Bill Walsh never gets to Sioux Falls hungry.
The Deadwood businessman has a road trip routine that starts with coffee at McDonald’s off Elk Vale Road, continues with doughnuts and more coffee in Wall, moves on to chicken gizzards in Kadoka and fried chicken in Mitchell, and tops things off with fresh pie in Salem.
Coming from the other direction, Parker Knox of Vermillion has his own routine for his frequent cross-state trips. He starts with the $5 lunch special at Godfather’s Pizza in Mitchell, stops off in Oacoma for chicken strips and winds up the trip with a box of Wall Drug doughnuts.
“Very rarely do I make the trip without these three stops,” Knox wrote.
True, the long stretches of highway across South Dakota can sometimes seem endless. But many of us have favorite “refueling” stops in mind along the way to break up the trip.
Here’s a road map to help you snack your way across the state, suggested by Rapid City Journal readers.
Exit 24: Smoked meat at Howdy’s Whitewood Plaza
For all things smoked, Howdy’s Whitewood Plaza is the place. It sells smoked beef, buffalo, elk, pork loin, salmon, turkey, bratwurst — you name it. And it’s all smoked on-site, said owner Howard “Howdy” Hobernicht, whose business actually employs a full-time meat cutter.
“We have people come through … that have just stumbled in, found it and they keep coming back,” Hobernicht said, telling how one regular customer from Denver took home “a couple hundred dollars’ worth” last time he came through.
Howdy’s smoked goodies also have been been shipped to servicemen in Iraq.
The Whitewood Plaza is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Exit 59: Malts and shakes at Arnold’s Classic Diner
What better place to enjoy a malted milk or chocolate shake than in a ’50s-style diner, complete with neon, chrome and tabletop jukeboxes? Arnold’s makes its shakes and malts with real hand-dipped ice cream, and it sells lots of them.
If malts aren’t your thing, you might want to try a root beer or orange creamsicle float or a banana split — or maybe a burger and fries.
It is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Exit 110: Doughnuts at Wall Drug and the Wall Auto Livery Conoco station
Several Black Hills residents said the best way to start a trip east is by stopping in Wall for Wall Drug’s homemade doughnuts and 5-cent coffee.
“Whenever our family heads east river to Minnesota, we always plan on stopping at the Conoco station in Wall for the best doughnuts we have ever had, and that includes Krispy Kremes at the airport in Minneapolis!” wrote Pam Rice. “They have a lemony flavor and are incredibly fresh. … It is a real treat that we look forward to at the beginning of an eight-hour drive.”
Don Polovich and Sherry Philips also wrote to recommend Wall Drug’s doughnuts, as did Walsh — but, as Walsh wrote, “I don’t stop at their gas station anymore because they are out of doughnuts by 9 a.m.”
That doesn’t happen at the drug store itself.
Founder Ted Hustead had one rule in the Wall Drug cafe: “You can never run out of doughnuts,” said his son, Rick. “We’ll bring cooks back (if we have to).”
Wall Drug makes about 2,400 doughnuts per day in the summertime and serves about 200,000 each year, Rick Hustead said. If you’re a military veteran, you’ll get your coffee and doughnut free.
The doughnuts come plain or frosted with maple, chocolate or vanilla frosting, and they’ve been made the same way for at least 50 years.
“I was eating them when I was a little kid on my way to school,” said Rick Hustead, now 61. “We’re famous for our doughnuts. And they’re really good.”
Wall Drug summer hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Exit 150: Chicken gizzards at Discount Fuels in Kadoka
“Yes, the guts of a chicken,” wrote Sherry Philips.
Daigre Douville said Discount Fuels is “a must-stop for my family” when traveling through western South Dakota.
Tammy Carlson, who owns Discount Fuels with her husband, Mark, will take their word for it.
“I have actually never eaten one myself, but they do smell good,” she said. “We have people come in and buy several orders of them. … They’re quite popular.”
Mark Carlson said the store goes through 40 to 50 cases of gizzards each week during the summer. Some folks stop in every time they come to the Sturgis motorcycle rally, saying they’ve waited all year to come back.
What’s the secret? Tammy Carlson doesn’t know for sure.
“We don’t do anything special to them other than take them out of the freezer and use a broaster,” she said of the gizzards, which come pre-breaded. “Isn’t that crazy?”
Discount Fuels is open 24 hours a day, but the kitchen is only open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Still, Tammy said, “We tend to try not to ever run out of gizzards.”
Exit 212: Giant Rice Krispie bars at the Coffee Cup Fuel Stop in Vivian, plus homemade pies at the Vivian Junction Restaurant
If you’re looking for the biggest — and many say, the best — Rice Krispie bar between Wyoming and Minnesota, pull off at Exit 212.
“We have people from out of state say that they were told to come here and get them,” Coffee Cup manager Lesa Patrick said of the bars, which are labeled “famous.” “We sell a lot of them.”
The 4- by 5-inch bars are at least two inches thick and come in many flavors: plain, peanut butter, peanut (with dry-roasted nuts), chocolate-covered peanut, butterscotch, M&M and sometimes Reese’s Pieces.
Night shift workers at the 24-hour fuel station make about five dozen bars from scratch every night.
“Those girls have perfected that recipe,” she said, adding that the seven other Coffee Cups in the area have tried without success to duplicate the results — despite using the same recipe. Patrick hasn’t been able to replicate them, either.
“I’ll be the first to admit … they don’t turn out the same,” she said. “I don’t know what those girls are doing. They might be withholding information.”
Over the years, Patrick has sampled her share of Rice Krispie bars.
“I really try to stay away from them,” she said, “but about every two months I cave.”
If pie is more your speed, stop next door at the Vivian Junction Restaurant for a piece of Kim King’s homemade pie.
“We are known for our pies,” said King, who along with husband, Chris, returned to her native South Dakota and bought the restaurant six years ago. “That’s what I love to do most. … I’ve always wanted a pie shop.”
King’s mother taught her to bake as a child, and King still uses her mom’s pie crust recipe.
“The crust is the key,” she said.
The restaurant’s website lists nearly 50 flavors of pie, from double-crust blueberry peach to sweet potato to the most popular, strawberry rhubarb. Many are also available sugar-free and gluten-free. And they’re all made from scratch.
“There’s no filling mixes or cans or boxes,” King said.
Each fruit pie contains two pounds of fruit, and the chocolate in the chocolate pie is shaved by hand.
King makes hundreds of pies each week with help from her mother, who’s now in her 80s. A new convection oven allows her to bake 60 pies at a time. Making one pie is “a little different from making 200 of them,” King said, “but the mess is the same for one pie or 200 pies.”
The Vivian restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily except for Friday, when it stays open until 9 p.m. King’s pies are also available at the Rapid City Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Exit 260: Pie and 5-cent coffee at Al’s Oasis in Oacoma
For generations of South Dakotans, a trip across the state wouldn’t be complete without a piece of pie at Al’s Oasis in Oacoma. With the Missouri River right there, stopping at Al’s marked the transition from West River to East River (or vice-versa).
“A lot of people stop between Rapid City and Sioux Falls,” said restaurant manager Tana Rose. “We always get your buses from Rapid City Central and Stevens. They love to stop here.”
Buffalo burgers, homemade pie and 5-cent coffee are the big sellers. Al’s specialty is the lemon cream cheese pie, but it also serves lots of hot apple pie with cinnamon ice cream.
“We sell a lot of coconut cream pie, too,” Rose said. “We’ve been known to run out of pie. We try not to.”
Dee Geddes, one of the business owners, said the restaurant staff makes 30 to 35 pies each day to be ready for the 1,500 or so diners per day who stop for a meal at Al’s this time of year.
Al’s Oasis restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Exit 284: The Original Kimball Popcorn Ball at Kimball Clark Gas Station, plus burgers at Doo-Wah Ditty’s Diner
When people ask what makes the Original Kimball Popcorn Ball so good, the company’s employees have a quick response: “They say, ‘We put a lot of love in the ball,’” said David Olson, one of four partners in the company. “That might be the key.”
Owners of the Kimball Clark Gas Station started making the popcorn balls in their back room 10 or more years ago. But as more visitors got hooked on them (“They’d call us from Arizona, asking us to send a dozen”), it got harder to keep up with the demand. In 2009, the company opened its own factory — an old metal building in the middle of a campground — where it can now produce 2,500 popcorn balls per day.
Shaped more like thick hockey pucks than spheres, the popcorn balls come in original and honey flavors and are known for being crunchy, yet soft. The treats are available throughout South Dakota and surrounding states, but the freshest ones can be found at Kimball Clark Gas Station, where the story began.
It is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
If you’re hungry for something more substantial after all that sugar, check out Doo-Wah Ditty’s Diner, which is open 24 hours a day. It still serves the burgers and fries it has made for years, but the menu has recently expanded to include more salads and other sandwiches.
“Right now, what’s going really good for us would be the chicken ranch sandwich,” said Debbie Koranda, who described the dish as grilled panini bread topped with mozzarella, bacon, red onion, ranch dressing and two chicken strips. “They’re really big. You hardly have room for any sort of a fry on your plate.”
Exit 332: Broasted chicken at the Chicken Shack in Mitchell
Still hungry? Pull in to the Graham Mobil Station in Mitchell and pick up some broasted chicken at the Chicken Shack.
Manager Marilyn Bollock said the business breads its own pre-marinated chicken, then broasts it in a pressure cooker for chicken that’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. You can order it by the piece or in a meal with side orders.
“We have one truck driver that comes here, I think it’s from Cincinnati,” she said. “Whenever he comes through, he has to stop.”
You can eat in or take it with you. Hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Exit 406: Steaks at Tailgator’s in Brandon
After you’ve made it all the way across the state, you might be ready to relax on the outdoor patio at Tailgator’s.
“We’re kind of known for our sirloins and ribeyes, and then our burgers,” said spokesman Tyler Strom.
Popular with locals and travelers, the restaurant also serves pizzas, pastas, appetizers, salads, seafood and sandwiches, as well as breakfast.
If you’re done traveling for the day, you might want to sample one of its 10 beers on tap or 30-plus bottled beers.
It is open from 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.