Off the Beaten Path: Whimp’s Steakhouse in Burbank, South Dakota
Blogger's Note: Some of the best restaurants in South Dakota are hole-in-the-wall, hidden gems in tiny towns with nothing more than a Main Street and a loyal, local clientele. We're taking a road trip and highlighting some of South Dakota's best.
If you grew up around the Vermillion area or went to the University of South Dakota, you know exactly where Whimp's Steakhouse is. Whimp's in Burbank, South Dakota is less than 10 miles away from Vermillion. USD students load up cars and drive to Whimp's on Thursday nights for all-you-can-eat spaghetti. It's been a tradition for USD students for years. I remember my sister (and USD alumnus) going to Whimp's for AYCE spaghetti back in the early 80's. All-you-can-eat spaghetti is just one of the menu items that has kept Whimp's a local favorite for over 50 years. But, that's just the beginning.
If you took a wrong turn, got lost and ended up in Burbank and just happened to drive by Whimp's, you probably wouldn't stop, especially if you hadn't heard about its reputation. The building isn't flashy, as a matter of fact, it's kind of rundown. It looks like a dive bar. If there's one thing I've learned about traveling around South Dakota looking for the elusive "hidden gem" is to never judge a book by its cover.
Don't get discouraged when you walk in. One thing's for sure, if you're a newbie everyone will turn and stare at you. They're just looking to see if they know you. If not, they smile and then turn their eyes back to the TV or their Bud Light. You find a seat and your Whimp's experience begins.
There are two things you MUST order when you go to Whimp's - the broasted chicken and the steak. The coating on the chicken doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the chicken. The light coating adds just a kiss of saltiness to the juicy, hot chicken. Broasting chicken is like using a pressure cooker. It locks in more of the chicken's natural flavor and tenderizes it at the same time. Whimp's has it down to a science.
The other must-order menu item is steak. Tenderloin is definitely the specialty with three sizes to choose from, and you'll never find a price like this for a tenderloin steak dinner in Sioux Falls. I believe we paid less than $15 for a 5 ounce tenderloin, potato, salad and loaf of homemade bread (more on that later).
You could also order tenderloin tips or a sirloin, but don't expect rib eyes or t-bones. They keep the steak selection simple and concentrate on making it one of the best steaks you've ever had. Tenderloin is amazingly tender anyway, but cooking it on a flat top and giving it a crust that holds the juices in takes it over the top.
There are several sides to choose from including hand-cut fries and broasted potatoes. Your meal also comes with a homemade loaf of bread. It tastes just like what my mom used to make.
The inside is typical for a small town restaurant that's been around for over 50 years - paneling on the walls and stackable banquet chairs. But, that's what gives Whimp's its unique character. It's not the ambiance that makes Whimp's special, it's the food and friendly, small town service. Veer off the beaten path and check out some of South Dakota's hidden gems, including Whimp's in Burbank, South Dakota.