A storied restaurant and bar, The Old Post in downtown Missoula, is back from the dead and the new owners have eagerly started to welcome the community into the freshly-renovated space.
Kimberly Durham and her husband Tom, along with general manager Rob Evanger, opened in December after a very intensive interior remodel project. They've got a brand new kitchen, bathrooms, bar and dining space full of reclaimed wood and historical artifacts to show off.
"We feel really grateful to be back in the city of Missoula," explained Kimberly Durham, who attended law school at the University of Montana. "We loved The Old Post 20 years ago and are just glad to be back. We hope that Missoula will love The Old Post again."
Kimberly Durham is the former Meagher County Attorney and she and her owns a successful bar and restaurant, Bar 47, in White Sulphur Springs. Her children own The Jawbone bar and restaurant there as well.
Durham said when she was in college, The Old Post was her favorite local watering hole and restaurant. Now, she and her husband have brought in a couple chefs in from Las Vegas and have introduced a Cajun and American menu. The buttermilk honey fried chicken sandwich is made from scratch and comes with seared pineapple, and the crab cakes have been extremely popular so far, she said. Some items are an homage to the old Old Post Pub.
"We brought back the drunken goat salad, which has fried goat cheese balls," she said. "We have reinvented it and we think it's better than it was before. The Bar 47 nachos are on The Old Post menu, and our fish tacos are the best in town."
Tom Durham believes the whole menu is great but the burgers will be a main draw.
"Missoula is a burger town kind of, and there's so many great places to get a great burger so why come here right?" he said. "But it really is a great burger."
"The bacon in our bacon cheeseburger costs more than our prime rib and it's really, really good," Kimberly Durham added.
Evanger said the chicken jambalaya has been popular, as has the chicken-fried pork chop.
They've got an espresso machine, and the alcoholic drink menu features "adult milkshakes" like the Mexican grasshopper made with cream de menthe.
The restaurant will be serving breakfast and brunch seven days a week starting in January. Kimberly Durham said they've got a musician from Helena, Dan Henry, in to play the weekend of Jan. 16-17. She also said they'll make music a regular part of The Old Post life, in a post-pandemic world. They'll be bringing back outdoor shows in the parking lot, and they hope to expand the deck. They've got a stage set up indoors, and a piano sits ready for someone to tickle the ivories.
So far, they're not sure what they're going to do yet with "The Grotto," the underground wine-tasting and event space below the kitchen.
The previous version of The Old Post Pub closed down unexpectedly in Oct. of 2019 after 30 years in business, and its future was uncertain.
The Durhams said there was "a ton" of deferred maintenance. Even though the old version of the restaurant was allowed by the local health department to operate for years without improvements, the Durhams say they had to go back and forth with city inspectors on every little upgrade.
Eventually, they ended up tearing out almost everything and putting in a brand new kitchen and totally redoing the bathrooms and large portions of interior infrastructure, such as drain pipes and surfaces and heaters. The Durhams say Tim France, who owns Worden's next door and the building that houses The Old Post, helped them out a lot. They ended up having to borrow money from family just to get open, because they weren't able to have customers in to bring in revenue. Banks wouldn't loan to them because they were starting a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, and costs kept mounting. But they persevered.
"We just feel really grateful that Tim France took a chance on us to revive the Old Post and we feel really grateful to be back in the city of Missoula," Kimberly Durham said.
She was living above The Old Post and was headed toward another venture in the legal industry when she got the idea in her head to restart her favorite bar. The old owners, it turns out, never registered the name with the state so she was able to keep the name for a minor fee. They had to purchase a liquor license from the now-shuttered Native Wings on Reserve Street, and they used a fair amount of salvaged materials from the old Missoula Mercantile they bought from Home Resource.
The building is roughly a century old, so they had their work cut out for them.
"It's really cool to revive this old iconic Missoula bar," Evanger said.