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South Dakota's best local eateries: Battle of the Eats 2022

Here's a look at all of our features on small-town restaurants in our region.

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Inside Jake's Lounge
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Are you looking for an off-the-beaten place to get a great bite to eat in South Dakota?

Something other than "just the regular?" A restaurant that provides some pzazz? Well, we have a list of places for you.

We traveled all over eastern South Dakota for a second straight summer in search of the best small-town restaurants, nominated by our readers, to tell the stories of the owners, the food and the history behind the eatery.

The Mitchell Republic kicked off this "Battle of the Eats," as we call it, in 2021, even though there was no bracket challenge or competition between those restaurants that were nominated. The battle was basically just getting on the nomination list and making the fun story list.

So, if you missed any of these stories from July through August, or you're just looking for a great place to eat in South Dakota, give one of these wonderful places a try.

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And, if you love these stories and missed any of our restaurant features from 2021, check the bottom of this page.

Meridian Corner

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Meridian Corner sits on the corner of Highway 18 and Highway 81 on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, south of Freeman.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Abby Streyle, manager of Meridian Corner, located at the junction of U.S. Highway 81 and U.S. Highway 18, near Freeman, said the mishmash of different vehicle styles reflects the diverse clientele of the establishment, ranging from farmers at harvest time to tourists traveling through the state.

Read the full story here.

Restaurant at junction of US 81 and US 18 now more than a decade into second incarnation

Buckshot's

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Shown here is Buckshots Roadhouse that sits on the corner of 241st Street and 404th Avenue in Letcher, SD.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Although the restaurant has changed hands and names through the years, owners Angie and Shirley’s passion for cooking and bonding with their customers has taken Buckshot’s to new heights and kept a small town tradition alive at what's known as the Letcher corner.

Read the full story here.

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“We love our customers like family,” said Shirley Enfield, the 88-year-old Letcher native who runs Buckshot's with her daughter, Angie

Jake's Lounge

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A sign inside of Jake's Lounge
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The tin building that’s housed Jake’s Lounge since 1977 isn’t the flashiest building, but it’s among the most bustling business in the Sanborn County community.

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As owner Deb Jacobsen says, “It’s what inside that matters.”

Read the full story here.

“We keep it simple but make sure we are cooking food that’s done right and people like,” said owner Deb Jacobsen.

Choteau Creek

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Choteau Creek Brewing Company's 54 Paces, a farmhouse-style ale, is pictured on Thursday, July 14, 2022 near Wagner.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

In the trendy boom of craft beer and local food experiences, there is not a more unique mix between the two in South Dakota. That’s especially the case when you consider the location, out in the country, 8 miles from Wagner, and out on a gravel road.

Then again, how many breweries have cattle just outside the window?

Read more here.

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“We’re not a restaurant. We’re not a bar. We’re just completely different and it’s something unique, that our customers are getting something they’re not getting anywhere else,” Lisa Schoenfelder said.

Big J's Roadhouse

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Inside Big J's Roadhouse in Humboldt.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

There's slow-smoked brisket, and ribs and eye-poppingly good smoked chicken wings at this low-key joint located where the gravel road meets pavement off Interstate 90 exit 379.

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Read all about it here.

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The Kjellsens started off with borrowed equipment, making food for events across the Midwest, including the Sturgis motorcycle rally and a lot of powwows (Kjellsen is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin).

Blue Moon

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The Blue Moon Bar and Grill in Armour, SD.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The Blue Moon, originally a Veterans of Foreign Wars building when it was purchased in 2001 by Hinckley, was remodeled with his own hands into the steakhouse locals and tourists across the Midwest rave about.

The full story is found here.

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Customers love the noon specials during the week and the home-made taste to everything that exits the kitchen, as well as the relaxed feel and remarkable wait-staff.

Animals Bar

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Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Nestled in a small Main Street building in Canova, of 105 people, the restaurant boasts a menu that reads like a list from grandma’s recipe box. Chicken fried steak. Prime rib. Mashed potatoes. A salad bar. Lasagna. Tater tot hotdish. It’s a lineup that can easily satisfy the hungriest of the hungry.

Read all about it here.

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From prime rib to chicken fried steak, hearty food always on the menu

Inside Scoop

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Joey Opheim works in the kitchen preparing for customers on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 at the Inside Scoop in Lake Andes.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

After about a year-long hiatus, The Inside Scoop was back. So, too, were the signature food specials like the ultimate chili cheese dog, beef chislic basket and breakfast burritos.

“This is a special place to me, and I never want to see Lake Andes without a good restaurant in town. I definitely missed it all,” Cindy Mengenhauser, longtime owner, said of The Inside Scoop.

Dive into the entire story here.

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“This is a special place to me, and I never want to see Lake Andes without a good restaurant in town. I definitely missed it all,” Cindy Mengenhauser said of The Inside Scoop.

Ron's Service

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Ron and Jennifer Fischer, owners of Ron's Service in Tripp, SD.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Campers fill the parking lot with full hookups. A giant flat screen TV, jukebox and dart boards galore greet you as soon as you walk in. To the left, a party space where the restaurant hosts large events. To the right, a convenience store-type set up with shelves full of the necessities. Hidden in the back corner are the slot machines.

Further on, you can see a semi truck being worked on through the glass doors that enter into an automotive shop that’s directly attached to the restaurant.

“It’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of deal,” Ron Fischer, co-owner of Ron’s Service, said with a laugh.

The entire story, here.

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An all-in-one automotive repair shop, convenience store, campground, restaurant and bar holds the heart of its community.

Here's a look at our 2021 Battle of the Eat small-town eateries.

A roundup of our Battle of the Eats features

Give us your feedback if you like these restaurants. Email us at dailynews@mitchellrepublic.com and give us more options to feature in the summer of 2023.

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The Mitchell Republic will be featuring readers' favorite small-town diners and restaurants in the ongoing feature Battle of the Eats.


Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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