food Concessions at 940 Main St., you can get fried and grilled on one plate. It offers lamb, chicken and steak on a skewer or in a gyros. Manager John Van Nguyen says the stand buys all its meat locally from Sturgis Meat Service.
Jim Robinson of Gillette, Wyo., was sharing the fried chicken skewer from the International Food booth with two other friends.
Why the fried chicken?
“It was the biggest thing on the menu,” he said.
Gloria and Doug Chapman of The Lemonade Stand near Mr. Al’s on Main Street may be the veterans of the fried food craze at the rally. For 26 years, the Chapmans have been serving hand-batter-dipped corn dogs — you can get them in regular or footlong varieties.
Also in the Mr. Al’s food court is Tim Williams of Wichita, Kan. who is offering biker road hash. He combines Jimmy Dean sausage, taters and onions with Slap Ya Mamma Cajun seasoning. He cooks it all on his 5-foot grilling skillet.
You can find a place to sit down for a meal in Sturgis. At Bob’s Family Restaurant near the Sturgis City Auditorium, you can sit in air-conditioning for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Among the offerings is a 2-pound pork chop dinner.
The new kid on the block, Easyriders Saloon & Steakhouse at the corner of Junction and Lazelle streets in Sturgis, is getting great reviews for its food. Among the appetizers are fried dill pickle chips and wings. Unlike some fried pickles, the Easyriders pickles are crisp with light breading and served with a spicy horseradish sauce. Entrees include steaks, seafood and pasta. The restaurant’s homespun macaroni and cheese is topped with sprinkles of Cheez-It crackers.
Speaking of homespun, who can go to Sturgis without a stop at Weimer’s Diner and Donuts? In addition to breakfast and lunch staples, it has a soup of the day, and if you get there early enough, you may even get one of its strawberry-rhubarb-filled fried turnovers.