It wasn’t long after Mike McFeely quit his job, took his marketing degree and moved to the Flathead Valley in the mid-1990s that he started thinking about opening up a restaurant.
McFeely had decided he wanted to inject some culture into the local community, and with it, quite a bit of flavor, and so The Knead Café was born. On its face, the name of the restaurant is a nod to the baking that goes on inside. But, McFeely said it’s also a bit of a play on the “need” he saw in the valley for a restaurant like this one.
McFeely is the chef and co-owner of The Knead Café, which he runs with his wife and co-owner Sarah. In slower moments at the restaurant, he sometimes finds himself staring at a framed, enlarged map of the Mediterranean he found in a Bon Appetit cooking magazine decades ago. The map, which hangs on a wall of his restaurant opposite black and white portraits of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane and The Eagles, is a kind of reference point for McFeely who has long strived to make the Knead Café representative of an “eclectic mix of food, art and music.”
For years McFeely has been following his instincts and drawing on his own experiences to develop recipes. And when he gets lost, he comes back to the map.
“What a great place to start,” he said. “We love the variety of spicing that goes into this region of the world, because it’s carrying in Asia with it, it’s carrying in European and African cuisine. It’s just a clash of the spice route. It’s the heart of the spice trade.”
With all of that diversity of flavor packed into the small region that inspires McFeely, it’s no wonder that he takes pride in the range of items available at his restaurant tucked back among the businesses that occupy a red two-story building off South Main Street and Fifth Street East. Falafel or chicken souvlaki can always be passed over for a Thai curry bowl, or perhaps an order of Welsh eggs in which poached eggs are served on an English muffin with ham, and topped off with a cheddar white wine sauce and cheddar scallion garnish. Breakfast is served all day, and McFeely says his customers have come to love the extended breakfast hours he offers at his restaurant which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The menu at Knead Café is apt to change, and even menu fixtures can be ordered in a variety of ways, as the restaurant makes a point of accommodating food allergies and other dietary needs when possible. There are mainstays, like the potato crust quiche, which is served up in hefty slices studded with ham and vegetables and topped with a layer of melted cheese and green onion. Or maybe someone might want a plate of the “Santa Fe Hash,” in which seasoned carnitas are served with potatoes, black beans, onions, green chiles and spices, and then crowned with two poached eggs and a cheddar sauce.
Some of the more classic breakfast fare, like eggs benedict, are served with a little bit of Knead Café flare. The eggs benedict, called “Vivienne’s Eggs Benedict,” in honor of Sarah’s mother Vivienne Montague, come served on a croissant, instead of the traditional English muffin.
This fall, McFeely said he’s adding one of his most popular specials to the menu. Called “The Golden Gate Griller,” the sandwich pays homage to the San Francisco Bay Area where McFeely is originally from, and draws heavily on the Mediterranean flavor combinations that preoccupy him.
The sandwich is a hefty arrangement built around a base of sliced, smoked turkey. The turkey is topped with mushrooms sauteed in garlic, and then sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, melted Swiss cheese, basil pesto and locally sourced sprouts. Framing all of these flavor-packed components are two slices of house-made sun-dried tomato bread that has parmesan cheese panini-pressed into its exterior.
“We’ve been serving it as a special for the last couple of years and every time I put it up there everybody goes right to it,” McFeely said.
McFeely said to some degree it’s a sandwich that, especially with its sun-dried tomato elements, evokes California’s wine country that spreads north of his hometown of San Francisco. That’s partly how he settled on the arrangement of flavors and ingredients found in the sandwich. The other part, is simply that he knows it tastes good.
“I’m not your baloney and mayo guy,” McFeely said. “I’ve always liked my sandwiches to have a diversity of flavor and complexity.”
Description: A smoked turkey sandwich topped with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic sauteed mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Swiss cheese, locally sourced sprouts and basil pesto served on house-made sun-dried tomato bread panini-pressed with parmesan cheese.
Location: The Knead Café, 21 Fifth St. E., Kalispell