Bozeman is a mountain town filled with culinary mastery.
There’s no lack of elk or trout in Bozeman, but in Montana, people hunt or catch those things themselves, and the bison steak from Ted’s Montana Grill is the same one you can get in New York City.
Instead, marvel at the quality and breadth of Bozeman’s food scene beyond mountain-town predictability, as this city of 50,000 — the gateway to Yellowstone National Park as well as fly-fishing and Big Sky Resort skiing — is full of good local eating in all kinds of unexpected categories, from hummus (you’ll find Z’s Meze Market all over town) to bagels (a whole wheat “everything” shouldn’t work, but at Bagelworks it does).
The best restaurant in town is basically the same Neopolitanish pizza/Italian restaurant you might find in San Francisco or Los Angeles, but it’s also just as good. Dark and homey, Blackbird Kitchen makes its own pasta (try the gnocchi with short-rib ragu) and roasts meats and vegetables in the wood-fired pizza oven. For pizza, opt for one with fennel sausage and cream or with prosciutto with crabapple mostarda.
406 Brewing is one of around a dozen craft breweries in the Bozeman area. You won’t find their beer in many bars or restaurants, let alone supermarkets, as owner Matt Muth likes to keep things small and unpredictable. “Instead of trying to just pump a whole bunch of beer out into the market, I really wanted to play around with different styles,” he says. In addition to Muth’s El Jefe Weizen, you’ll find such obligatorily clever-named beers as the Anti PA and Putin’s Revenge Imperial Stout.
Save room for sweets, and lots of ’em. You’ll find Béquet Confections’ rich, buttery caramels all over the state, but you can also stop by the factory (on, no kidding, Caramel Court) to assemble your own variety bag (start with salt chocolate, espresso, and chipotle), pick up discount “seconds,” and ogle sheets of cooling sugar through a picture window. You’ll also want to make more than one visit to La Châtelaine Chocolat Company, which has a small counter in the Baxter Building (home to Ted’s Montana Grill) as well as a café location that is a bit like stepping into France, complete with used goods (a book by British cookery writer Elizabeth David, assorted cutlery), canelés, and daily tea service. Owners Wlady and Shannon Grochowski (he’s French, she’s a native Montanan who now has dual citizenship) nail the classics (almond coconut, gianduja, peanut butter cups) but specialize in local and ambitious: Montana Huckleberry and Mint, Into the Forest (Douglas fir-infused ganache with red pepper, corn, and goji berry), and Dandelion. Ingredients come from everywhere, from France to the Community Food Co-Op down the street. The chocolates are so delicate and fresh that you can’t buy them anywhere else (though Châtelaine does ship).
“I can’t say that most cities in Montana would embrace us, but Bozeman is a little more forward-thinking,” says Shannon Grochowski, adding that France and Montana alike reward people who are both tough of spirit and tender of heart. “It takes a certain type of person to really live and to make it here.” bozemanbagelworks.com, blackbirdkitchen.com, 406brewing.com, bequetconfections.com, chatelainechocolate.com, bozo.coop
Photography: Châtelaine Chocolat Company/Facebook, 406 Brewing/Facebook, (middle photo) Bozeman CVB
From the October 2019 issue