Late last week, inside the former La Parilla at 130 West Broadway, only one thing hinted at the kind of restaurant moving in. It was the large map of the United States painted on the wall, with all the states black except two, Montana and Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia Flyers orange.
Soon the space will be all things Philly—Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies memorabilia, and surely Liberty Bell and Rocky photographs. Most notably, Philly West, as the restaurant will be called, will feature authentic Philly cheesesteaks.
"The first thing I noticed about Missoula, aside from the beauty of the place and the laidback attitude," says Dave Jones, sitting amid paint supplies, "was there was nowhere I could get a cheesesteak or a slice of pizza—East Coast style, you know?"
That was 10 years ago. Ever since, Jones, 34, a veteran cook and former singer in local rock band The Hermans, has toyed with the idea of opening a cheesesteak joint in Missoula. The ball started rolling when La Parilla closed several months ago. Jones wrote "the fastest business plan in the history of the United States." His oldest brother helped him secure a loan. And then his step-brother, Mike Fitzgerald, 31, also from the City of Brotherly Love, moved to Missoula three months ago to partner with him.
"A lot of [the business plan]," says Fitzgerald, wearing a Phillies hat, "was based on, 'Look, we know what we're doing. We both have been working in restaurants—this kind of restaurant—since high school.'"
Jones says legit cheesesteak rolls can't be found around here (he thinks there's something about Philly's "wudder"), so they're shipping in Amoroso's brand rolls. They'll use rib-eye steak, and offer a variety of cheeses. "You can't skimp," Jones says.
Key to the business plan is staying open late—until 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Jones and Fitzgerald look out the storefront window to The Badlander and surrounding bars, and hope Philly West, slated to open in August, will cater to the late-night crowd.
"Contrary to common belief," Jones says, "we're not going to throw people out of the line if they don't know how to order correctly. I've seen it happen and they've deserved it. But we're not going to do that—at first."