Plonk: a Bozeman destination
Posted on 08 March 2004
Anchor of the hip strip in Bozeman
By Adrienne Newlon, Montana Living
Plonk is a European colloquialism for cheap wine but it is also the name of Bozeman's hip, new wining and dining hang out and multi-sensory banquet.
Before you even see the menu, you'll want to ingest the luscious surroundings.
Plonk Bozeman is one, long room, with high ceilings, decorated and furnished in a combination of historic old-town Montana, and 70s contempo-lounge. While waiting for your food to come, you'll want to take a good look around, at the restored legend of local cattle brands over the bar, the commissioned abstracts by artist Timothy Meyers that line the walls, the meticulously revived, century-old tin ceiling, and the swanky furniture.
Plonk is the manifestation of the friendship and talent of three guys from Texas - Earle Langeland, Michael Wilson and Stephen Stordahl. Together they are a tour de force of design, restaurant management and food and wine savvy that have combined to provide Bozeman's downtown scene with a distinctive, amusing and classy place to hang out and enjoy great wine, eclectic tapas plates that span the globe, over 70 domestic and imported cheeses, and lusty desserts - all served up without the usual big-city attitude that can come with such accoutrements.
On warm days, Plonk's entire storefront opens up to let in sun and fresh air - thanks to specially-made glass paneled doors crafted in Manhattan, Montana. A cluster of tables in front is the perfect place to get lunch on a sunny day, and chat with friends, or have a quiet business meeting. There is also a new patio in back with a soothing fountain, where you can get an extra serving of sunshine, and Gallatin valley breezes with your meal.
By night, however, Plonk really rocks.
The lights are dimmed, the stereo gets turned up, pumping out avante garde jazz, techno-pop, and various indy genre tunes. A steady stream of singles, couples, and groups gradually fill every table, couch, and bar stool. You may see a group of six college students with product-messy hair, and low-slung jeans unwinding after a week at school, or two well-groomed 40-something couples, out for a night without the kids, chatting over a bottle of Casa Silva Chilean Reserve Carmenere, sharing from various plates spread across the table. Those going solo at the bar hang out and visit with each other, or catch up on the headlines, sipping wine by the glass.
Langeland, Wilson and Stordahl pulled out all the stops in creating Plonk. Although the place is a hopping night spot, it has panache, it's immaculate. Attention is focused on the quality and creativity of the food, and the wine selection.
Each of these men brings an array of skills and experiences: Langeland has business savvy, design and construction, and quality control. Wilson, a veteran of the food business, keeps a handle on daytime operations; and Stordahl has extensive wine knowledge and style-sense born of years living abroad. They collaborated in coming up with the atmosphere, visual character and culinary direction of Plonk, while they rolled up their sleeves and worked day and night for almost a year to manifest it - at one point realizing that they needed to dig out the basement by hand to add square-footage for the kitchens and wine cellar.
The well-equipped basement kitchen is where chef Matt Gilbert puts out an intermittently changing menu of petit plates bearing dishes from home-style vegetables au gratin, to Moulles frites, to Indian pakoras, with three sauces. Each dish is well-prepared and artfully presented. The well-heeled glass-pour wine menu makes it possible to have an assortment of pairings with your food, instead of having to stick to just one wine throughout. A great way to start out is with a glass of sparkling wine (Plonk has both red and white with bubbles), and a bread and cheese board. From there, the world is your oyster, so to speak.
Whenever possible, Gilbert takes advantage of local purveyors to entwine the tastes of Montana with foods from farther away on the map. No matter the region, or style of cuisine, the foods are delightful in their authenticity and depth.
The assertive collection of old and new world wines is the backbone of the experience at Plonk. The three partners are committed to having notable wines available at reasonable prices. They accomplish this by selling the wine at retail prices and adding a small corkage fee. Stordahl has a serious knack for identifying wines that are less-known, but deliver the goods wine drinkers expect from more popular and expensive picks. And you won't see many of the Plonk selections on supermarket shelves, or on the wine lists of neighboring cafes. Like Plonk's menu, its wine collection is an international excursion.
The jewel in the crown for Plonk is the newly-constructed wine cellar, which opened Aug. 9. The cellar has a 5,000-bottle capacity, oriental carpet, a leather couch and a 14-seat harvest table. After the finishing touches are in place, the cellar will be available for private gatherings of food and wine tasting, where the chef will send in dish after dish of fare created especially for those gathered around the table, which, Langeland promises will result in lavish gastronomic ecstasy.
Plonk is located at 29 E. Main St. in downtown Bozeman. Phone 587-2170. Plonk is completely non-smoking, and no one under 21 is permitted.