During our time at Mount Rushmore, we did need to eat. We stopped at the one restaurant inside the park – Carver’s Cafe. Carver’s Cafe is a cafeteria type location with several different stations. The main three are Black Hills Harvest (sandwiches and salads), Dakota Kitchen (buffalo stew, pot roast), and Memorial Grill (hot dogs and burgers). There is also an ice cream chop and a coffee shop.
We chose to all go to the Memorial Grill. M and I were wanting to try the Buffalo Burgers since these are supposed to be the must eat meal of South Dakota. The kids had regular cheeseburgers or hot dogs.
This was the Buffalo Bacon Cheeseburger, which was served with fries. Let’s start with the burger. If you are trying buffalo for the first time, which I was, you should know ahead of time that buffalo is a leaner meat than beef, which means it is also drier in general. A well prepared buffalo burger will still be juicy, but not in the way a beef burger is. However, these were cafeteria grilled burgers, and they were incredibly dry. Flavor-wise they were pretty decent, but it was kind of a McDonalds-does-buffalo thing. The fries were fine. Nothing special, again think McDonalds.
I did have some major food-envy going on after seeing the people who had chosen to go to Dakota Kitchen. The buffalo stew looked amazing. Chunks of buffalo with potatoes, carrots, peas and onions in a gravy. If it tasted like it looked, I’m sure it was great. When we go back in the future, I will definitely be trying that instead.
Being that Carver’s is the only place to eat within the memorial, it was incredibly crowded. There were a lot of people wandering with full trays looking for tables. It was also very loud.
Later in the day, we decided to stop for a snack, and returned to Carver’s for some ice cream. They serve two types of ice cream: soft serve vanilla, chocolate, or swirl and a hand-dipped vanilla. The hand-dipped is supposedly the same recipe that Thomas Jefferson used. He is credited with bringing the first written recipe for ice cream to the United States in 1780. We decided to split 2 dishes (one of each) between the 5 of us.
The soft serve was good, basic ice cream. The hand-dipped vanilla, on the other hand, was A.Maz.Ing. Possibly the best vanilla ice cream I have ever had. Seriously, you have to have the hand-dipped if you stop at Mount Rushmore. It is not to be missed.
Along with our ice cream, we decided to share a Fudg-a-lo. This is a buffalo made out of fudge with a buffalo shaped cookie cutter that you get to keep. The cookie cutter makes a neat souvenir. The fudge was really good, but WAY too much for 5 people with ice cream, so we put the majority in the cooler and gnawed on it over the next couple of days.
After our snack and picking up a few souvenirs, we headed out. We had one more stop for the day a little farther south.