I’ll be honest, I haven’t really explored Chamberlain as much as I should have at this point in my life.
One morning 605’s John Snyder and I refused to do our usual stop at Taco John’s off exit 263 on I-90 and traveled into town on Main Street for the Anchor Grille.
The diner was legit, but that was years ago. So when someone told me there was a newer restaurant in Chamberlain called The Smoking Mule, I had to try it.
Known for “burgers, brew, and barbeque,” the eatery invites you to “park your ass” (the face of the business is a donkey), and dig in to house-smoked offerings.
One of the owners, Cheryl Gaulke, warned me on the phone that there were sandbags near the building, which we found out was located in the American Creek Marina. Pulled pork and the Missouri River? I was already intrigued.
John joined me, and we were very impressed right away when we walked inside and noticed there wasn’t a bad view in the place. There were large windows all over the dining room, which also had industrial metal accents throughout.
Bar manager Dayre Evans met us up front and told us everything was brand new except the mural of the Chamberlain Bridge.
He also gave us a brief history of The Smoking Mule, and told us owners Cheryl and Terry originally opened the company in Kimball, which is where a lot of the staff are still from. The eatery just moved to Chamberlain this past March.
“We’re like one big family,” said Evans about the team.
Patrons were obviously all close as well, because one made the paper towel holders displayed on the tables, and another made the tin Smoking Mule sign in the bar.
The bar is also very neat, and is a hodgepodge of local brewery signs, which Evans says they are very passionate about.
“One of our bar tables actually has a Lost Cabin Beer Co. design on it, and we try to carry as much local beer as possible,” he explained.
Speaking of, he brought over a Sick-N-Twisted Brewing Co. Orange Tart as one of our drinks to give us a taste.
Since I was driving, I had the Strawberry and Cream Italian Soda, which was a fruity delight.
Up first were appetizers, and we tried the Bayou Spicy Shrimp and the Gouda Bites.
Evans says the shrimp is one of the most popular items. The dish is a half-pound of shrimp sautéed in garlic butter and Cajun spices, and is served with grilled crusty bread.
So much buttery goodness. Just when you think there’s so much (yummy) butter in the shrimp, the bread was also buttered and was great to dip into the bowl. While they describe it as “crusty,” the crunchy bread was one of my favorite parts.
John took a few bites and said, “The shrimp has a little kick, but not too much.”
The Gouda Bites were battered gouda and tender macaroni fried to a golden brown. It came with ranch and I requested BBQ sauce. If I didn’t have to eat more entrées, I would have finished it.
Then the Mule Burger showed up. This is a third-pound handcrafted beef patty with barbecue pulled pork, candied bacon, and cheddar and pepper jack cheese. When I see food items like this, it scares me. It just looks so intense.
I knew I had to at least take a nibble, so I did. And it was awesome. All of the flavors complemented one another, and the pulled pork wasn’t too much on top and didn’t smoosh out of the bun.
“It’s so juicy,” said John.
The burger came with a side of the Smoked Mac and Cheese, which I was looking forward to. It honestly was a bit bland, and I had hoped it would have been more rich or packed more of a punch. But taking a bit of pulled pork and combining it with the mac helped.
Next was the Green Chili Pulled Pork Chimichanga. This has pork with house green chili sauce, refried beans, and cheddar cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla fried until crispy and served over a bed of lettuce with sour cream and salsa.
This is a great item for Mexican food fans, especially if you love refried beans, because that’s what a lot of the chimichanga entails.
“There are a lot of beans in this, but I’m not mad about it,” I said.
The side salad made us feel semi-healthy in between bites of refried beans and pork, but we didn’t really focus on the salad as we consumed all things involving salsa and sour cream.
Our finale was the Chicken and Ribs Combo, which was a quarter smoked chicken and a quarter rack of ribs with a choice of white or dark chicken. This came with Kick Ass Loaded Beans, which are house-made in their smoker.
They were, in fact, loaded with three different kinds of beans, smoked ribs, pulled pork, seasoned burger, corn, peppers, and more. These are the star of The Smoking Mule. You know how sometimes you get a feeble attempt at beans that you get in a tiny cup when you go to a pork and ribs restaurant? These were standalone fantastic.
And then we ate the ribs and chicken. The chicken was nice and moist, and the ribs were smoked to perfection.
“The ribs have a nice sweet sauce,” said John.
This meal works solo or for sharing.
Blue mussels sautéed finished with an Asian flair, served with grilled crusty bread.
›PHILLY WHIZ BURGER
⅓-pound handcrafted beef patty, sautéed onions, mushrooms, and peppers with house-made “cheese whiz.”
›SMOKED BONE-IN PORK LOIN CHOP
Prime cut of bone-in pork loin, smoked, and the Mule’s own peppered blueberry barbecue sauce.
›SHRIMP PO BOY
Grilled Parisian roll with creole aioli, shredded lettuce, roma tomatoes, and hand-breaded fried shrimp.
›BLEU STEAK SALAD
New York strip grilled to medium, placed on fresh greens with roma tomatoes, cucumbers, grated cheddar cheese, bleu cheese crumbles, and croutons.
›STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM CHIMICHANGA
House made sweet strawberries and cream filling wrapped in a flour tortilla fried to a crispy perfection, topped with powdered sugar and strawberry glaze.
Unless you’re in a hurry, why would you ever turn down quality food and a view of the river to break up your road trip? Between the Mule Burger and the side of beans that I could eat as a meal, I’m never making the mistake of a gas station or fast food as an option again.
309 E. Glen Ave., Chamberlain // (605) 234-6853 // Facebook
I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a side of beans in my life. The mix of ingredients plus the smoky taste were so different and make my mouth water just thinking about it. Also, it’s not every day you come across a place in South Dakota with a solid shrimp dish. I’m excited to come back and try things like the mussels.
The dining area is really nice, and I dig that they kept the mural but added an industrial look to the space. I loved the bar, and hope to make a day trip soon where I can hang in there, grab some popcorn, and drink local brews. Then there’s the patio with a bonfire and tremendous views. I’d like to drink out there as well.
Most items are in the $10-$15 range, but there are some items like the New York Strip and a larger order of the Bayou Spicy Shrimp that are over $20. All in all it’s very affordable, especially for location, location, location.
Rating Scale: Ambiance ++++ | Price $$$$$ | Taste ++++
It's the Facts
OPEN MONDAY THROUGH THURSDAY FROM 11 A.M. – 10 P.M., AND FRIDAY THROUGH SUNDAY 11 A.M. – 2 A.M.
CHECK THE SMOKING MULE’S FACEBOOK FOR DAILY SPECIALS.
THE RESTAURANT IS NAMED AFTER TERRY’S NICKNAME IN HIGH SCHOOL, WHICH WAS “MULE.”