Starters: Tacos for a cause at Locals Only 

Stephen Simpson didn't pay a dime for the decorations adorning his new bar, Locals Only. Every skateboard, snowboard, surfboard and kayak was donated by adventurous Montanans, many of them Simpson's friends. Leaning against a support pillar is a red kayak that Brennan's Wave namesake Brennan Guth paddled as a kid. Next to the entrance hangs the remains of a paddle that Tyler Bradt broke on his record-setting descent of a 189-foot waterfall.

"All of this stuff is on loan," Simpson says. "We want the community to have a sense of ownership over this place."

Simpson, 36, is one of four owners of Praha Inc., which operates the Badlander and Golden Rose bars, the Palace and the first floor of the building those venues occupy. He moved to Missoula from North Carolina in 2001 and got his MBA from the University of Montana.

Simpson has worked in the service industry since he was in high school, and he says he understands that in a place like Missoula, where the living-wage economy isn't exactly expansive, he's lucky to have a career that allows him to support himself.

The space that now houses Locals Only was most recently home to the upscale bistro Face Club, but that didn't prove a hit with the mostly college-age crowd that frequents that corner. "After they left, we wanted to try and manage it ourselves instead of finding a new tenant," Simpson says.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PARKER SEIBOLD
  • photo by Parker Seibold

His inspiration for what he calls "Western Montana's premier surf bar" came from asking himself what kind of place he'd want to hang out at after a day of surfing or backcountry snowboarding. The answer to that question features a spacious layout with tables arranged around its periphery and an island bar in the middle. Taylor Furset, formerly a chef at Red Bird, worked with Simpson to create a menu of affordable, fusion-inspired tacos including the Roll and Smoke (chuck roll braised in KettleHouse's Cold Smoke Ale and dressed with pico de gallo and queso fresco) and Taylor's Yucatan Ham (pork shoulder in a house roja sauce, roasted in banana leaves and topped with salsa verde, pickled red onions, cotija cheese and cilantro).

Finally, Simpson wanted to contribute to its community. Twenty-five cents from every purchase is donated to a local organization supporting the local surf, skate and snowboard scenes. Locals Only has already raised more than $2,000 for the Max Wave project, which aims to build a second wave park downstream of Brennan's Wave in the Clark Fork.

"It's called Locals Only because we only donate to local organizations," Simpson says. Ironically, "the name actually brings in a lot of tourists."

Locals Only opened May 30 at 149 W. Broadway.

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