Taste of Montana: Bozeman three ways

Taste of Montana: dining sidetrips in Bozeman

Three square meals in the Gallatin Valley

Whether you're in the Gallatin Gateway to catch fish, ski, or visit the historical sites, don't forget to check out some of the long-time food establishments favored by locals for great food and familiar surroundings.

Here are three favorites to find breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Bozeman area.

the western cafe bozeman dining montana living

Rise and Shine: the Western Cafe

The Western Café in downtown Bozeman is the perfect place to fill your belly before heading out to wade into the Gallatin for a morning of fishing. The home-style breakfasts are all over the plate - hash browns, toast, and omelets the size of that first trout you'll catch later. If you're really famished, indulge in one of the Western's freshly baked, warm and gooey cinnamon rolls.
Be sure to lift your eyes from your plate and prick up your ears now and then to catch the local ranchers reminiscing about the past, catching up on local gossip, or deciding when to start planting.

The Western has been a fixture in Bozeman for "forever," owner Alice Mierva says. The Western Café is a small diner with a long counter and Formica tables along the walls. A sign on the wall behind the counter quips: "T-bone $2.95 - with meat $12.50."

You can look around the Western and see that not much has changed in 30 years. To their credit, the Miervas have found the recipe to keep locals coming back and attract tourists by word-of-mouth. If you're too full for a cinnamon roll, make sure you take one for the road.

the mint cafe belgrade

Cattlemen's Lunch: The Mint

Take a detour to downtown Belgrade for lunch and a world-class cocktail at The Mint.

Opened in 1995, The Mint is a roadhouse joint with a non-smoking dining room. Lunches are quiet and perfect for hanging out and having a liquid siesta and some voluptuous snacks. Anyone who thinks fried food is bad hasn't eaten at The Mint.

The hand-battered onion rings, potato chip shrimp and chicken fingers will make your heart sing (and forget all about your diet). In a world where most places get the stuff breaded and frozen, places like The Mint are rare.
Another fabulous lunch item is the smoked trout with crostini, raw vegetables and Cajun tartar sauce. Try a spread of fried delights and the trout, and share with one or two companions while sipping one of the delightful Martini-style drinks on the extensive cocktail menu.

The drinks range from traditional olive Martini to transcendental raspberry Gimlet - using top-shelf vodkas, gins and liqueurs along with many special flavor accents. The Mint has a clean, casual feel. General manager Chuck Donch is proud of the broad-spectrum appeal of the place. "When you come in here, you could sit next to anyone from a techno-yuppie to a farm hand," he says.

The Mint is adorned with photos of customers, scenery and family and friends of owner Jay Bentley. In a dining alcove decorated by Bentley, a few curious photos of men in dresses and wigs appear. "That was a ladies-only cigar night we had a few years back," Donch says. "A couple of husbands didn't want to miss out." Apparently so. Don't miss out on The Mint.

john bozeman bistro food montana living taste dining

Fresh Fish Fusion: John Bozeman's Bistro

Five years ago, owner and chef Tyler Hill put a bunch of his "designer, artist and architect friends together," and moved to the sunny side of Main street in Bozeman. What they created after refurbishing 125 Main Steet was John Bozeman's Bistro.

john bozeman bistro food montana living taste dining waitress

This particular storefront had been a restaurant of one kind or another since the 1930s, and when Hill found it the place was in need of some serious tender loving care. He brought the décor into the millennium, while preserving some of the original grandeur of the building by restoring the façade, using historical photos and refinishing the original booths. A pioneer of casual fine-dining in the Bozeman area, Hill is proud of the fare at The Bistro.

Hill and Chef Perry Wentzel have collaborated the last 10 years to create eclectic menus featuring fresh fish and multi-ethnic fusions. "We put a lot of attention to detail - there isn't a formula ... it's a labor of love," Hill said. One highlight of the menu is choosing from the fresh fish of the day, and having it cooked in one of four fusion methods.

These are:

Pacific Surf - broiled fresh fish with roasted vegetables, spinach, goat cheese, and a potato gallette, sauced with horseradish crème fraiche and golden bell pepper coulis.

Zen - your fish in a sesame-papaya-ginger glaze, stir fry vegetables, fried tempura shrimp sushi, soba noodle and tofu salad in a Bento box.

Fresca - fresh fish or scampi marinated with citrus and herbs, served on linguine, and accompanied by fresh basil, garlic, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, and roasted Roma tomatoes, and crushed pepper goat cheese.

Baja - the fish is encrusted with pistachio nuts, roasted cumin and coriander, and presented with mango salsa, Cuban black beans, grilled cactus, red, yellow and green pepper sauces and cilantro lime rice.

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Chefs Hill and Wentzel are working on menu changes for this year, so, look for new choices of fresh-catch preparations. The Bistro has a nice list of wines, homemade desserts and great service to go along with the food.

The Dish

The Western Café - 443 E. Main St. Bozeman; 587-0436

The Mint - 27 E. Main St. Belgrade; 388-1100

John Bozeman's Bistro: 125 W. Main St., Bozeman; 587-4100 www.johnbozemansbistro.com

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