New Kids on the Block

New eateries pop up across Northwest Montana, while old favorites get new owners

By Justin Franz
Tim and Dana Phillips, owners of Hop's Downtown Grill on Feb. 2, 2018. on Feb. 1, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Seth Black spent 17 years making a name for himself in Denver’s burgeoning culinary scene, working at some of the city’s most popular restaurants — Bones and Aubergine Café to name a couple. But a few years ago, Black and his wife Riley had an urge to move away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and enjoy a slower pace. Seth had a place in mind: his hometown of Libby.

In December 2016, the couple opened the doors of Black Board Bistro, one of a number of new eateries that have popped up in the last year across Northwest Montana.

Black Board Bistro is located in a recently remodeled house built in 1923 and just a few blocks away from downtown Libby. The old home provides a cozy atmosphere for the Blacks’ Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. When they opened, Seth wondered if the community would support the restaurant, but those worries quickly faded.

“The restaurant has been really well received so far,” Seth said. “I think this town needed something that wasn’t just burgers.”

Black Board’s menu changes week to week, depending on what local produce and meat is available. Much of the produce comes from the Hoot Owl Farm and Libby Community Garden. Seth said the changing menu gives regulars a reason to come back often because they will always find something new to experience.

A few features for 2018 are monthly tapas nights on select Wednesdays. On those nights patrons, can choose three small plates from a varietal selection for $25.

“It’s great because it lets people experience different flavors,” Black said.

The Black Board is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.theblackboardmontana.com or call (406) 293-4505.

New owners have also taken over a few old favorites in recent months, like Hop’s Downtown Grill, a longtime staple on Kalispell’s Main Street. Tim and Dana Phillips purchased the popular grill in October and recently revamped the menu. While many local favorites are still there, the kitchen is placing a bigger emphasis on local produce and meat.

“It’s rare to be able to buy a restaurant that isn’t in the red,” Tim Phillips said. “We want to enhance this place.”

The Phillips previously lived in Oregon and had always wanted to own a restaurant. Over the years, they looked at various establishments, but none of them felt right until they found Hop’s.

Hop’s Downtown Grill is open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays). For more information, visit www.hopsmontana.com.

In downtown Whitefish, Abruzzo is offering wood-fired pizza, scratch pasta and authentic Italian cuisine. For more information, visit www.abruzzoitaliankitchen.com or call (406) 730-8767.

The Staggering Ox, long a staple in Missoula, Helena, Billings and Butte, opened in Kalispell’s Hutton Ranch  Plaza. For more information, visit www.staggeringox.com or call (406) 890-2501.

The popular late-night Whitefish food cart Brooklyn Rolls expanded to a Kalispell storefront, serving up classic New York-style deli fare. For more information, visit www.brooklynrolls.com.

Rivals Sports Bar opened in the fall on the west side of Kalispell. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/RivalsBarAndCasino/.

The Blaine Creek Grill opened on Highway 206 in Kalispell and is open Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/blainecreekgrill.

The Brass Tap opened in early 2017 and has dozens of craft beers on tap at its north Kalispell location. For more information, visit www.brasstapbeerbar.com.

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