Nobody knows exactly what to expect when opening a restaurant, but Gerald Miller, general manager of downtown Kalispell’s new Mercantile Steak, knew the establishment had one critical factor working in its favor: owners Pat and Missy Carloss.
“Pat and Missy have built such a great culture running all these beautiful restaurants,” Miller said. “We already had a leg up.”
Indeed, the Carlosses have found ample culinary success in Tupelo Grille, one of Whitefish’s most revered and steady-handed restaurants, and more recently in Whitefish’s Abruzzo Italian Kitchen and Columbia Falls’ Gunsight Saloon. Their newest venture, Mercantile Steak — or “The Merc” — in Kalispell’s historic KM Building, adds one more branch to that impressive family tree of eateries.
Still, Carloss was a little apprehensive launching his first steakhouse, in a town where he has yet to operate. But the first couple weeks eased his anxiety, with a steady stream of rave reviews.
Carloss said it helps to have started out with “a really great staff,” including bringing chef de cuisine Shane VanVeldhuizen over from Tupelo and Miller, the general manager, from Abruzzo. Jeremy Grossman oversees the kitchens at the Mercantile, Abruzzo and Tupelo.
“The feedback’s been really good,” VanVeldhuizen said. “Kalispell’s excited to have something a little bit different. We’re a steakhouse, but we try to push a more modern theme on a lot of things, doing traditional things in a different way.”
To VanVeldhuizen’s point, along with the high-quality cuts of meat, the restaurant offers eclectic items such as lobster bolognese; hen of the woods mushrooms; yellowfin tuna with foie gras; smoked trout and many other delicious appetizers and entrees.
VanVeldhuizen said the meat is carefully sourced, including from the Flathead Valley’s Northwest Montana Wagyu. The beef is either wagyu or certified angus beef (CAB), while bison and pork are also available, along with a fish special. The burger and prime rib, smoked in house, are popular as well.
“The bison ribeye is personally my favorite,” VanVeldhuizen said.
Carloss and Miller noted that the lion’s share of customers have been local, even at the height of summer tourism season, a strong indicator of year-round viability, as well as a sign that Kalispell was hungry — literally and figuratively — for a quality restaurant in its city core, which is undergoing an expansive makeover that officials expect to invigorate the downtown economy.
Bill Goldberg of Compass Construction, the new owner of the KM Building and other downtown properties, approached Carloss with the idea of opening a restaurant in his centerpiece historic edifice. Carloss also opened the KM Bar in the same building this year, and he thinks the dual restaurant-bar will mesh nicely with the other redevelopment activity occurring downtown and along the corridor of the new Parkline Trail.
“That definitely had a lot to do with my decision making,” Carloss said. “All of those go hand in hand, including the KM bar, to have a nightlife scene, music, the hotel coming in, a lot of apartment buildings going up.”
The Carlosses opened Tupelo Grille on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish in 1995, with a menu inspired by their Southern roots — Pat is from Abbeville, Louisiana and Missy is from Memphis, Tennessee. Tupelo has since undergone a series of expansions, all while further cementing its reputation for consistently excellent fare.
The Carlosses then launched Abruzzo in 2017 and Gunsight the following year, before setting their sights on Kalispell, where the steakhouse adds to the cuisine diversity in their restaurants’ culinary canon. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the space’s history. Over a century ago, it was the Kalispell Mercantile, anchoring valley commerce as the premier retailer of quality goods and merchandise.
Like everybody else, Carloss struggled with staffing this summer, but secured enough employees to operate the bar and restaurant five days a week, with the hope of ramping up to six or perhaps seven days this fall and winter, particularly on weekends in the bar for football.
With the Parkline Trail and flurry of development interest in the city core, Carloss has a good feeling about Kalispell’s future.
“I feel 100% that Kalispell is primed for a renaissance,” Carloss said.
For more information, visit www.mercantilesteak.com.