Restaurants have been popping up like buttercups on Mount Sentinel lately around Missoula.
At least five have opened in the past months, and they’re serving everything from an organic beet burgers to gourmet doughnuts made with eggs from the Mission Valley.
So, where can you go and what can you eat?
Here’s a quick roundup of the fresh choices.
All the scenic farm photos hanging on the walls at the new Romaines salad restaurant on North Reserve Street are shots from around western Montana.
Romaines owner Graham Roy took the photos and he’s proud to note that most of the food that fills the salad bowls at Romaines comes from nearby as well.
A former high school biology teacher, Roy came home to Missoula with his family after attending culinary school in Denver.
His dream to open a restaurant came to life last month when he started serving salads full of farm-to-table ingredients in a renovated office building space in the Grant Creek Town Center at 3075 N. Reserve St.
The goal is to make healthy food convenient, Roy said.
The menu includes homemade soups and sandwiches. Roy makes his own hummus with chickpeas grown in Montana.
A popular item so far is the Gourmet Salad featuring organic beets tossed with tomatoes, blue cheese and almonds, Roy said.
During shoulder seasons when certain produce is hard to find regionally, Roy brings it in from farther away. But this summer, the menu will light up with local produce.
Romaines is the second restaurant in Montana to become certified through the Green Restaurant Association. Much of the material used in the renovation was reclaimed and all appliances are made to achieve maximum efficiency.
“Restaurants use a lot of energy and create a lot of waste. I wanted to do things in the most sustainable way. It also just makes good business sense,” Roy said.
Five on Black Brazilian Grill
Tom Snyder hauled a piece of flea-market art home to Missoula from his post-college trip to Brazil in 2011.
Filled with vibrant splashes of color and featuring a yellow street car at its center, the piece embodies the spirit of the country that inspired Snyder’s first business venture: The new Five on Black Brazilian Grill that opened last week at 325 N. Higgins Ave.
Snyder placed the artwork at the center of the fireplace inside Five on Black that is framed with chopped-up fenced posts – tinted blue from fungus left by pine beetles – thus melding his restaurant’s ties to Brazil and Montana.
Inside the building with the bright orange awning, Snyder is serving bowls of Brazilian-inspired food. There are five steps to building your bowl including a choice of rice, beans, sweet potatoes, rotisserie meats, Brazilian sauces and fresh veggies. The entire menu is gluten free.
Patrons can also add a pão de queijo to their bowls. The cheese bun snack, made with corn flour, is popular in Brazil, Snyder said.
Snyder’s fiancee, Lauren Dooley, who accompanied him to Brazil in 2011, designed the inside of the restaurant. It includes pops of color to symbolize the vibrancy they felt in Brazil. The tables made of the wood of rafters from an old barn outside Ronan.
“It’s just fun to have an idea in your head and see it come to life,” Snyder said.
Take note that the pimenta malagueta oil – another Brazilian favorite – sitting next to the soda machine packs a fiery punch.
“It should have a warning sign,” Snyder said of the hot sauce. “You can spice it up as much as you want.”
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
If you’re craving barbecue and you need it fast, try the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit that recently opened at 143 W. Broadway.
The restaurant features hickory-smoked meats that originate from a family recipe dating back to the first Dickey’s founded in Texas in 1941.
“We do a slow and low cook on those which really gives it good flavor,” said Jerad Reinhardt, Dickey’s general manager.
For those new to the Dickey’s menu, Reinhardt recommends trying Dickey’s spicy cheddar sausage, an original family recipe.
“We have had a great response to this menu item, the perfect balance of spice and cheddar in a sausage,” he said.
Dickey’s dishes come with a host of sides choices such as macaroni and cheese, fried okra or baked potato casserole.
Dickey’s of Missoula is one of 300 locations nationwide, but unlike most, it offers a full bar, Reinhardt said.
Dickey’s stays open late on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to cater to the late-night downtown crowd.
Passers-by will hardly recognize the old Army Navy building at 322 N. Higgins Ave. these days.
A new cocktail, lounge and wine bar has replaced the outdoors surplus store and revamped it with a new front and new vibe.
Plonk Wine opened its first floor last week, debuting an extensive wine list and menu just like that of the original location in Bozeman.
Cocktails featured on the Plonk’s website include a sage margarita made with house infused sage tequila, fresh sage, cointreau, fresh lime and salt.
As for food, Plonk’s online menu showcases afternoon, evening, dessert and cheese menus.
The evening menu includes everything from a handful of salads, a gluten-free spring vegetable crepe gateau and a maple-cured duck breast.
To kick things off in a charitable way, 20 cents of every dollar spent at Plonk through April 4 was donated to Watson Children’s Shelter.
Riverside Cafe’s owners borrowed talent from Chicago to start the new cafe just off the Clark Fork River downtown at 247 W. Front St.
Riverside – open since September – isn’t exactly new but has brought a new concept to town. It employs a farm-to-table concept that’s been widely well received so far, said Patrick Brennan, front house manager.
The menu is made from local and regionally sourced products and changes with the seasons.
Brennan moved to Missoula from Chicago. Riverside chef and general manager Derrick Wcislak also came from the Windy City. Both have extensive experience in the restaurant business, Brennan said.
With the help of owner Jackie Thorton, they’ve transformed the former Front Street Pasta and Wraps into a dinner and lunch spot that features “local, fresh, rustic-American cuisine.”
“We take field trips to the farms we’re working with to see where the food is coming from, to develop relationships with the people in the community that are helping us feed the general public,” Brennan said.
Among the recent fresh favorites at Riverside is a beet burger.
“It was insanely popular. It was a testament to the way Derrick is able to pair flavors,” Brennan said.
Because beet season is now over, Riverside is now offering a lentil walnut burger.
Brennan said Wcislak is especially excited about what the upcoming summer season will bring to Riverside’s menu.
“He’s at the drawing board now. He’s going to be at the farmers market every Saturday. We’re so close to Caras (Park) he literally just walks down there,” Brennan said.
Treasure State Donuts
You might have to get up early to snag a breakfast treat from Treasure State Donuts, which introduced its scratch-made gourmet doughnuts to Missoula late last week. The shop, in the old Del’s Place eatery at 400 E, Broadway, opens at 6 a.m. and closes when the doughnuts are gone.
Owned by Bridge Pizza owners Erin McEwen, husband Dmitri Murfin and her parents David McEwen and Shirley Juhl, Treasure State features tasty twists on the classic doughnuts, including flavors like the lemon iced old-fashioned and strawberry buttermilk cake doughnut.
Head baker Stephanie Lubrecht recommends Treasure State’s local apple fritter, made with honey crisp apples from the Bitterroot Valley.
Beyond that, there will be plenty of other flavors to try.
“We’ve been in here for the past couple of months perfecting everything,” Lubrecht said before the shop opened last week. “It’s time to get into the fun part.”