Happiest Hour 

The Depot

What you're drinking: The aptly named Grizzly Gin and Tonic, a $2 double-shot all-hours special that mixes pretty damn well with a sunny evening on The Depot's deck. You know it's summer when a tall refreshing mixer like this is as popular as beer in a taproom.

Who's pouring: Depot veteran Erik Johnson knows his way around a bar better than Emeril Lagasse does a studio kitchen. He'll have a drink in front of you before you even realize you're thirsty. And if a raging hunger sets in, he's ready with a long list of suggestions, from the restaurant's popular wonton appetizer to the $9.95 half-rack of ribs. "People say we've got the best service in town," Johnson says, serving up a couple of burgers to some recent patrons. The line of drinkers at the bar—including Johnson's buddy Craig—nod in agreement.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN

Atmosphere: Frommer's calls it "upscale," but folks get away with T-shirts and baseball caps here. Low lighting gives the vibrant Larry Pirnie cowboy paintings on the walls extra pop. The joint looks more like a classy lounge than a rugged watering hole, with tiered sections and a fireplace. Johnson says the bar used to be the longest in Montana, before it got chopped in half to accommodate the dining room. Be sure to check the chalkboard for the latest rundown of house wines before settling in to watch a ball game.

Claim to fame: An obvious and well-known local memorial, Crumley's Corner. Celebrated Missoula mystery writer Jim Crumley claimed the corner spot at the bar for many years. Following Crumley's death in September 2008, The Depot honored that loyal patronage with portraits, placards and an empty can of Coors—as well as the occasional drink poured and left as a bartender's tribute.

How to find it: 201 Railroad Street West, just across the street from the tracks.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, e-mail editor@missoulanews.com.

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