At 10 minutes to noon on a recent Friday, there's a line out the door of Five On Black. The new "fast-casual" Brazilian-inspired restaurant opened April 3 in the former Runner's Edge building at 325 North Higgins Ave. Owner Tom Snyder says it's been busy ever since.
How it works: At Five on Black, customers "build a bowl" by choosing the base, starch, sides and toppings, in the small ($4-$5) or regular size ($7-$8). On our first try, we opted for the feijoada, a stew with bacon, sausage and beef chunks, on white rice. We topped it with roasted sweet potatoes, chopped tomato and onion and a sprinkling of forofa (toasted, powdered manioc root, which is comparable to parmesan in flavor and function). A healthy dose of the tangy, fruity heat of Malagueta Pimienta Talisca hot sauce made for a boldly flavored lunch. The puffy, tender rounds of pao de queijo, or cheese bread (50 cents each), are a nice addition to the bowl.
The back story: Snyder, a 24-year-old University of Montana finance graduate, hatched the idea for Five on Black as part of a School of Business Administration contest, where it won first place and the people's choice award. He says spending a few months in Brazil after graduation only solidified the idea. "A big goal was to bring in some more variety into Missoula and create a space that had more of a sit-down restaurant, big-city feel, but still with the Montana flair," he says, adding that it's his first time running a restaurant.
Snyder had originally hoped to open Five on Black in the Missoula Mercantile building, but decided to move into the Runner's Edge space since the Mercantile renovation is still ongoing.
When to go: Lunch seems to be the busiest time, but Five on Black serves dinner, too. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
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