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Old 03-19-2014, 12:19 PM
Location: Upstate NY
38 posts, read 65,923 times
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Hi! I've been a lurker for a while but wanted to throw a few things out here. My husband and I did a cross country road trip last year and fell in love with western Montana. We were all set to be all about the PacNW but it was Montana that grabbed our hearts. We're coming back next week on a bit of an exploratory mission to check out neighborhoods and towns in the Bitterroot Valley.

1 - I'd love some restaurant recommendations. We love everything from greasy spoons to spendy date night types of places and everything in between.

2 - If you were to to recommend exploring one place to a potential transplant to get a feel for the area what would it be? This could be a breathtaking view, a unique local shop, your favorite park - anything!

3 - Best brewery? Best winery? Best coffeehouse?

We're staying in Missoula but are planning at least a day or two in Hamilton (the town that is really calling us with it's location and opportunities for jobs for my husband).

I've seen a lot of the typical Western Montana advice for outsiders and would've heeded it anyway. My plates may say New York but New York is vastly rural contrary to popular belief and that's not to mention I grew up in the Midwest anyway where the mentality is really along the same lines as it is out west. That's one of the things we learned on our road trip out west was how much we wanted to get back to a different pace of life. And it's not only the pace that's appealing but the landscape is both terrifying and wonderful. My heart would be full just stepping outside every day and taking in the view. Right now I live half way between the Catskills and Adirondacks and yet I feel like I never saw a real mountain before I drove through Montana!

Thanks in advance for your advice and discussion. :-)
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Old 03-20-2014, 01:36 PM
297 posts, read 666,241 times
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Hi there, I'll try to answer some of your questions. :-)

First of all, keep in mind that Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley are next to each other in physical location but are far, far apart politically and socially. I've lived in both places. Missoula is very liberal and the BV is extremely conservative, more so the further south you get (Hamilton, Darby). I will refrain from making any further observations, as you know what you're most comfortable with & I hate debating.

Let's talk things to see & places to eat and drink! To get a feel for the Missoula Valley, there isn't just one thing. I'd recommend several: Hike up to the "M" on Mount Sentinel on a beautiful day and take in the views. Walk along the riverfront trails, visit the Carousel, and make a detour to grab some locally made ice cream at Big Dipper. Visit one of several good breweries -- Big Sky (Moose Drool ale), Kettle House (Cold Smoke, my fave), and Tamarack Brewing Company. Tamarack is our favorite place to get beer when we want to eat dinner, too. I recommend the Garlic Blue Cheese Fries. For a winery, the only local one is Ten Spoon, up the Rattlesnake Valley and it's good. Great coffeehouse is Liquid Planet downtown.

Other restaurants... for breakfast we love Paul's Pancake Parlor, kind of a greasy spoon but great food. A lot of people like Ruby's Cafe but we've found it to be not very clean and the food just so-so. For the best fried chicken in the West, Double Front Cafe downtown. You'll have about a 30-minute wait for your food because they don't fry it 'til you order.

Best pizza is at Biga downtown. Mackenzie River Pizza is excellent too. For steak, prime rib, etc. we usually go to The Montana Club (2 locations) and a lot of people like the Lolo Creek Steakhouse south of town but I've never been impressed.

Haven't been to Hamilton for a while but Nap's Grill has fantastic burgers, cheesesteak sandwiches, and fries. The Spice of Life cafe is good too. I think the best restaurant in the whole BV is Marie's in Stevensville. Italian food, no fixed menu. It's only open seasonally and I don't know if it's open now.

I don't know of what to do in Hamilton to really get a feel for the area other than strolling Main Street. This time of year you can't do much hiking or getting out in the mountains unless you snowmobile, etc.

Hope that helps.
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Old 03-20-2014, 03:35 PM
Location: Upstate NY
38 posts, read 65,923 times
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Thanks, MontanaGyrl - I've started to make my list. I've read about Big Dipper, I don't care how cold it is, I will make that a priority! I'm hoping for a few toasty 40 degree days while we're in town! Winter just won't end out here in NY this year. What I did NOT know about was Double Front Cafe. I'm what you might call a fried chicken aficionado (lol) and have a variety of recipes that I prepare at home and I usually make it a priority to sample it on vacation. I'll admit to having stood in line for hours for fried chicken in the south! Can't wait to see what Missoula has to offer on that front!

I had a feeling the valley might be more conservative. While we are progressive it's not like we'll be out there forcing our views on other people and I'd expect the same in return. We have a live and let live mentality. There was a time in this country when we all lived together without biting each others heads off over politics. It would be nice to get back to that - I've hit my 30's I'm tired of debating politics too! ha!

We're trying to leave a lot of our time open, I love exploring towns on foot so I plan I doing a lot of walking wherever we are (I did mention my love of fried chicken - need to combat that somehow!).

I'm excited to meet more people on this trip. In our short time in Missoula the handful of people we talked with were passionate about Missoula - and I just loved that. We met a lot of people on that cross country road trip and while I'd say 95% of the people we encountered were genuinely friendly, the people of Missoula really stood out. There is something about that kind of local pride (the good kind of pride!) that's infectious!
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Old 03-20-2014, 05:49 PM
297 posts, read 666,241 times
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You are very welcome! Just FYI, Double Front Cafe is called that because it has a front door on two streets, not a front and a back. :-) Their chicken falls off the bone. I could make a meal off of just the skin, and I rarely even touch fried food. ha ha

Hubby & I went for a walk along the river on Sunday when the weather was relatively warm and ended up (surprise, surprise) at Big Dipper. They had some good St. Patrick's Day specials going on.
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Old 03-21-2014, 12:52 PM
Location: Approximately 50 miles from Missoula MT/38 yrs full time after 4 yrs part time
2,293 posts, read 3,326,525 times
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Originally Posted by MontanaGyrl View Post
Hi there, I'll try to answer some of your questions. :-)

Haven't been to Hamilton for a while but Nap's Grill has fantastic burgers, cheesesteak sandwiches, and fries. The Spice of Life cafe is good too. I think the best restaurant in the whole BV is Marie's in Stevensville. Italian food, no fixed menu. It's only open seasonally and I don't know if it's open now.

......................Additional info on some restaurants in the Hamilton area:

The Victor Steakhouse: about 12 miles north of Hamilton (toward Missoula) W/S of the highway in Victor...

Skalkaho Lodge Steak House: At the south end of Hamilton turn left (east) on Hwy 38 (the Skalkaho Hwy) and go 7 miles (great scenic drive)...the restaurant is on the left side of hwy, set a fair distance back, but can be seen from the highway. Call first..

Also, stop at the CofC office in Hamilton for a variety of info on the area.

Been here almost 35 years and wouldn't live anywhere else. Traveled extensively throughout all of Montana, CO, ID, WY, NV (Mining industry) for approx 30 of my 40 yrs working----had the opportunity to research hundreds of prospective areas for the last half of my working years and retirement-------decided on the Bitterroot Valley......best decision I ever made.
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Old 03-21-2014, 02:27 PM
540 posts, read 689,301 times
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Default Double Front Chicken... ahhhhhhhhhh

Born and raised in Missoula (30 years) but moved away 20+ ago. Parents still live in BV so we get back periodically... and can I tell you how much I miss Double Front Chicken?? Stop in there every single time I can get back to the area. Been going there since I was a little kid!

Sorry - didn't mean to hi-jack the thread... but just the mention of Double Front made me have to jump in!
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Old 03-21-2014, 03:31 PM
297 posts, read 666,241 times
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Perfectly understandable, SeaDreams! The other day Double Front celebrated their 53rd anniversary with $5 chicken dinners (no fries). We indulged. I fell on my chicken like a starving woman and was almost embarrassed. But not quite. ;-)

P.S. Montana Griz mentioned the Victor Steakhouse; how could I have forgotten that? Definitely worth a stop.
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Old 03-21-2014, 03:54 PM
Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas
389 posts, read 1,003,680 times
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I lived in Hamilton in 1975 and left after four months; weather mostly. Spent many vacations in Victor. It has changed significantly since then. It is beautiful country but only a few can stick it out. The price of RE has spiraled out of control with a lot of Californians moving in the last time I checked. I think the personal income taxes might be a consideration. Check out the stats to be sure. If I was bound and determined to live in Montana I would look to Kallispell, personally.

If I were to recommend a place to consider it would be in the Sandpoint and Coeur D'Alene area.

Coeur d

CNN/Money: Taxes state by state

The Tax Tale: 50-state comparison - JSOnline
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Old 03-22-2014, 10:24 AM
Location: Upstate NY
38 posts, read 65,923 times
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Rmissourimule, considering we're coming from the state with the highest tax burden, Montana is incredibly appealing. I've seen a lot of people complain about property and income tax in Montana and it cracks me up. The houses we've been looking at online have annual property taxes that run $5-$6k LESS per year than we're paying in Upstate NY on a house that's comparably priced. And our income is low enough that we don't hit anything outside of middle class tax brackets. So Montana looks darn good on the tax front!

Coeur D'Alene is nice. When we drove cross country we hadn't even heard of it. Imagine our surprise as we came upon it on I-90. It certainly shattered my preconceived notions about Idaho. Was one of the most beautiful places of the whole trip. But it's too big and congested with tourists. And we like the micro-climates in the Bitterroot Valley.

Sea-Dreams - fried chicken is the best excuse to hijack a thread! :-)

Montana-Griz - that steakhouse sounds great. Reminds me of some of the ones we used to have in Illinois when I was a kid. Plus, we're going to Montana, we sort of HAVE to eat a steak while we're there.
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Old 04-09-2014, 10:29 AM
Location: Upstate NY
38 posts, read 65,923 times
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We returned last week from our trip, it was incredible. Here's a quick rundown of some of the places we hit up in case it interests any future visitors to the thread:

1 - Taste of Paris in Hamilton - we had an incredible breakfast and left with a bag of pastries. The owner was so lovely - this place is a gem!

2 - Naps in Hamilton - everything you've read is true. The service was fantastic and I'm still dreaming about that burger.

3 - Big Creek Coffee Roasters in Hamilton - wow, what a terrific little place, a tie for the best coffee on the trip.

4 - Black Coffee - Missoula - the other best coffee on the trip. They have great daily coffee specials and make a mean Americano.

5 - Double Front - Missoula - that fried chicken was all it was cracked up to be!

6 - Burns St. Bistro - Missoula - funky little place with an excellent vibe - incredible breakfast! Found my biscuits & gravy spot for sure.

7 - Plonk - this place is a little spendy but if you share items or go at lunch you can get away at spending less. This was probably our favorite place, we went back more than once. The food was incredible and the place was full of people from all walks of life. It was upscale without pretension. We tried a variety of items during our three visits and everything from beer to cocktails to cheese to entrees were all perfectly executed.

8 - Drive everywhere! We drove everywhere between Hamilton and Polson. Hamilton and the surrounding rural area is just 360 degrees of breathtaking beauty. Missoula's a fun town to get lost in. The neighborhoods all have lots of personality. We drove up to the Bison range, saw bison, antelope and deer. Even on the winter road you're treated to incredible views of the Mission Mountains. From there we drove out to Plains. That drive along the Clark Fork River is something I won't soon forget. Montana sure is spectacular! From there we drove up to Polson and Flathead Lake. From there we headed back to Missoula - what a way to spend an afternoon!

9 - Kettlehouse by the railroad tracks - so great. The Cold Smoke Nitro Pull was such a treat.

10 - Go to the bathroom. I'm not kidding. Missoula has the funkiest (in a good way!) bathrooms! Cafe Dolce and Tamarack Brewing have these really neat concrete sinks. Plonk has beautiful tile work. Burns St. Bistro had cute artwork and Aquanet. Blacksmith Brewing had their logo painted in their sinks. I know there were more, but seriously, beautiful bathrooms shouldn't be taken for granted - be proud of that, Missoula!

11 - The people - this one goes to 11. Everywhere we went we met really wonderful people. We loved talking with and listening to everyone we encountered. At restaurants you'd find bartenders and servers all more than happy to tell you why they love the area and their favorite things to do. We even ran into someone at one bar originally from our area in Upstate NY! That was a trip. We cannot wait to return!
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