Thursday, May 17, 2012

Best Burger Road

I couldn't put it off any longer.  I had to find out if I agreed with the Midwest Living Magazine article "The Midwest's Best Burgers," which ranked Lewie's in Lead, South Dakota in the top 25.  That's a pretty big deal.  Anybody can put up a sign claiming to be the best.
But this isn't just anybody.  It's Midwest Living, with a circulation of 950,000.

They called it Lewie's Saloon and Eatery.  I've always known it as Lewie's Burgers and Brews.  And, despite the fact that it's only about 25 miles from my front door, I must admit I've only been there twice before.  I will also confess that I had never eaten one of their now nationally ranked burgers.  There was something at stake in this because I have always considered the Sugar Burger from the Sugar Shack on Highway 385 between Deadwood and Hill City to be the best burger in the Midwest, or perhaps even the best burger anywhere.  So off I go to seek my own personal validation of this rather lofty pronouncement by some unknown reporter who may not have ever actually been to South Dakota, and who had obviously not been to the Sugar Shack. 

Once inside Lewie's I decide to sit at the bar rather than a table so I could get an up close and personal experience.  The view of the wall behind the bar is impressive.
There are cool antique toys, old records and advertising memorabilia scattered throughout the place.  Some in the coolers, too.  Like Schlitz and Grain Belt beer for example.  Who still drinks Schlitz and Grain Belt?  There must be enough old timers frequenting this establishment to make it worth stocking.  I'll bet you can't get those brands at Applebee's or Chili's.  But, I digress.  Let's get back to the burger.  I ordered the Lewie's Burger and a Miller High Life, which is somewhat of a throwback itself, but nothing like those other two.  Then I waited.  And waited.  It wasn't the speediest service I have ever received, but everyone was very friendly (Lewie wasn't there and I've heard he's kind of grumpy) and it turned out the wait was worth it.  What a great burger!  And hot.  It's odd that the first thing I noticed after taking a bite was just how hot it was.  Almost burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot.  That subtle but very important detail made a big impression on me.  Enough of an impression to make me want to conduct further investigations into this matter.  I see another trip down Highway 385 in my not too distant future.  Then, probably back to Lewie's.  These things take time you know, and one must be thorough.  I also intend to visit another place on that list.  Not because they may also have an excellent burger, but because of their name and the magazine's description:  "Dinker's, Omaha - The decor hearkens to a 1970s bowling alley."  Now that sounds like my kind of place.

Oh, one more thing.  This is not about burgers, but I really want to mention another place I discovered personally for the first time recently.  If you want the best pizza you must go here.
It's called Dough Trader Pizza Company, just off Jackson Boulevard in Spearfish, South Dakota.  I can say without any hesitation it is the best pizza I've ever had.  Not a big place, but fun and friendly with great food.  And a cool vibe, if that matters to you.  And I hope it does.  So check them out if you're not in the mood for a burger.  You won't be disappointed.

There are also a few other local non-food places that I would like to talk about some time soon, including one with a classic Bob Dylan poster on the wall and another with a "What Would Neil Young  Do?" poster.  What's on the wall can establish the mood and personality of a place, so be observant in your travels.  And I'll see you down the road.


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