Sparking Nightlife in Downtown Kalispell

KM Bar opened in the historic Kalispell Mercantile building at the end of May with its counterpart restaurant, Mercantile Steak, planned to open mid-June

By Maggie Dresser
The KM Bar in downtown Kalispell on May 26, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Built in 1892, the Kalispell Mercantile (KM) building has been home to everything from the first Kalispell City Hall to the first county courthouse to a number of restaurants that have shuffled in and out over the years.  

One of the historic building’s newest tenants, restaurateur Pat Carloss, began renovating the space to the southeast of the building to create the KM Bar, which opened in May, and a new restaurant, Mercantile Steak, which is set to open in mid-June. 

After starting Tupelo Grille and Abruzzo Italian Kitchen in Whitefish and Gunsight Saloon in Columbia Falls, Carloss ventured south to bring a spark of nightlife to downtown Kalispell. 

Chicken wing drummies from the KM Bar in downtown Kalispell on May 26, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
The patio of the KM Bar in downtown Kalispell on May 26, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“I think Kalispell’s got a lot of potential here,” Carloss said. “I think it’s an untapped market and a lot of people are starting to invest.”

As soon as Carloss saw the space at the KM building, he was sold. 

With a kitchen separating the bar and the restaurant, both spaces reflect the KM building’s historic character, surrounded by brick walls.

The KM Bar was most recently an office space, and Carloss has been renovating it since December, which entailed gutting the inside and re-staining the floors. He built the bar and salvaged booth seating from Cattlemen’s Restaurant and Casino and hung an original red KM sign above the bar, which he says was at one point on the outside of the building, likely around the 1950s. 

With an outdoor deck area to the west, the bar seats about 130 people, and Carloss added a stage for live music, which he plans to host regularly on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Still undergoing renovations, the Mercantile Steak will seat about 90 people. The space most recently housed the Split Rock Café. Carloss added fresh blue paint to the formerly white walls and is in the process of adding additional sides onto the bar as well as more booths and seating. 

While the restaurant will have the same head chef as Carloss’ other restaurants, the food will be entirely different with a steakhouse menu that includes pasta and seafood. The bar will also serve food from a bar menu, which is in its beginning stages but currently includes the KM burger, an onion ring stack with cilantro-serrano beer batter, salads, roasted cauliflower and more. 

The KM Burger from the KM Bar in downtown Kalispell on May 26, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
A boar’s head adorns the wall of the KM Bar in downtown Kalispell on May 26, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Bar Manager Tyler Larche is also working on a cocktail menu to reflect the KM building’s history, with drinks that were popular in the late 1800s, including the vesper martini, the jungle bird, which is made with rum and pineapple and other juices, and a boulevardier, which is a whiskey drink. He also plans to use cocktail recipes based on seasonality that incorporate local fresh juices and simple syrups when possible. 

“With all my stuff, there’s history involved in it,” Larche said. “But it will all have an updated play on the regional availability and seasonal ingredients.”

The bar will be stocked with offerings from local and regional distilleries, breweries and cider houses, including Glacier Distilling Company, Bias Brewing, Sacred Waters Brewing Company and more. 

Carloss pulled a few employees from his other restaurants, including Abruzzo General Manager Gerald Miller who is still trying to fill the staff, which he says has been a challenge. Right now, the bar will be open six days a week at 4 p.m. until there’s a full crew. 

Miller is looking forward to bringing some different culinary options to Kalispell.

“It’s exciting,” Miller said. “The more we chat with people, the more they are popping their heads in, and we’re hoping to spark a downtown Kalispell revival.” 

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