The Custer Wolf Restaurant: Good Food and a Surly Todd

The Sunday Gulch Trail (read here) had taken a little bit out of us, so we headed into the town of Custer, SD to find some post-hike chow. We found The Custer Wolf Restaurant. It was a beautiful day, and Custer Wolf had outdoor seating. We were greeted promptly, and a server soon took our drink order. As usual, I was looking for a local brewski to quench my after-hike beer craving. I perused the beer list. An IPA caught my eye, mostly because it shared my name (Todd) and my (sometimes) temperament. I ordered a Todd the Axe Man from Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis, MN. Yes, I know, that’s in an adjacent state, but the coincidence called my name. Literally.

When the beer arrived it was in a can. Disappointing, but that’s on me – I didn’t ask. To make matters worse, it wasn’t the beer I ordered, or that was advertised. I didn’t know at the time that Surly Brewing makes an India Pale Ale called “Axe Man” and a variant called “Todd the Axe Man”. The latter has my given name printed in large letters on the can. Without this information, I poured the brew into a pint glass and observed. Axe Man was a pale cloudy amber with a thin head. I tasted it. I judged it to be well-balanced and flavorful, with notes of citrus, but not as refreshing as I wanted in this post-hike pint. My critique notwithstanding, Axe Man earned a 98-point rating from Beer Advocate putting it in their “World Class” category. The Beer Advocate website also lists Axe Man as “Formerly known as ‘Todd the Axe Man'”, while reviewing Todd the Axe Man separately. So, did I get the beer I ordered or not? I have no idea – let me know if you figure it out.

We started our meal with cowboy caviar – a dip made of pinto beans, black-eyed peas, corn, pimentos, and green peppers in a slightly sweet vinegar sauce. It came with a healthy portion of tortilla chips. It was a little watery but tasted great. It was gone inside of three minutes, and we pined for our entrees. Fortunately, they were not far behind.

Having downed the Surly suds with the caviar, I ordered a new brew, a Hoos Joos Inspired Juicy India Pale Ale from Remedy Brewing Company in Sioux Falls. I was happier with this choice. The Hoos Joos poured clear amber with a looser head than the Axe Man. It was just as citrusy but lighter than my first pick and proved more refreshing after a dusty, hot hike. Inspired by and brewed for the South Dakota Rock Band “Judd Hoos”, this IPA is eminently drinkable. Beer Advocate has yet to rate this brew, but this dirty hiker would recommend it over the choppity-chop chill from the next state over.

I ordered the Shredded Buff Sandwich with Potato Smashers. The sandwich contained shredded buffalo meat, topped with slaw, horseradish sauce, and cranberry BBQ. It came on whole-grain wheat. The buffalo was tender and flavorful, and the cranberry BBQ complimented it well, especially when paired with the horseradish sauce. The slaw was kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts and maybe some radish. All in all a good sandwich. Not a “blew-me-away” sandwich, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The potato smashers were fun – a whole red potato cooked, then smashed, then deep-fried, then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Nicely salted and soft on the inside with a crispy exterior. Exhausting to describe, tasty to eat.

Lisa and my stepdaughter Nichole each ordered the Walleye Po’Boy and were similarly pleased, but not overly impressed, with their meals. This is solid food, and I would not hesitate to suggest The Custer Wolf for a casual lunch – I just wouldn’t call it stellar. The prices were mostly reasonable. I felt $16 was justified for the buffalo sandwich with five of the smashers, but I thought $14 seemed a little high for the Po’Boys – breaded, fried fish and slaw on a hoagie roll. My share of the caviar, sandwich, and one beer put me at $25, just barely staying in the $$ range. Still, we walked away satisfied.

All in all we had a good experience at The Custer Wolf Restaurant. The service was prompt and friendly, the food above average. I was a little surly about the Surly substitution, but it’s unclear if that was a brewer bait-n-switch or just one beer with two names. I’m over it now, and I’m not sorry I tried the Axe Man IPA. So if you need to fuel up after hiking in Custer State Park, this place is open 11:30am to 8:00pm on all the days that aren’t called Thursday or Sunday. And if you are a big fan of SD rockers Judd Hoos, you just can’t lose with their Hoos Joos booze! ♦

Date: July 8, 2022
Location: 43.766043, -103.599958
Price Range: $$
Food: ★★★1/2
Everything Else: ★★★1/2

BIT|Hiker acknowledges the indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of the lands on which we hike (or eat). Our research for this post indicated we were on ancestral lands of the Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), and the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ.

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