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There is a sweet love affair happening on East Helena’s Main Street, with no end in sight. It involves Annie and Dave Posey, owners of Main Street Eats and the residents of this small town who adore them. And it’s about to get even more affectionate, when this hard-working couple opens up Blackjack Burger Company, a few doors down from Main Street Eats. In between the two businesses, the Poseys have repurposed Lucky’s, the oldest building on Main Street. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the fact it’s now a candy store, ice cream and soda fountain shop. Annie and Dave have become champions of revitalizing the town of East Helena.

Annie was born in California, but would spend summers in East Helena with family. Dave, originally from northern California, was formally trained as a chef at the San Francisco Culinary Arts Academy. Their paths merged in Las Vegas where they both worked in the food industry and would eventually get hitched. But Annie’s Montana roots were tugging at her. “I pulled Dave back to Montana kicking and screaming," she said. Dave served as executive chef at Big Sky Resort, along with working in a few Helena establishments before they decided to settle in East Helena in 1994. Longing to be their own bosses, they opened Main Street Eats in September 2014.

This small café can easily be defined as a mom-and-pop operation, with Dave both cooking and running the kitchen, while Annie oversees the front of the house, with wait staff and customers. But the menu choices shine with sophistication, thanks to Dave’s natural ability to pair ingredients and flavors that keep customers coming back for more. For breakfast, you can opt for the usual fare of eggs, bacon or ham, potatoes and toast, but why settle for ordinary?

Instead, opt for a special, Croque Madam, consisting of basted eggs over Parmesan-grilled toast with ham, Swiss and béchamel, served with fresh fruit, tomatoes, and basil leaf. Dave’s pecan waffle, another special, features Frangelico- and pecan-infused sweet cream in a Belgian waffle. Added to these specials are regular menu options including bagel breakfast sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, and a nice assortment of pizza oven omelets made with extra-large Hutterrite eggs. Butter (never margarine) and olive oil are absolutes in Dave’s kitchen. Annie makes it clear that what comes out of the kitchen isn’t diet food.

The transition between breakfast and lunch is seamless. Dave’s creativity in the kitchen manifests itself in the lunch options as well. Soups, sandwiches, salads and daily specials, such as barbecued ribs during the summer keep the customers satisfied.

The vibe inside Main Street Eats is very upbeat for a few reasons. Pandora streams in the background, and it’s common to hear Annie humming or singing along. The pace between the kitchen and wait staff is brisk — no one sits very long with having an order taken, coffee or water refilled and food brought out quickly. And there's plenty of smiles and laughter between the customers and staff. Main Street Eats is a happy place. You’re bound to walk out contented and well-nourished and knowing the pricing was more than fair.

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The café has become a gathering place for various groups of friends to meet over a meal. I chatted up a Thursday group of men, mostly retired, who gather for breakfast. They call themselves the Helena Deplorables and claim they are regulars because the owners tolerate them. They are full of silly talk. One of them shared that Annie sings “happy birthday” with her ukulele if she knows it’s a customer’s special day. Annie shook her head no … but the banter continued, with another suggesting Annie was part of a famous opera at one time. Annie, wearing an ear-to-ear grin, continued to shake her head no, although she later told me she was in a band in her earlier years. “I’ll fix 'em,” she whispered to me. “One of these days I’m gonna show up in a grass skirt and a ukulele and let them have it.”

Jane and Dan Fallon have been regulars since the café opened. “We seldom eat here more than twice a week," Dan said with a laugh. "We come for three things — the food, the people and the music." Annie and Dave are proud of the fact that they have never advertised. It’s purely word of mouth that keeps the tables filled. Annie summed it up by saying the “customers feel like it’s their place, their little secret. We love people, and if you’re good to them, they will be good to you.”

I think this is the foundation for a tasteful love affair!

 

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Donnie Sexton, who retired in 2016 after a long career with the Montana Office of Tourism, currently freelances as a travel writer and photographer, covering destinations around the world.

TheLastBestPlates.com is a digital destination that serves up Montana's tasty food, travel and culture stories … one bite at a time.

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