As we celebrate Independence Day, I was thinking about the Midwest attraction that best symbolizes America. Mount Rushmore represents four presidents who were instrumental in our nation’s development, preservation, growth, and development.
Traveling to South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and all the natural beauty in the Black Hills and Badlands, you’ll most likely fly into or drive through Rapid City. The walkable downtown area of Rapid City itself is worth a visit, whether you spend a day at the beginning of your trip or take a break from Mother Nature mid-trip.
If not for the sign out front, you might think you were pulling up to someone’s home. Actually, you are. The family dog may greet you and escort you to the door of the manufactured home set on a hill overlooking a lush pine valley.
Inside, you may be seated next to the fireplace in the dining room. Family photos fill the walls, including photos of Nicolas Black Elk, medicine man and warrior of the Native American Oglala Lakota tribe, who was restaurant owner Betty O’Rourke’s great-grandfather.
Bette’s Kitchen’s menu includes fare like fried chicken, burgers, BLTs, chef’s salad and soup. However, for our group that Betty hosted, she put out a huge spread of chicken, beef, chicken noodle soup, salads, baked beans, fresh watermelon and cupcakes frosted in vivid colors, punctuated with colorful sprinkles. The meal was served buffet style with paper plates from a folding table in Betty’s kitchen, an experience much like a family picnic.
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In fact, you can savor your meal picnic-style while enjoying the beauty of the South Dakota scenery in the tented outdoor seating area if you prefer.
Betty’s cooking is like that of your aunt or grandmother, down-home deliciousness. The soup was chock full of thick noodles, the chicken crispy and juicy, the beef tender and flavorful. It’s no wonder that Betty served over 2,000 people last summer. Besides local regulars, it isn’t uncommon for Betty to serve busloads that stop in for lunch in the remote location.
Bette’s Kitchen is located at 111 Black Elk Road, one mile north of Manderson in western South Dakota. Phone (605) 867-1739.
Disclosure: My visit to Bette’s Kitchen was hosted by the South Dakota Department of Tourism and Bette’s Kitchen. However, all opinions in this article are my own.
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According to the 2010 U.S. Census, over 82,000 people, 12.5% of South Dakota’s population, are of Native American descent, either fully or in combination with other nationalities or ethnicity. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, at 2.8 million acres, is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Not surprising, several of the places I visited during my September South Dakota trip emphasized Native American heritage, including Lakota Ways in Wall and several stops on the reservation.