From Philipsburg to Martinsdale, Drummond to Jordan, and everywhere in between, here are some of Montana's best local eateries.
When Brett and Candi Schreyer decided to take a road trip from their home in Stevensville to Philipsburg, little did they know it would change their path in life. Candi spotted a small building being renovated and said that would be a great spot to open a little barbecue joint. As Brett would say, the rest is history.
It might look like Mayana and Dan Rice are selling pizza, warm cinnamon rolls, turnovers, and healthy salads and sandwiches in their shop in downtown Livingston, but what they really are doing is building community — one bite at a time.
On the east end of Main Street in Bozeman’s thriving downtown, where boutiques and galleries mingle with hip bars and restaurants, there’s a gem that still functions, as if untouched by time, as a relic of the old West. Here, at the Western Cafe, classic swivel diner stools are lined up against the counter, typically filled with regular customers. Behind, a pie cooler displays the day’s picks and the kitchen is visible off to the side with the original twirling ticket holder still in use and the sizzling sounds of bacon and eggs coinciding with the chatter of a full house.
When Marion and Rhoda Sommers relocated from Missouri to Gold Creek, Montana back in 2004, little did the locals know what a positive impact this Mennonite family would make in terms of attracting visitors to their tiny community.
On a chilly February evening in 1997, Dean Mitchell tugged on a string to light up a beer sign hanging in the window of an old yellow house on Main Street in the sleepy town of Willow Creek, Montana. It still worked, even though the cafe and saloon had been closed for more than two years. He’d received a beer delivery that day, dusted off the antique wooden bar, and put the bar stools into position. Now all he needed was a customer.
There are 135 juicy reasons to detour off I-90 into Drummond, and head straight to Parkers’ Restaurant. I had heard of this place with an outrageous number of hamburgers on the menu and was anxious to check it out for myself. I was not disappointed.
My friend Val Jeffries took me to SEVA Kitchen for lunch to celebrate my 60th birthday. At this time-marked stage in life, globally inspired cuisine only adds flavor and spice to my maturing palate.
Helena’s historic Last Chance Gulch, where four miners struck gold in 1864, has yet another gem for all to savor with the opening of Ristorante Bella Roma. Located in what is currently the Helena Hotel adjacent to Broadway Street, Bella Roma is a dream come true for owner Davide Giuliani.
There is nothing like getting on Interstate 90 and cruising 80 mph without traffic. On this day, my husband and I headed west from Billings to the Gallatin River Lodge. Over the years we had made hundreds of trips to Big Sky, but had never turned at the distinctive sign of a cowboy riding a trout, a few miles south on Jackrabbit Lane in Bozeman. The paved road turned to gravel, guiding us to a 20-acre meadow where the log-hewn building sat amidst views of towering mountains, bordered by the Gallatin River and an inviting pond.
Up a meandering lane in the shade of native serviceberry bushes, organic farmer Jayce Rothschiller of Bozeman, Montana’s Gallatin Valley Botanical (G.V.B.) leads a tour. Mellifluous Bear Creek flows nearby. In front of a 10-acre vegetable field she stops. The fit fortysomething appears more down-to-earth than the tony group trailing behind her on the dirt road. Yet, however out of place they may appear, these folks have come because they value good soil and healthful food.
My friend Sharon Forman and I drove 60 miles from Billings to Red Lodge the other night to have dinner at Ox Pasture, a restaurant featuring local produce and protein. Longtime residents of Montana warned me when I first moved here from California, nearly 18 years ago. They said Montanans are known to drive good distances for a night out.
In Genoa, Italy, the birthplace of pesto, it goes without saying that the sauce is made with basil. Genoese basil, to be exact. Pesto Genovese is so big there that the airport had to loosen its rules, allowing travelers to bring more than 3-ounces of liquid in their carry-on baggage, providing that liquid is pesto (they screen it with their breast milk and medicine scanner).
When Jimmy Ryan returned home to Montana after serving in the Korean War, he was ready to celebrate with a Montana hand-cut steak … or two. This man’s affection for meat eventually turned into a career and an award-winning butcher shop, known as Ryan’s Grocery & Processing in the tiny, remote town of Jordan in eastern Montana.
At Montgomery Distillery in Missoula, proprietors Jenny and Ryan Montgomery distill top-shelf spirits. They tap pure aquifer water and their family’s deep roots in agriculture to concentrate the essence of Montana into small-batch vodka, gin, and whiskey (their primary mission). Four years after they produced their first batch of vodka, they released a two-year old, American oak cask, straight 100% rye whiskey called Sudden Wisdom. It ages in casks and a batch is released each year.
I always choose going on a road trip to celebrate Mother’s Day, and I usually pick a route that enables us to stop and eat at the Crazy Mountain Inn in Martinsdale. The drive to the historic small town nestled between the Castle Mountains, Crazies and Little Belts is picturesque no matter which route you take to get there.
The Missouri is a big river, and it flows through even bigger country. In remote, sparsely populated parts of Central Montana, three ferries still transport farmers, ranchers and intrepid tourists across the wide river from mid-April through mid-November. My favorite is the Virgelle Ferry, largely because of the hospitality and gourmet food that await nearby.
Clint Peck, owner and winemaker at Yellowstone Cellars and Winery in Billings, is regaining his balance.