We asked readers a simple question: What’s your favorite meal when you go out to eat? The objective wasn’t to conduct a contest, but rather to provide a forum to showcase and celebrate readers’ tastes and the region’s eclectic culinary opportunities — and maybe inspire people to try something new.
We didn’t limit the type of restaurant or price range, nor did we care whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, and the diversity of answers reflected that open-endedness. The responses that flooded our email inbox and Facebook page ranged from deli burritos and gas station sandwiches to slightly more upscale fare, such as lamb pappardelle and finely crafted sushi, and everything in between.
There were the usual suspects one would anticipate, including long-established cornerstone eateries and staples such as burgers and pizza. But there were also pleasant surprises, including a grilled cheese sandwich made with homemade kimchi in Hot Springs and an off-the-beaten-path succulent prime rib in Olney. Even non-surprising restaurants were selected for unexpected reasons — say, a cheeseburger at a Cuban joint.
Further illustrating the diversity of cuisine offered in the region is the relative shortage of repeat answers. Sure, a few places received multiple votes, but for the most part the responses were across the board, stretching to Hot Springs, Polson, Woods Bay, Polebridge, Rexford, Eureka, Libby, Olney and of course all the main communities in between. Mudman Burgers had the largest tally of responses.
The list below is culled from the numerous comments and emails we received. Restaurants that were mentioned but didn’t have a meal specified are listed separately.
Thanks for reminding us yet again how awesome it is to live — and eat — in Northwest Montana.
You’ve spoken. We’re hungry.
-Desoto Grill | Smokehouse Nachos w/ Beef Brisket | Hannah M. — “best nachos I’ve ever had in my life”
-Desoto Grill | Elk Sausage Hoagie | Dale S.
-Desoto Grill | Supercharged BLT | Maria M.
-Hop’s Downtown Grill | Black Bean Veggie Burger | Darla J.
-Hop’s Downtown Grill | Bleu Burger w/ Bacon | Jeff L.
-Hop’s Downtown Grill | Baja Fish Tacos | Maria M.
-Alley Connection | Kiet’s Dinner | Deb R.
-Alley Connection | Connection Special | Gail N. — “everybody knows why”
-Split Rock Café | Split Rock Cobb Salad w/ Feta | Martha A. — “so amazing!”
-Moose’s Saloon | Sausage and Sauerkraut Pizza | Nancy W.
-Sykes Diner | Saddlebag | Don B.
-Bamboo Hut | Pho | Muriel W. — “in the mall … the best pho forphosakes”
-Pho Ly | Pho | Angel E. — “authentic”
-Pho Ly | Spring Rolls | Ren Ann R. — “the bomb”
-Blue Samurai Sushi Bar & Grill | Bubba Roll | Monteen F. — “the best … sweet and savory flavor combo”
-Thai Palace | Pineapple Fried Rice w/ Chicken | Holly W.
-Brannigan’s Irish Pub | Shepard’s Pie | Dale S.
-Red’s Taco House | Steak Tacos | John P.
-The Brass Tap | Tempura Beer Battered Fish & Chips | Colleen S. — “perfectly crispy and hot”
-406 Bar and Grill | Truffle Mac and Cheese | Sandra J. — “(I like) anything off the tapas menu”
-Nickel Charlie’s | Carrot Cake | Faye J.
-Copper Mountain Coffee | Breakfast Burritos | Kinzie H.
-Casa Mexico | Pollo a la Crema | Sandra C.
-Norm’s Soda Fountain | Burger, Shakes and Fries | Susan M.
-Jagz Restaurant | Crab Cakes | Sandra C.
-Spencer & Co. Steakhouse | Steak w/ Caesar Salad | Maria M. — “the perfect steak & (Caesar)”
-Montana Nugget Casino | Club Sandwich | Spencer C.
-Staggering Ox | The All American | Mysti D.
-Blaine Creek Grill | Pork Chop | Dallas H. — “the most amazing pork chops!”
*Mentions w/o specific dishes: The Knead Café, Frugals, Five Guys, Cislos, Howard’s Kitchen, FVCC Culinary Institute of Montana, Midori, Bonelli’s, Scotty’s Bar and Grill, Taco del Sol, Julie’s Café, Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits
– Great Northern Gourmet | Italian Idol Sandwich | Will A. — “my all time favorite … he cures his own meats and imports gourmet cheeses”
-Great Northern Gourmet | “Fully Loaded and Dangerous” Duck Fat Truffle Fries | Megan M.
-Great Northern Gourmet | Cuban Sandwich | Martin B.
-Great Northern Gourmet | Mon Petite Lamb Pops | Emily H. “I get them every time … never had a disappointing meal there!”
-Saketome Sushi | Bigfork Bomb Roll | Deanna M. — “it’s all amazing however”
-Echo Lake Café | Bakers Benedict | Kristy P.
-Echo Lake Café | Cowboy Benedict | Amy H. — “Echo Lake Café … is amazing!!!”
-Pocketstone Café | Eggs Benedict | Deborah F. “my favorite foodie destination … benedict is dreamy!”
-Burgertown | Mushroom Swiss Burger | Deb K.
-Woods Bay Grill | Kazz Scramble | Terry B.
-Culinary Design Studio | Tom Ka Gai | Ashley B. — “everything there is great!!!”
-Moroldo’s Fine Italian Restaurant | Penne Laura | Esther M.
-Flathead Lake Brewing Company | Reuben | Mickenzy A. — “the best I’ve ever had”
-El Topo Cantina | Shrimp Enchiladas | Dawn P.
Editor’s note: Joni I. submitted a number of entries. Given her apparent knowledge of the culinary scene in Bigfork, and her efforts to highlight a diverse selection with specificity, we figured we’d list several of her entries rather than try to pick a single one. Take it away, Joni…
-Old Bridge Pub and Sub | Pot Sticker Soup
-Grateful Bread | Chicken Mulligatawny
-Flathead Lake Brewing Company | Ahi Tuna w/ Espresso Porter
-Grille 459 | Sesame Seed Encrusted Ahi Tuna
-Vessel | Breakfast Burrito
*Mentions w/o specific dishes: Taco Mexico, Showthyme (closed)
-Second Street Pizza | Slice of Cheese Pizza | Elaine G. — “simple is true”
-Whitefish Lake Restaurant | Prime Rib | Kelly S. — “consistently one of our favs … yum!”
-Abruzzo | Lamb Pappardelle | Kelly S.
-Mama Blancas | Cheeseburger | Tracy S. — “best cheeseburger in Montana at the least!”
-Last Chair Kitchen & Bar | Chicken & Waffles | Tamara R.
-Last Chair Kitchen & Bar | Huckleberry Burger w/ Goat Cheese | Karen M. — “crazy good”
-Piggyback BBQ | Fried Green Tomato BLT | Joanna J.
-Indah Sushi | Back Deck Roll | Ashley B. “my fav but everything there is amazing!!!”
-Stillwater Fish House | Miso Butterfish | Carlene C.
-Tupelo Grille | Coffee Rubbed Rack of Lamb | Beth M.
-Tupelo Grille | Low Country Shrimp & Grits | Heather B.
-Wasabi Sushi Bar | Goonie Roll | Nancy W.
-Pescado Blanco | Elk Chorizo Burrito | Sarah F.
-Ciao Mambo | Nachos All’ Italiano | Kristy P.
*Mentions w/o specific dishes: Buffalo Café, Zucca Marketplace Bistro, Fleur Bake Shop, Loula’s Café, Sweet Peaks, Bonsai Brewing Project, Amazing Crepes, Summit House, MacKenzie River Pizza
*Bonus point for resourcefulness goes to Michael M. for “two-day old bean and cheese burritos” from Markus Foods.
-Mudman Burgers (also has huts/trucks around valley) | Mudman Burger | Matt and Brooke M. — “the BEST BURGER in the Flathead Valley!”
-Nite Owl/Back Room | Country Ribs w/ Fry Bread | Tom M.
-Nite Owl/Back Room | Baby Back Ribs | Nancy W.
-Nite Owl/Back Room | Broasted Chicken | Tara E.
-Backslope Brewing | Garlic Parmesan Fries | Emily J. – “anyone who has ever tried the Garlic Fries at Safeco Field in Seattle, (these) are EVEN BETTER!!!”
-Backslope Brewing | Fried Chicken Sandwich | Mickenzy A. — “so good and consistent … spicy tomato glaze is the bomb”
*Mentions w/o specific dishes: Tea Kettle Café, Three Forks Grille, Uptown Hearth, Montana Coffee Traders, Phyggs Deli, Laurie’s Deli, Mike’s Conoco, Tien’s Place
-Tamarack Brewing, Lakeside | Fish and Chips | Susan C.
-Tamarack Brewing, Lakeside | Fish Tacos | Mark M.
-Tamarack Brewing, Lakeside | Buffalo Chicken Strips| Sarah K. “with their French fries and crumbled blue cheese … their spicy sauce with the chicken strips just tops it off!”
-Tamarack Brewing, Lakeside | Prime Rib Brew Bread | Jeremy and Katie R.
-Glacier Perks Coffee House, Lakeside | Scones | Jesica S. — “best scones, cinnamon rolls, quiches, and sammies in the valley … oh, and coffee too”
-Somers Bay Café | The Big (Breakfast) Enchilada | Beth M.
-Camas Organic Market & Bakery, Hot Springs | Grilled “Kim” Cheese Sandwich | Peter C. — “multiple kinds of cheese melted to perfection with their in-house made (kimchi) all on fresh bread made in their bakery”
-Fergies Pub & Grill, Hot Springs | Oriental Chicken Salad w/ Crispy Chicken | Craig B.
-Point of Rocks, Olney | Prime Rib | Cathie S. — “absolutely, without doubt, the BEST prime rib … seasoned perfectly, and so tender!”
-The Shed, Libby | Cubano | Cassidi G.
-The Black Board Bistro, Libby | Three-Plate Special | Cassidi G.
-Front Porch Grill House, Eureka | Montana Huckleberry Burger | Tamara S.
-Front Porch Grill House, Eureka | Fish and Chips | Liz D. — “cod breaded to order … moist, light, and flaky”
-Izaak Walton Inn, Essex | Huckleberry French Toast | Devin R. — “before hiking all day (this) really hits the spot!”
-Izaak Walton Inn, Essex | Wagyu Meatloaf w/ Huckleberry Barbecue Sauce | Cindy S. — “delicious and moist with bacon on the edge!”
-Snow Slip Café & Bar, Essex | Cheeseburger w/ Fries | Mary L.
-Hot Spot Thai Café, Polson | Green Curry | Cassidi G.
-Sumi’s Kitchen, Eureka | Hot and Sour Soup | Liz D. — “best Hot and Sour Soup we’ve eaten outside of Hawaii … her entire menu is authentic Asian and great”
-Home Ranch Bottoms, Polebridge | Smoked Brisket | Jane R. — “BBQ lovers will recognize the Texas style flavor … unbelievable yet affordable dinner … an experience not to be missed”
*Mentions w/o specific dishes: H.A. Brewing Co., Eureka; Frontier Bar, Rexford; Creekside Inn Sports Bar & Grill, Hot Springs; Farmhouse, Lakeside; Spruce Park Café, Coram; Historic Tamarack Lodge, Hungry Horse, Del’s Bar, Somers