After selling his Chicago-based business in 2007, Steve Patyk swore he was ready to retire.
He’d spent 30 years traveling the country as a salesman and was excited to make the permanent move to Lakeside, establishing a life filled with leisure.
Within a few years, however, he was restless.
“I got bored,” he recalled with a shrug.
When his wife Bettina discovered him using his finger to test the moisture level of their houseplants’ soil, she told him to go find something else to do.
Little did they know that his boredom and her exasperation would eventually lead the couple — neither of whom had any prior experience in the culinary industry — to own and operate a pair of bustling sister restaurants in their new hometown: Farmhouse and Beargrass Bistro.
The owners of Tamarack Brewing Company originally opened Farmhouse in March 2014. Located in Lakeside Town Center — a commercial structure that Steve revitalized in 2012 — the brunch venue achieved moderate success in its first year of operation, but seemed to be floundering by the end of 2015.
The Patyks still dispute exactly what happened next.
Steve claims that it was his wife who wanted to step in, take over Farmhouse and make her first foray into the restaurant industry. Bettina insists she only agreed to become involved at her husband’s behest.
Whatever the truth, the couple took control of the business with Bettina acting as the general manager in early 2016.
They began working closely with chef Gauge Rogers, who had been with the restaurant for about a year at the time, to make Farmhouse the best brunch spot in the region.
Having moved to the valley during a fishing trip with a friend, Rogers, a South Carolina native, brought with him extensive restaurant experience and a “Southern flair,” which he incorporated into his culinary creations. He and Bettina collaborated well, listening to customer feedback and producing fresh, homemade food, which combined his Southern style with local resources and recipes.
While Farmhouse has garnered local and even national acclaim, largely in the form of bountiful five-star reviews, Rogers and the Patyks readily characterize their first year and a half in the revamped locale as difficult, noting that they spent much of their time trying to “stabilize” the business.
Reminiscing on this period, Steve is certain that opening another culinary spot was not high on his to-do list.
“It wasn’t on the list!” Bettina countered with a chuckle.
But there was a problem.
The restaurant Seven, which opened in May 2014 in the Lakeside Town Center within spitting distance of Farmhouse, had been shuttered for nearly a year and was a financial drain. Steve knew he had to make a choice: either rehab the unit into an office space or find a new restaurant.
Soon enough, the idea for another venture began to germinate as local customers repeatedly urged the Patyks to make another foray into the restaurant business.
“[The locals] backing us and having confidence in us and enjoying our product gave us the confidence to open up another restaurant,” Bettina said.
The “crazy plan” that had formed in their minds was hastened into a tangible reality as the couple realized local culinary talent would be available for the restaurant.
They discovered that Cecilie “Cece” Andersson was ready to leave her role as the executive chef at Tupelo Grille in Whitefish to embrace a new challenge. They also learned that Showthyme, an acclaimed eatery in Bigfork, was closing, freeing up a number of trained front-of-the-house staff, including LaPriel Borgstrom, whom Steve characterizes as “one of the best servers in the Flathead Valley.”
“It was the perfect storm,” Borgstrom said.
With the “three sisters” — Bettina, Borgstrom and Andersson, as dubbed by Steve — serving as general manager, manager and executive chef, respectively, Beargrass Bistro became a reality.
“The key part of the whole deal, it’s not the table; it’s not the equipment — it’s the people,” Steve emphasized. “It’s always the people.”
Working closely together as the Patyks remodeled the kitchen and interior of the empty restaurant — “what was supposed to be a very small project grew into a very big project,” Steve said — the bistro team cemented their vision for the new venture. Similar to Farmhouse in its use of locally sourced ingredients, the bistro seeks to provide a unique, high-quality dining experience in a casual environment.
“We’re in Montana — wear shorts and a T-shirt and have a great meal,” Bettina explained.
For Andersson, who had worked as a private chef in California prior to arriving in the Flathead, it quickly became clear that she and the Patyks embraced the same concept for the menu.
“I believe that the better product you start with the less you need,” Andersson said. “There’s no manipulation — just really good, clean, simple, excellent flavors.”
After opening on April 19, the bistro often filled to capacity during peak dining hours on summer nights. The shifting menu rotates seasonally and at times includes a number of hard-to-find, if expensive, delicacies like Wagyu beef and Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. The entrees typically range in price from $10 for the youngsters to double or triple that for the adult fare.
Moving forward, the team knows that the key to their success will be to please their customers throughout the year.
“The only way you can really survive is to depend upon the folks who live here year-round,” Steve said. “What we need to do is earn the right for people to drive and dine with us.”
Time will tell if Beargrass Bistro will withstand the test of winter, but the team was optimistic about its future. Borgstrom, a Somers native, views the business as necessary in the valley, and Andersson recently bought a house in Somers to accompany her career change.
The Patyks, meanwhile, are just happy to be living life, albeit a hectic one, in a place that Steve describes as their “nirvana.”
“It’s all for the love of Lakeside,” Bettina explained.
Farmhouse is open daily for breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beargrass Bistro is open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Both restaurants operate year-round. For more information, visit www.beargrasslakeside.com and www.farmhouselakeside.com.
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