Montana USA Northwest Travels

A non-foodie’s take on Missoula Montana

It is no secret that I have an infatuation with Missoula Montana. My blog has been around for just over three years and I have written about Missoula 18 times, with this being the 19th. There is one thing that I have neglected to write about however, the Missoula food scene. I am not much of a foodie hence when I actually do post about food it involves often the food offered at the breweries I am at.

I was asked the other day at work “what’s your favorite food”. I paused and could not come up with any answer. It was embarrassing as you would think by the age of 35 I would know by now what my favorite food is. On the flip side I have no problem answering what beer is my favorite and I could go on and on about why said beer is my favorite. It’s the Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA from Firestone Walker, just in case you were wondering.

Missoula Food Scene
Tamarack Brewing

Tamarack Brewing

Because I want to be comfortable with my transition from talking about brewery food to restaurant food I am going to start out with Tamarack Brewing . It’s baby steps, people!

Tamarack Brewing is located in Lakeside Montana however they also have a pub location in Missoula. You could not ask for a better spot as the pub is located right by the Clark Fork River, the Riverfront Trail and Caras Park. The menu is typical pub fair ranging from appetizers to burgers to pizzas. I have had both the Tamarack Cheeseburger and the Black Diamond Nachos and neither disappointed. Of course the nachos will need to have the beer braised shredded pork to top off the delightful tasty nachos.

Because I can’t help myself, my beer recommendations for Tamarack Brewing are the Yard Sale Ale, an American amber red with a 5.6 Alcohol By Volume (ABV). This beer is my favorite of all of their beers. It is flavorful and agreeable even for the non-hopheads. I am also a fan of the Rye Sally Rye IPA, a 6.5% ABV and a 50 International Bittering Unit (IBU) and the Blue Jay White IPA a 6.5% ABV.

Tamarack Brewing is located at 231 West Front Street and open Sunday – Saturday. Attire is casual.

Mackenzie River Pizza

Mackenzie River Pizza is officially a chain and while usually I would never write about chain restaurants I feel that because they are mostly a Montana based chain and not a widespread nationwide chain it still has some novelty and worth sharing my experience. They have been expanding quite a bit in the last few years with new locations in Washington, Idaho, North and South Dakota and Indiana in addition to their fourteen locations in Montana, so the novelty may ware off soon.

Obviously from the name you can tell that it is a pizza place and it is pizza done well in my opinion. My favorite is the Sequoia, a pesto sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, toasted pine nuts and mozzarella. I always order the original crust because this girl doesn’t do anything half-assed. Your other option is thin crust. The small size is plenty for one person to have leftovers, even for me as I tend to clean my plate even when I should not.

Pizzas are not the only offering at Mackenzie River Pizza. I adore the Greenhorn Veggie Wrap which includes avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, spouts, provolone and pesto mayo wrapped in a flour tortilla. This wrap use to be on bread and while I much prefer the sandwich version the wrap version is still very tasty.

The beer selection spans wide but I recommend the Driftboat Amber Ale. This is Mackenzie River Pizza’s signature beer, brewed just for them by Great Northern Brewery out of Whitefish Montana, with the exception of their Indiana locations. Indiana uses a local brewery to brew the Driftboat Amber for those locations.

Mackenzie River Pizza has three locations in Missoula: 3820 South Reserve Street, 5210 Grant Creek Road and 137 West Front Street. All three locations are open Sunday – Saturday. Attire is casual.

Missoula Food Scene
Pulled pork with a side of slaw

Notorious P.I.G

Typically good barbeque is not found in the Northwestern part of the United States. Notorious P.I.G does have an ace up it’s sleeve however, gathering barbecue techniques from all the greats: St. Louis, Memphis, Kansas City and Texas. I had been reading about Notorious P.I.G and it’s “must eat” status in Missoula for a few years now. In my quest to get to know Missoula better I decided to make a stop by P.I.G and give this much talked about BBQ joint a try. P.I.G is located near the Caras Park and shares a parking lot with Tamarack Brewing. You know how much I love beer and still forwent my old standby of a brewery to try some barbecue. The shop is simple, with a chalkboard of offerings that, according to their website, start to be prepped at 3:30 am. They only sell food made that day and when they sell out, that is it for the day.

The menu was tight but serious. With briskets, pulled pork and tri-tip, a girl could not go wrong with any decision. I went with my traditional bbq order, a pulled pork sandwich. My sandwich arrived un-sauced, allowing me to douse the meat in an array of sauces found at the table. In which I taste tested all four sauces and found that I preferred the spicy Zoo Tang sauce the best. The meat had a nice smoke to it and the sandwich was delightfully devoured by me. I was not a huge fan of my slaw side order. The slaw was overly sweet for my liking and had more of a vinegar base that this inexperienced BBQ girl was not use to.

Notorious P.I.G is located at 247 Front Street and open Tuesday – Sunday. Parking is found on the street along with paid parking in the Camas Park area. Attire is causal .

Five On Black

With the buds of becoming a chain Five On Black has two locations in Missoula, one location in Bozeman Montana and coming soon in the spring of 2016, locations in Boulder and Denver Colorado. This Brazilian inspired restaurant claims to have 70,560 different combinations of how you can order your meal. For a girl who likes choices, this place offers up several.

The set up is simple with your food being prepared right in front of you, giving you choices along the way. Your first decision will be the size of bowl for your meal: a small, medium or large. I picked a medium bowl and that was plenty of food to fill me up. Your next decisions will be a protein, sauces, toppings and a side. I picked a white rice, chicken, spicy cocoanut sauce with spicy chimichurri and steamed collared greens concoction. I was quite happy with my selections as my tasting notes listed them as “spicy mo fo but delightful”.

Five On Black in Missoula has two locations 325 North Higgins and 3850 South Reserve Street STE 140. Higgins Street is open Monday – Saturday and Reserve Street is open Sunday – Saturday. Attire is causal.

Missoula Food Scene
Big Dipper Ice Cream

Big Dipper Ice Cream

I often skip actual dessert because I view my dessert, or the calories I would consume from the dessert, as the beer I drink. I actually get this logic from my friend Jen. Anytime we are asked at a restaurant if we want dessert she says the same thing “I’m drinking my dessert today”. On this day I was not drinking my dessert and decided to consume calories not from beer but from ice cream. Big Dipper Ice Cream is a small walk up ice cream shop that has gained national attention from Good Morning America, USA Today, Yahoo News, Budget Travel and now Paws For Beer.

I like how I think I am on par with GMA.

Missoula Food Scene
a classic sundae

As I approached Big Dipper Ice Cream I realized this was not a place to mess around as they were serious about ice cream. I won’t lie I was overwhelmed by the decisions and went with a classic vanilla and chocolate sundae. The Ice Cream Scooper seemed disappointed in my decision in which I thought to myself “get in line, we are all disappointed with a lot of my decisions.” In hindsight I wish I would have branched out and tried the Mexican Chocolate as opposed to the regular chocolate, but I guess there is always next time. In addition to the ice cream my sundae came a soft brownie, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry. I could not have asked for a more classic sundae.

Big Dipper Ice Cream is located at 631 North Higgins from 11:30 am to 10 pm daily. There are also locations in Billings Montana, 100 North Boardway and Helena Montana 58 North Last Chance Gulch.

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