Destination Diners – 7 Recommendations for your next trip to Montana and Idaho

Minnie's Cafe (Thompson Falls, MT) was crowded with motorcyclists on the late September Saturday we were there

Minnie’s Cafe (Thompson Falls, MT) was crowded with motorcyclists on the late September Saturday we were there

For me, ‘destination diners’ are the eateries I want to return to again and again.

These are special places where great food, value, ambiance or perhaps a particularly memorable location makes a return trip worthwhile.

During a late September motorcycle tour, we found a handful of restaurants worthy to earn a place on my list of ‘destination diners.’  These are places that I’ll plan road trips specifically to include these establishments whenever I plan a tour to that particular part of the world.

Montana

Homemade chicken pot pie earned rave reviews.  Minnie's Cafe in Thompson Falls, MT is now on my personal list of 'destination diners'

Homemade chicken pot pie earned rave reviews. Minnie’s Cafe in Thompson Falls, MT is now on my personal list of ‘destination diners’

  • Minnie’s Cafe, Thompson Falls, 921 Main Street.
    This little cafe is right on Main Street in the small town of Thompson Falls.  Old wooden booths provide the main seating in this compact eatery.  When we visited, it was crammed with motorcyclists who were likely riding from nearby Thompson Pass, a steep, twisting mountain pass that’s closed in the winter.  Inside Minnie’s, we found taped to a display case filled with cakes and pies a handwritten sign reading, “Eat Dessert First.”  Is there a finer life lesson than that?  Our group raved about the Chicken Pot Pie.

    Chicken with artichokes at the Uptown Cafe

    Chicken with artichokes at the Uptown Cafe

  • Uptown Cafe, Butte, 47 East Broadway.
    Our server’s t-shirt is emblazoned with, “Uptown Cafe – Fine Dining in the Wild West.”  And that’s all you need to know. A Montana newspaper food reviewer some years ago said the Uptown Cafe is possibly the best restaurant in Montana.  It’s not fancy, but the style leans towards French cuisine.  Lunch prices are moderate.

    Jaker's Pan-fried lamb chops

    Jaker’s Pan-fried lamb chops

  • Jaker’s Bar and Grill, Great Falls, 1500-10th Avenue South.
    This is fine dining and it’s priced accordingly.  We showed up late on a Wednesday night and the restaurant was packed.  Jaker’s is a regional chain restaurant; we’ve dined at the Idaho Falls, ID location and it too was excellent.  Jaker’s Great Falls’ claim-to-fame is actor Robert Redford was reputed to dine here nightly when filming the movie A River Runs Through It (1992.)  Steaks and ribs is their specialty.
  • Buffalo Cafe, Whitefish, 514-3ed Street East
    This restaurant caters to the tourist crowd, so there’s a hint of ‘outdoor yuppy’ to the place.  Don’t let that dissuade you.  This is a terrific restaurant, especially for breakfast.  When we visited in late September, a small crowd had gathered waiting for 8:00 AM opening.  Superb food with outstanding service.

    Meaty ribs with beans and coleslaw at the Back Room Restaurant

    Meaty ribs with beans and coleslaw at the Back Room Restaurant

  • Back Room Restaurant, Columbia Falls, 522-9th Street West.

This is another odd duck eatery.  The Back Room Restaurant is a restaurant inside another restaurant, located behind the Nite Owl Restaurant.  The Back Room’s specialty is barbecued meat.  Prices are moderate.  Order anything BBQd, and you’ll be happy.

An American specialty, chicken fried steak at the Montana Club

An American specialty, chicken fried steak at the Montana Club

This is another regional chain restaurant, but a very good one.  For tourists, it’s conveniently located across the parking lot from the Super8 motel.  Don’t confuse the Montana Club restaurant with Montana’s; they’re not the same company.  The Montana Club is more upscale, and the Missoula location (on Reserve Street) has a building design like an opulent, modern, hunting lodge.  My favourite is the Chicken Fried Steak, an American dish not found on Canadian restaurant menus.

Prime rib 'special' at the Best Western University Inn was superb

Prime rib ‘special’ at the Best Western University Inn was superb

Idaho

A hotel chain as a ‘destination diner’ may have you scratching your head and wondering, ‘what is he thinking?’, but the lounge at this hotel delivered one of the best prime rib dinner plates I’ve ever had, bar none.  Maybe it was a fluke, but I’d try it again, for sure.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment