Okay… I’m gonna be completely upfront and honest about my idea of a vacation. When I travel on business or pleasure (and the wife feels almost as strongly about this as I do), my one rule is that I do not eat at any place that I can eat at in the Craphandle of Nebraska. Even if the kids are screaming bloody murder ’cause they are “starving”, we will not stop at McDonald’s while on the road. If our only choice is between Applebees and the scary looking place with all the Harley’s parked outside and the two fat dudes with leather vests and ZZ Top beards duking it out in the parking lot… well, I’ve discovered that drunk bikers will usually leave you alone if you’ve got kids… and you don’t touch their bikes nor look them in the eyes. At least 50% of the fun of a vacation is trying new places to eat!
Eating at new places is an adventure of a sort. There is little chance you can be hurt by trying a new place to eat (as long as you keep your eyes off the biker’s babe… no matter how short her shorts are, or how low-cut her t-shirt is…) and the potential reward is humongous. You may just discover a favorite place that will become a necessary stop every time you visit a certain local.
The wife and I just celebrated an anniversary, and we spent the weekend in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We love the Black Hills, but on our few visits over the past 12 years or so, we have had kids in tow. When you have kids in tow, your sense of adventure is diminished by the fact that you have to go somewhere that serves something that the kids will actually eat. TGI Fridays, Burger King, Red Lobster, Olive Garden… these are the kinds of places you are stuck going when you travel with kids. These places all are not available in the Craphandle, and they all have kids menus. Thus, the wife and I decided we were not going to go anyplace that we would have chosen had the kids been with us. We were so excited!
For our anniversary, the wife and I usually go to the Estes Park, CO area. Estes Park has all kinds of cool places to eat and all kinds of fun things to do… and if you tire of Estes Park, you can always go on an excursion to Boulder or Longmont or even into Denver for restaurants and excitement. We usually stay at a little place right outside of Lyons, CO called Shelly’s Cottages . Shelly’s cottages is an awesomely romantic place to stay. They are like rustic little apartments right on the St. Vrain river. If you go in the fall, you can pick apples and pears right off the trees growing by the river. If you get one of the cottages with a hot tub (which I highly recommend), you can sit in the hot tub and (if the time of year is right) bask in the warm water as snow gently floats around you. Awesome! However, we thought that this year, we would try something new.
Because we really like the Black Hills, and because we really like the hot tub/cottage vibe of Shelly’s Cottages, we looked for a place like Shelly’s in the Black Hills.
Enter Legends .
Legends is AWESOME! We stayed in the Lakota Suite, and to say the decoration was radical would be a major understatement. This cabin was all hardwood, from the floors to the vaulted ceilings. We could actually smell the wood when we walked in. The Native American decor was really cool and… was… everywhere. In fact, there was Native American music playing on the CD player when we arrived. I could go on and on… but that would detract from the fact that I wanted to write about how much food in Deadwood sucked!
Although Legends has a Sturgis address, it is way closer to Deadwood than it is Sturgis. Our check-in wasn’t until 2 pm, so we thought we would stop at one of the casinos for lunch before checking in. One of the great things about Deadwood is how they get your money at every opportunity. Parking anywhere near any of the casinos costs money. As we were driving down the main street, we noticed that Tin Lizzie had free parking… for their guests. Well, we weren’t going to be forced to spend our money at a place just to get free parking! So, we drove all the way to the other end of town into a residential area. We parked in the first free parking spot we could find, and we proceeded to hike. We walked and walked and walked, popping into every casino that had a restaurant, in an attempt to find something that sounded good. After like an hour, we found ourselves standing outside Tin Lizzie… and we were “starving”… so we went in to have lunch. Hindsight, huh?
So we go in and the lady at the food counter tells us that the special of the day is the shrimp dinner. That sounds great and all, but the shrimp dinner comes with baked potato and I’m kinda craving fries, so I order the shrimp basket (which is the same thing but it comes with fries). The wife orders the same. We sit and wait and finally the little light-up-thingamajig that they gave us goes off and I go get the plates.
After I sit back down, the wife says, “Didn’t you order a basket?”
Sure enough, where the fries should be sitting is resting a baked potato. Damn it! I get up and start toward the order counter to get my fries. I am not going to let our anniversary weekend start like this!
Directly in front of me, I see a severely overweight lady of about 30 in a moo moo walking with a cane. She is with an older lady who looks very similar to her. The two are obviously sisters or mother and daughter.
“What’s that over there?” the older lady asks of the young gimp in the moo moo, pointing at the salad bar.
“That’s the salad bar,” says the gimp
The older lady looks at the gimp, confused, and asks again, “What’s that over there?”
“It’s the salad bar!” screams the gimp. “Put in your f#%&ing hearing aid, you stupid b#@ch!”
I immediately turn around and sit back down with the wife. “Baked potato sounds kinda good,” I conclude.
After we finish our shrimp dinners with the stinking baked potatoes, we are forced to walk by the hearing impaired lady and her very disrespectful gimp-sister/daughter/gay lover or whatever. I happen to catch part of the conversation going on between the gimp and the unfortunate lady that chose to sit at the booth beside her.
“Yeah, I spent some time working at the Hampton Inn,” says the gimp.
“Oh, and how are things going over there?” Asks the other lady, and you can tell by the meek way that she asks it that she really is looking for the conversation to end.
“Wouldn’t know,” says the gimp. “The son of a b#@chs wouldn’t let me come back after my fifth surgery. I’m gonna sue the s%*t out of them b%#*@$ds!”
As we were leaving Tin Lizzie, I came to the realization how much of a resemblance there is between a casino and Walmart. Needless to say, this was actually the best meal we had in Deadwood.
So the wife and I go and check out our awesome cabin up in the hills. We are so impressed with the cabin that lunch is soon forgotten. The owners of Legends leave all kinds of personal little notes all over the cabin in a welcomed attempt to make your stay more enjoyable. In one of their notes, they make some recommendations of local restaurants. The place that they point out as their favorite is a place the wife remembers seeing very positive reviews of online before we left. It is called Deadwood Thyme Cafe and Bistro, and we suddenly know where we are going for supper. Now, all of the reviews that the wife remembers reading were for breakfast and lunch; and even on the menu that is in the binder of menus of local restaurants in our cabin, there is no mention of dinner. But, hey, we figure if the place is that popular for breakfast and lunch, they have to serve a killer supper, right?
A sign by Thyme states that there is parking in back, ’cause there definitely ain’t no parking in front. We drive around back… and find parking meters at every parking spot. Crap! So, we fork over some change to park, and I’m already thinking, “This had better be good.”
We walk in and the waitress… the only waitress in the entire place… brings us our menu. The menu is on one side of one piece of paper. Every meal on the menu is around $20, and most of it looks like fancy crap that is not going to fill a guy up. The waitress tells us of the special, which is a New York strip with starch and vegetable for $19. The wife orders the special, and so do I. Turns out that starch means either rice or broiled potato… no fries. Damn it! We both order the potato. The meal doesn’t come with any soup or salad… those are extra.
The wife ordered a Sprite, to which the waitress says, “Uh, we don’t have Sprite. Would you like a… (and this is the point where one would expect the waitress to say something like ‘Sierra Mist’ or maybe ‘7-Up’, but instead she comes back with)… lemonade?”
“Uh… I guess that would be fine,” says the wife.
I order an iced tea and the waitress is off to fulfill her duty of waiting. The waitress pops her head out of the kitchen and says to me, “Uh, it appears that we are out of iced tea. Would you like some hot tea, or perhaps some coffee?”
“Uh, how about a Coke?”
“Fine, coming right up,” smiles the waitress.
So she brings out the lemonade for the wife and she brings me… a very expensive looking glass bottle of Coke. Apparently no fries… and free refills on the cola are out. Crap!
“Heh heh, make sure you keep that water coming,” I smile. I don’t think the waitress heard me, or if she did, she wasn’t amused.
As we are waiting for our food, the place starts to fill up. Of course, right next to us, they seat a young couple… and that young couple’s three toddlers! We drive for over four hours for a relaxing weekend away from our kids to spend an expensive evening next to someone else’s noisy, can’t-sit-still kids. C’mon! At least we like our kids! At least I’ve already seen the menu, and I know there isn’t a kids meal in sight. The yuppies are going to be forking over some major cash to feed the toddlers. Sometimes, life can be a little sweet!
Our food arrived. I wish there was a way to de-emphasize the typed word… you know, like how you can emphasize a word by italicizing it. If such a de-emphasis existed, I would have definitely used it when I typed “Our food arrived”. A few thin slices of carrot, four or five very small chunks of potato, and a small steak that appears to be at least 1/5 fat.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I say to the wife. She just starts to laugh. “What’s so funny?”
“This whole thing is funny,” she laughs even harder. She is having a hell of a time cutting through her New York Strip. I try to cut mine and see exactly where she is coming from. It’s like trying to cut a rope in half with a butter knife. “Maybe we just need sharper knifes.” She takes a bite and chews… and chews and chews and chews. By now we are both laughing and chewing and laughing and chewing.
“No, I don’t think it’s the knifes,” I say. “I think they served the wrong part of the cow. I don’t believe a New York Strip is usually cut from the hide.”
I take a bite of potato.
“Tastes like cardboard,” I say, and the wife laughs all the harder.
“The carrots are good” says the wife, and she’s right. Best thing on the plate is the stinking vegetables… you know, the thing you usually don’t eat when you get a steak dinner… and there are only four or five thin slices.
I hear a grunt come from the yuppie table next door and I see the young wife, near tears, attempting to cut up a steak to divide amongst her toddlers. The husband is working on his own steak, his face red, beads of sweat on his brow. The kids are relatively quiet. They look hungry.
“Here, you work on this for awhile,” says the yuppie wife as she shoves the partially shredded steak-on-a-plate at her husband.
The husband mumbles something under his breath and starts working on the children’s steak, as the smallest of the three children, crying, says quietly to the mother, “I’m hungry, Mommy.”
My wife and I look at each other and we stop laughing. We both realize that if we distract the young parents from the cutting of their children’s food, a child may die. This steak is the kind of steak that your parents warned you about when they said, “You might choke on this if you don’t chew it all the way.” Well, there ain’t no chewing this crap all the way to anywhere, so the wife and I stop the laughing and let the yuppies concentrate. Quiet weekend away from kids or not, no one wants to see a child choke on cowhide.
When the waitress comes and asks us if we are interested in desert, we start the laughing all over again. The waitress, somewhat confused, walks away. I notice the yuppies again. The young wife is weeping openly, the husband has his head in his arms on the table, and all three hungry children are crying. My wife and I stop laughing and leave.
Before going back to the cabin, we decide to get some snacks. We’re both still hungry as hell and know we won’t make it ’til morning on what we just ate. Just a couple of warnings to you if you ever decide to go to Deadwood:
1. Deadwood does not have a grocery store.
2. Expensive convenience stores in Deadwood close at 10:00 pm… at least on a Friday night… and even though many of the casinos are open 24 hours a day, aside from the casinos, there is no where in Deadwood to get food after 10:00 pm.
We ended up driving to Lead a few miles away to find an Exxon at which to grab a couple of bags of chips and some pop. Like $30 later, we went back to the cabin.
This is only the first day of our adventure. Day two actually went much better… and I have a couple of really cool places to recommend for you to eat in Rapid City… but this post is already way too long to hold the interest of the average reader, so I’m calling it quits for today. Consider this “Part 1”. “Part 2” will follow shortly 🙂