Missoula's Red Bird: a touch of class in downtown Missoula

By Therese Wood


If you wander into the Red Bird Wine Bar in downtown Missoula, you’ll find not only an impressive wine list and interesting appetizer menu, but also a good dose of the color red. The restaurant’s sophisticated atmosphere, with black furniture and red walls, is underscored by an impressive hanging red glass panel light display that covers a whole section of the room.

The bartenders here are young and bright and have good suggestions about the wine and appetizers. My choice this night was a glass of the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and the bison pear and cheese fondue – one of the bartenders’ favorites. The early-evening crowd was mostly a 20s and 30s something mix, but you’ll see people of all ages mixing in the wine bar, restaurant and adjacent open air lobby of the Florence Hotel. The bison was succulent — flavorfully marinated meat and made even more delicious when dipped in the fondue of Swiss, gouda, Yarlsburg, gruyere and champagne. This, intermingled with bites of fresh pear and sourdough bread also dipped in the fondue, and the Dog Point wine was nothing short of a perfect pairing of tastes.

bison fondue


By 6 p.m. the bar quickly started to fill up with a fine evening-out buzz. Another young couple at the bar was approached by an acquaintance who was now being told that they were on a “meet the parents” night. What a contrast, I thought, the exact opposite of the newlyweds on my left. The young man talks of wanting to travel with his girlfriend to Argentina, to find a job there for awhile. “I’ll crush grapes for six months if I have to,” he declares. Then, suddenly mom and dad arrive and it's now standing room only as parties are gradually called to be seated in the main dining room.

Red Bird’s owner, Laura, who has been busy in the dining room and kitchen, now arrives at the bar. She is gracious and friendly and happy to explain how food is are prepared. She explains that they decided to open the wine bar in an effort to be more sustainable. The appetizers they offer at the bar allow them to use the left over cuts of meat, like bison tips, that can’t be used for entrees. “We can use the whole animal by creating new appetizers, instead of throwing parts of it away,” she explains. “I’m a recovered vegetarian,” she said. “A lot of people get organic and sustainable confused,” she adds. “Sustainable means using all the parts, not throwing anything away.”

Laura suggests a dessert, and the chocolate cherry bomb sounded like the ideal finale. It is a scoop of chocolate cherry ice cream placed on top of a dense chocolate cake crust, artfully drizzled with dark chocolate and adorned with fresh raspberries. It is a dessert to remember; one to discuss at another dining experience when favorite desserts are the topic. As with a fine wine, from start to finish, it seems one can't go wrong with a visit to the Red Bird Wine Bar.


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