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Montana Small Cities and Towns


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Billings


Eat somewhere else.

it was very much on the run, after driving just about as fast as our rental car would go to make up for time lost in the mountains, but a meal at walkers american grill was unexpectedly good. a week of decent, but unexciting meals at the lodge at yellowstone lake, as well as hiking on trails where the grizzlies came out to try for bison in the early mornings and late afternoons, might have been working to the restaurant's advantqge. this was several years ago, so things may have run downhill, but i do remember it was the best meal we had had in a while. i also remember that the airport going home was so slow they took the precaution of frisking my wife.
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Livingston; Yellowstone

Can. Not. Believe. It. Nothing. Nada. Zilch on Montana here on donrockwell.com?! How can that possibly be? Kidding.

I'll create a few new threads, based on recent experience, for off-the-beaten-path places on the off chance any Rockwellians of the future even think to put "[relatively obscure western town]" and "donrockwell" into a search engine to see what comes up.

I'll start with Livingston. No doubt this thread will grow by leaps and bounds now initatied. Or, maybe, at least a 2nd post by 2014?

The Murray Hotel is over 100 years old. Robert Redford hung out at the bar here whilst filiming A River Runs Through It. Donna Rice fled here. Sam Peckinpah. Whoopi Goldberg. More recently, Anthony Bourdain and Gourmet Magazine, who wrote it up a few years back in a piece that also highlighted Cathal Armstrong & Restaurant Eve. A fascinating history replete with plenty of scandal and double-crosses. Today, updated yet antiquated and quirky understates the case. An early 1900s, hand-cranked, operating elevator is right under a massive bison head mounted on a lobby wall. A very cool bar. I heard a two-piece band composed of one amazingly energetic cellist and her male guitarist partner strumming Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall and doing it well.

Next door, owned by the same people who own the hotel: the 2nd St Bistro. The kind of 'farm-to-table' place where using that phrase might relegate one to "doesn't get it" status but, suffice to say, Zach Jones' amazingly flavorful beef served here is, of course, grass-fed AND grass-finished. And, the thing that amazed us with the sirloin we ordered was its flavor. Haven't before had an all grass steak in the US with this kind of flavor.

The menu is mostly straighforward but that didn't at all matter. We loved it just because of its excellent sourcing and ingredients coupled with a highly-skilled kitchen. A few examples:

- Grass-finished sirloin with bordelaise and simply seasoned and buttered fresh green beans. So simple but really outstanding.

- 7 or 8 pastas all made in house. I tried a half (actually a kids order per our waitress' recc) order of taglietelle with bolognese. The bolognese was very good and the egg noodles delicious.

- Local pork tenderloin atop a crispy polenta,gruyere and some kind of moderatedly hot pepper cake with an apple butter compote and greeen beans. The pork couldn't have been cooked more perfectly. Fabulous flavor and richness.

- A simple green salad with paper thin radish, local greens and a mild fresh goat cheese was perfect

Perfect with glasses of a zin and a barbera.

The entire Yellowstone Valley is a wonderful place with three of the country's best rivers (the Galatin, Madison and Yellowstone) for floating, fishing, wading, canoeing/kayaking or just gawking. And, of course, Yellowstone National Park is just to the south and one of the best in the system. But Livingston, a small, quirky, artistic and western town that the NY Times likened to Chelsea in the early 80s, is a special place. Much smaller than Billings to the east and much less frequented than Bozeman to the West. If you come here, stay at the Murray and have dinner at 2nd St and you too shall see.

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The entire Yellowstone Valley is a wonderful place with three of the country's best rivers (the Galatin, Madison and Yellowstone) for floating, fishing, wading, canoeing/kayaking or just gawking. And, of course, Yellowstone National Park is just to the south and one of the best in the system. But Livingston, a small, quirky, artistic and western town that the NY Times likened to Chelsea in the early 80s, is a special place. Much smaller than Billings to the east and much less frequented than Bozeman to the West. If you come here, stay at the Murray and have dinner at 2nd St and you too shall see.

This sounds like a wonderful time - man, I can't wait to get away from it all and do something like this again. (I might sound like I'm kidding, but I'm not.)

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Bozeman; Big Sky; Livingston

Was in Bozeman for a Wedding, I'll combine Bozeman Big Sky and Livingston in one post.

After a half day at yellowstone, headed into Livingston. Hit up the Murray hotel bar for a beer and then onto 2nd St Bistro.

Started with the local lamb lollipops, tomato and homemade ricotta salad, onion soup, and a roasted veggie soup + smoked chicken.

Then moved onto the New York strip on special, tremendously flavorful beef (good to see nothing changed from 2012) and a lamb ragout over hommade papardelle.

Fantastic meal, showing off the local beef and lamb.

Didn't have much time for other dinners.

Breakfast / Brunch spots.

Cateye Cafe

Definitely a homey spot, offering brunching boozy cocktails, homemade potatoes, and veggie scrambles.

The Nova Cafe

I would say this is the more sophisticated of the two. However the Nova Cafe also doesn't have booze, and if you are into that sort of thing with your brunch...head over Cateye. We had a Romesco rainbow chard hash with poached eggs as well as a mushroom breadpudding eggs benedict and homemade potatoes.

I didnt have a good cup of coffee here unfortunately, most of the other places we ate were nothing to write about (i.e., Clark's Fork in Bozeman and Gallatin Riverhouse Grill in Big sky).

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