Part of the adventure and allure of travel—regardless of your main focus—is experiencing new places to eat. Bozeman, a small town with limited choices, is fortunate to be home to some really great food. Much of the dinner scene in Bozeman is a result of the difficulty and expense in obtaining a liquor license. Only a few “Fine Dining” spots exist, but there are more than enough to insure you’ll be pleased. Some of my favorites are below. Keep in mind, these are my choices and certainly do not include many other noteworthy restaurants.
I don’t dine out that often for breakfast, but when I do, Main Street Overeasy and The Nova Café are my top picks. My college boys love Cateye Café, but I find their menu choices and portions so overwhelming that I can’t face it early in the morning. Both Main Street Overeasy and Nova are ultra casual, and they both serve up some of the best pancakes you’ll ever taste, along with perfectly crisped bacon and decent coffee. Main Street whips up a corn pancake that is moist, slightly grainy in texture, with a totally satisfying corn flavor. Pour on the maple syrup and you’re in for a treat. Nova frequently features a cottage cheese blueberry pancake that is outstanding, a little crispy at the edges, creamy in the center, with bursts of berries. Both offer full menus with breakfast combinations, omelets, french toast, and just about anything you’d enjoy for breakfast. The huevos rancheros at Nova are a mighty meal sure to please.
Sweet Chili, also in the heart of downtown Bozeman, and decidedly Asian, is another terrific lunch spot. Caution, though, do not order “spicy” when they ask unless you really can take the heat. The chicken-basil lunch special is not only superb, but also a bargain. They have the best soft shell crab in town, and serve dinner as well as lunch.
Chickpea Café, on Willson Avenue and Mendenhall Street, is very casual. You order at the counter, they bring you your meal. I love their Mediterranean food, especially the tabbouleh, hummus, and grilled chicken. The Garden Platter is large enough for two to share and provides a culinary taste treat.
La Tinga, on Main Street downtown Bozeman, is exactly the kind of hometown dive you love. It is authentic Mexican food, open only for lunch, with daily specials. The flavorings are intense, multi-layered, lingering. It is fast food in the best sense of the phrase: order at the counter, when your name is called, pile on the homemade salsas, and sit at communal counters or the table outside. They make their own corn tortillas fresh daily, so who can resist a pork tinga taco…or two? Be sure to order rice and beans as a side and add-on all the toppings to your order.
In the thriving and slightly funky arts community district north of town, on Wallace Street and Peach Street in a rehabbed warehouse-type building is Wild Crumb. They bake a multitude of French and sourdough breads, and serve up coffee and pastries, but what I find most notable is their baguette sandwiches. The ideal “grab-it-and-go” meal on the run, neatly wrapped in tidy paper for holding, these delectable, satisfying sandwiches are a taste of Europe. They change the choices daily, and they are all delicious. My favorite is ham, cambozola, fig jam, and greens. The bread is crunchy crusted with exactly the right pull and chew, the filling just the right degree of unexpected flavors that work together.
You don’t have to be a member of the Co-op to shop and buy at the Community Food Co-op. With two locations, a deli counter, and pre-packaged salads, sandwiches, and desserts, the Co-op is an excellent spot for quick meals, picnic and brown bag lunches, and provisions. They prepare organic hot meals, salads such as roasted beets or quinoa, chicken Caesar, and many more. I’m a big fan of their tuna sandwiches.
Blackbird Kitchen is my number one spot. I wish they didn’t use paper napkins, and that the sound levels and chaos was tapped down a bit, but the food is so spectacularly delicious that the rest doesn’t matter. I’ll even crowd into the uncomfortable bar counter in order to have their chopped salad—which I rank as one of the all-time best salads in the world thanks to the slightly citrus dressing and combination of baby kale, greens, walnuts, ricotta salata, and herbs. I have a difficult time choosing between one of the pizzas or their meat dishes as a main course. The dishes are wood-fired, locally grown, and seasoned perfectly. Their bread, which you can buy by the loaf, is dense, chewy, with the dense crust and flavor only sour dough and wood fire can impart.
The Emerson Grill, located in the Emerson Center for the Arts, is a laid-back, somewhat funky setting in which fresh fish stars nightly, along with a balanced menu of salads, appetizers, pizzas, and meats. There’s always a vegetarian special, and it’s generally innovative and satisfying. The food is a blend of hearty comfort food mixed-in with modern sensibilities: fresh, flavorful, and with large enough portions to share. Their mussels are succulent and bountiful—I often order them as my main course rather than an appetizer. Along with fresh fish and vegetarian specials, The Emerson is known for their risottos and polenta, and seasonings trend toward Italian / Mediterranean. Take the time, when you first dine there, to walk through the Emerson Center for the Arts building. The Bozeman community takes pride in how the former school has been converted into a collection of galleries, artist studios, dance and music studios, a performing stage, and a large ballroom for community events.
Seven, located at Willson Avenue and Kagy Avenue, is my sushi choice in Bozeman. The menu choices are lengthy so if you enjoy any variation of sushi and Japanese-inspired cuisine, you’re sure to find exactly what you crave. There are always fresh fish specials. My husband, who is not a big sushi fan, enjoys their chicken lettuce wraps and vegetarian dishes, while I tuck into the freshest sashimi. The salmon literally melts in your mouth. Servings are generous and meant to be shared. The salads are excellent, with the wasabi-ginger salad dressing being noteworthy. The restaurant itself is well-designed and the younger-set crowd is entertaining to watch.
The Mint Bar & Café is worth the drive to downtown Belgrade. The quintessential Western-flavored bar and steak house is what you expect when you think “Montana.” Rustic, colorful, never contrived, the straight-forward food hits the spot just as the décor appeals to all. Steaks reign supreme here, with different cuts and portions to choose from, but there is also fresh fish, chicken, and specials for those who don’t want a big, juicy rib eye. The side dishes are terrific, and a bit unexpected. They serve sweet potatoes rather than loaded baked potatoes, fresh vegetables are sautéed or steamed, and the onion straws are downright addictive. Save room for dessert.
Black Bull Bozeman
The best restaurant food in town—whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner– is served at the Black Bull Golf Community. Sorry, you have to be a member. If you’re not, then make friends with someone who is, or buy a land lot! The chef cures his own bacon and makes his own sauerkraut. The angus, house-ground burger is the best in Bozeman, and his homemade hot potato chips vanish as soon as they hit the table. Each weekend the menu changes and is posted on-line. The grill by the pool serves up tacos and ribs. The Club dining area is cozy, fun, and ultra-hospitable. It’s the place to be on a summer night. Well, just about anywhere in Bozeman is the place to be!