Out there in the black mining hills of Dakota there lived a boy named Rocky Raccoon...
If you, like 'old Rocky, happen to be spending time in the Black Hills of South Dakota soon, allow me to tour you 'round some local highlights in the largest of the Black Hills communities, Rapid City.
It's quite a haul out that way, and ah reckon you'll hanker for the chuckwagon at some point. If you're of the three-course-with-wine persuasion, you might enjoy the vittles at French Culinary Institute graduate M J Adams' bistro restaurant, The Corn Exchange (Main St., diagonal from the Radisson). Adams features some delightful wines, a tempting assortment of small plates (don't pass up the terrine, if it's available), and entrees with local flair.
I tried the duck breast, the seared salmon and the bison steak and will heartily recommend the local bison. If you've only eaten tough old cuts better used for boot heels, you're in for a buttery treat. Although it's a might pricy by South Dakota standards, The Corn Exchange is a bargain for those suffering from big city sticker-shock.
If you're not sufficiently liquored up off Adams' wine list, you can dilly-dally down the street apiece to the Firehouse Brewery. I hear they make some lower-key grub, and pour a fair brew.
My Ma would also like to throw in a good word at this point for the Alpine Inn of Hill City, which offers a scrumptious German-style lunch, a quality steak & spud dinner and a tempting array of desserts, from strudel to thick dark chocolate decadence. Since Hill City's just a stone's throw from Rushmore and Crazy Horse, you were probably on your way up there anyhow.
Back in Rapid, I can recommend the Beanery (3rd btwn Main & St. Jo) for soups and sandwiches; BJ's Grinder King, a local favorite, for sandwiches and the best slices around (mom says "try the veggie"); La Costa on Omaha ($4.95 tex-mex lunch specials!) and the Mongolian BBQ up the hill on LaCrosse, where the veggies are fresh, the eats are cheap, and it's just all kinds of entertaining to watch your fellow diners engineering skyscraper stacks of noodles, snow peas, bean sprouts and beef slabs in their all-you-can-fit bowls.
While you're out that way, you can pick up the embroidered western shirt of your dreams at RCC Western Store in the Rushmore Mall, drool at the Calphalon and Wusthof at Someone's in the Kitchen, and then head back down the hill to troll through the tunes at Ernie November.
Don't forget to grab a bagel at Black Hills Bagels, if only to gaze at the hot neon bagel buckaroo and dream of a life tending cattle (or bagels) on the rolling grassy plains, breathing in the clean grassland air and losing yourself in the astral ocean over your broad-brimmed hat.