Missoula: 1999 

Your guide to partying like it’s—well, you know

You thought you were sick to bloody death of Monica Lewinsky this time last year; now you’re probably double sick of all the Y2K falderol—three simple symbols looming like a black obsidian monolith every time you pick up a newspaper. I won’t belabor you with any useless predictions, save to say that there’s no place I’d rather be than Missoula. And not on account of any baleful variation on the “excreta hitting the Oscillator” doomsaying, but because the real germ of my naïve high school daydreaming about New Year’s Eve 2000 wasn’t the clinking crystal or the opulent surroundings or the glamorous friends I’d envisioned. It was about being entrenched in and accepted by some permutation of a community. Forget a bunker and a year’s worth of C-rations; there’s no security like being able to trust your neighbor. Missoula may not be perfect, but in more ways than one it’s a model of social cohesion.

So whether you’re planning on spending New Year’s Eve at home or on the town, remember your good fortune in living here. Retire all grudges, old and new: You know that when we stick together, the best is that much better—and the worst is at least bearable. Now let’s get on with that wining and dining, already! First Night doesn’t last all night, so here’s a thumbnail sketch of what else is going on about around town:

The Big Tickets

Marianne’s at the Wilma is pulling out all the stops for a super-swank, reservation-only affair: 17-course meal with wine and champagne, swing dancing and live music by the Golden Standards. Featured menu items: fresh seafood bar with raw oysters, poached Atlantic salmon, and crawfish; hot seafood bar; cold bar; New Zealand rack of lamb, free range Black Angus beef, Italian risotto with summer squash, house-smoked BBQ duck egg roll. Roughly one-third of the menu is vegetarian. “You cannot buy anything that night,” says executive chef Marianne Forrest. “There is no reason to come with any kind of tender, legal or otherwise.” Think the elegance of “Overlook Hotel, New Year’s Eve 1900” in The Shining, minus the Shining part. At the time of this writing, the affair was very close to being sold out; call 728-8549 for ticket prices and availability.

The Iron Horse’s black-tie shindig looks to be a corker as well. Ticket price ($125, no couples rate, includes gratuity) includes open bar, hors d’oeuvres, live music from Blues Alley, midnight dessert, and commemorative champagne bottle. And an upscale nosh: featured menu items include lobster bisque, steak tartare, crab claws, jumbo shrimp, oysters Rockefeller, gourmet cheeses, fresh fruit and more. A professional photographer will be on hand to capture those opulent or intimate moments. “Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful year 2000,” says owner Tam Knoeller. “Drive safely and party smart.” Doors open at 7 p.m.; call 728-8866 for more information.

Sean Kelly’s is also having a shut-in. Tickets are $50 per person or $90 per couple, which includes two complimentary drinks, full-entrée dinner buffet from 7-11 p.m., upscale hors d’oeuvres, commemorative champagne flute (filled with bubbly from 8 o’clock onward), noisemakers, hats and live music by Russ Nassett and the Revelators. Dress is something between semi-formal and semi-casual. “Obviously, full black tie is great,” says owner Kelly Leary. “But there’s no dress code. Come comfortable and have fun.” For additional ticket information, call 542-1471.

Liberty Lanes is hosting a ninepin no-tap couples/doubles tournament—ring in the new year with that special someone and a little competitive bonding. $25 entry fee includes steak dinner plus free-flowing suds or two mixed drinks. And, of course, champagne at midnight. Space is limited, so sign up soon. Call 728-2930 for information and reservations.

Business As Usual—Sort Of

For many eateries, New Year’s Eve will be just another busy Friday night—except, well, slightly more so—with several places offering prix fixe menus in addition to or in place of the standard evening fare. Perugia will run their regular menu with specials (including an Italian roast loin of pork; call 543-3757 for reservation information). Chinook will feature a special menu with prix fixe selections; highlights include pheasant en demie-deuil with black truffles, rack of lamb in lavender-honey crust and, for appetizers, gravlax and sauteed foie gras with grape and fig sauce (reservations filling up fast; call 728-6250 for details). The Hob Nob Café will run three prix fixe selections—veggie lasagna, pistachio crusted halibut and a beef Wellington—with other entrees available and the Tim and Lori Show playing early (reservations accepted; 542-3188). If you’re in the mood for a little drive, Guy’s Lolo Creek Steakhouse is a safe bet for consistent deliciousness (“It’s business as usual,” an employee informed us. “Just pack ’em and rack ’em.” 273-2622 for reservations). The Bridge will also run their regular menu, albeit with some extra-special specials including studies in pheasant, lamb, beef tenderloin and fresh sushi-grade yellowfin tuna. “Plus we’ll have some extra nice vegetarian options,” says chef Scott Lee. (Act fast; 542-0638 for reservations.)

Dance the Night Away

With the exception of Sean Kelly’s and the Iron Horse, it’s also business as usual in Missoula’s public houses—with a few hats here, a few noisemakers there, and a little complimentary champagne sprinkled over everything. The Moonlighters will hold down their traditional Friday night post at the Union Club (9:30 p.m.; no cover). The Elbow Room will hold a “Bonfire Bash,” complete with great giveaways and the chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas (no cover). Swifty Morgan will be playing at the Cowboy Bar (“Champagne, balloons, everyone gets drunk,” informs one employee. “What else do you need to know?”). Right next door, Crash Baxter rips the lid off Buck’s Club—a $2 cover gets you into both places. At the Top Hat, $2 gets you the usual party favors and champagne ‘til midnight, plus live music from Blue Solution. Down the road at the VFW Lounge, the free champagne starts at midnight, with the venerable Roger Shack probably not attempting a cover of Prince’s “1999.”

The Indy will provide expanded and updated live music coverage in next week’s events calendar. Until then: get plenty of rest, start upping that tolerance, and get ready for the big Triple-O!

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