All you can eat 

The dish on Missoula's recent rush of new restaurants

Page 2 of 4


Romaines

Opened: January

Where it's at: 3075 N. Reserve, Ste. N, in the Grant Creek Town Center

What it's about: Craving greens? Romaines offers soups, sandwiches and an extensive salad bar, with an emphasis on local ingredients.

Signature dish: With more than 30 toppings available for salads, let your imagination run wild. Or order one of the signature salads ($5.50-$7), like the basic Caesar, Greek, Asian or Popeye's Delight (with spinach, bacon bits, hard boiled egg, mushrooms and candied walnuts).

Recommendation: Where else are you going to get some fresh—maybe even healthy—fare while running errands on Reserve? Forego the Costco hot dog for once and get some greens. Craving man food? Try a braised beef sandwich with a side salad ($8.50).


Riverside Cafe

Opened: September 2012

Where it's at: 247 W. Front St.

What it's about: This cafe offers artisanal twists on familiar classics. Hardcore foodies might even come across something new, like the carrot root sformato sandwich with roasted apples, caramelized onions and parmesan. (Sformato is a vegetable-based Italian dish similar to a soufflé.)

Signature dish: Riverside really puts an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, doing most of its shopping at the farmers' markets and constantly rotating its menu. In early spring, the menu includes a lentil-walnut burger ($9) topped with beet relish, grilled frisee, radish and roasted garlic mayonnaise.

Recommendation: The Chef's Lunch ($15-$17) includes a microbrew or wine, sandwich and side, with a selection that rotates every week.


Top Hat

Opened: March (although technically it's a re-open)

Where it's at: 137 W. Front St.

What it's about: The venerated downtown music venue and bar reopened in March with a slick remodel and full kitchen that offers small plates, or tapas, during low-key dinner shows, which usually feature a local acoustic singer/songwriter. Think salads, manchego-cheese-filled croquettes, red-pepper hummus and calamari.

Signature dish: The stone-fired flatbreads ($7-$8), which arrive on a wooden paddle branded with the Top Hat logo, include accoutrements like roasted wild mushrooms, serrano ham and goat cheese or roasted garlic, spinach, manchego and tomato.

Recommendation: Long may the bleu-cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates reign on the menu ($5).


Treasure State Donuts

Opened: April

Where it's at: 400 E. Broadway

What it's about: Handmade doughnuts with creative twists, like huckleberry glazes. You may have read about it in our 3,000-word ode to doughnuts when they opened.

Signature dish: Glazed yeast doughnut (about $1.25)

Recommendation: Get there early. Doughnut-hungry masses stood in line at 6 a.m. on its opening day, and after a few days, Treasure State shut down to install more equipment and hire another shift. The shop is still plenty popular today.

click to enlarge Five On Black - PHOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • photo by Cathrine L. Walters
  • Five On Black

Flathead Lake Brewing Company of Missoula

Opened: February (although technically it's a re-open)

Where it's at: 424 N. Higgins Ave.

What it's about: The Woods Bay-based brewery closed its Missoula location last fall after a plumbing leak damaged part of the second floor and most of the first floor, which was formerly the separately owned Sapore restaurant. It reopened early this spring as a three-floor complex, with the Imperial Lounge offering fine dining on the first floor, the Pub House focusing on beers and burgers on the second, and the Galaxy Lounge providing killer views on the third.

Signature dish: All the signature Flathead Lake beers, like the Two Rivers Pale Ale and Dirty Ginger, are still here. The revamped brewpub menu focuses on sandwiches and burgers, like the Imperial Burger ($11) with soppressata, pickled peppers and provolone.

Recommendation: Order some beer battered pickles ($4) and pork belly bites ($7) to share with the team during Wednesday trivia night, and wash it all down with the new $2.50 pint special. If you're looking to class it up downstairs, try the Imperial Lounge's pan-roasted dates topped with pancetta and almonds ($8) and the Oliver's Twist pizza with merlot-soaked grapes ($14).

•••

What's good here?

A tale about more than just Costco pretzel rolls

by Jason McMackin

I'm going to tell you something you already know: You and I do not share a mouth. Each of us has our own tongue, cheeks and teeth. And that's part of what makes us special, makes us individuals. Regardless of that obvious fact, when customers come into the restaurant I work at and own, people regularly step up to the counter, briefly scan the menu, smile and ask, "What's good here?" Indeed, what is good here? At the point the question is asked, my mood is not part of the answer.

I can't tell you what you would like to eat. Maybe your tongue is a limp, pallid thing because you smoke cheap cigars all day and eat sardines in mustard sauce for breakfast. Or maybe I'm the one who does those things. Or maybe you're too lazy to read a menu with 12 items on it.

I'm unsure if it's pride or arrogance that makes me get upset when I'm confronted by this query. At our bistro, we get up early. We scratch-make all of our food. We buy as many local and fresh supplies as we can. We take pride in what we do. What really steams me is that when I give the customer the look that says, "C'mon, dude, don't ask me that," and the customer inevitably says, "I know, all of it."

The contentiousness usually ends once the customer answers his own question. My blood pressure dips 10 points and we end up sharing a nice conversation about how you can't get a good fried bologna sandwich these days. We start to trust one another. Hell, we may even come to call each other acquaintances, if not friends.

Sometimes, though, things don't turn out so nicely.

Like many other local restaurants, my bistro vends food at Downtown ToNight. The event takes place on Thursday evenings throughout the summer. There are bands playing a lot of reggae, a lot of Creedence and way too much "Devil with a Blue Dress On."

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