At the tail end of March 2014, a friend and I decided to drive out to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower. It was springtime in the Midwest, and thoughts of winter storms were long behind us. About ninety minutes west of Sioux Falls along Interstate 90, however, the temperature began to drop, the wind picked up, and dark clouds formed ominously on the horizon.
Apparently we had driven into “Winter Storm Xenia,” which hit parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and northeast Wyoming. There were 5-6 foot snow drifts in Roseau, Minn and wind gusts of up to 64 mph in Rapid City.
We decided to stop for gas and check the weather at the Conoco gas station off Highway 16 near the tiny town of Kimball, South Dakota. “Real Food,” a large sign announced as we pulled off the interstate. The sign referred to Doo-Wah Ditty’s Diner, located inside the gas station.
I assume Ditty’s Diner was named after “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” the 1964 single by British pop-rock band Manfred Mann. The song was originally written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich and recorded in 1963 as “Do-Wah-Diddy” by an R&B group from Queens, New York called The Exciters.
The restaurant itself is a typical 1950s or rock ‘n’ roll-themed diner, with photos and memorabilia on the walls. It also features a restored, red and black 1923 Model T Ford Speedster. We stopped in around lunchtime, so I ordered a cheeseburger. They offer a few custom burgers, including “The Ditty Burger,” “Big Bopper Burger,” and the “Heart Attack Burger.” The Big Bopper includes bacon, ham, onion rings, Swiss and cheddar cheese, and jalapeno mayo.
The menu has a wide variety of food, and it claims to offer “The best darn food you’ve ever eaten anywhere or we’ll apologize, take your money and try to do better next time.” Reviews on Trip Advisor were mostly good until 2016, when people started to complain about slow service and an unfriendly waitress. Ditty’s is #5 on a list of “Awesome Diners in South Dakota.”
As my friend and I got back on the interstate, the winter storm hit with a fury. We drove another 30 minutes in whiteout conditions and stopped in Chamberlain along the Missouri River. We were basically snowed in for a night, but the next day, the sun came out. By the afternoon, you’d never know how icy and dangerous the roads had been. I’ll never forget that strange spring snowstorm, and lunch at Doo-Wah Ditty’s Diner.