We did 5 days in Missoula recently and were very pleasantly surprised. There are a few very nice options for dining in town and while not a foodies paradise, we did not suffer at all! Sadly it's been long enough that I only remember the highlights, not all the foodie details, but it's at least enough to point you in the right direction if you are in Missoula looking for somewhere to eat!
Red Bird http://www.redbirdrestaurant.com/
is the town's standard 'hip restaurant' and the bar, which offers eat in options from the menu, and the dining room were both popular with the crowd of folks we were traveling with. The menu was fresh and interesting. The preparations were nicely plated and tasty. They had fresh wild Alaskan salmon, that had been caught the day before and flown in by a friend of the owner, grilled and served over delicious quinoa. It was good, but I ordered it rare and it came very well done. The Spouse had an ancho chile pumpkin mole duck breast, which he enjoyed immensely. I had a soup which was delicious and he also had a salad. The house made sausage was tasty. The wine list was a little limited, but Himself found things on it to like and dessert was good as well. Service was very good and the owner was moving around overseeing things in a caring and thoughtful way.
Scotty's Grill http://scottystable.net/
was our best meal of the visit. We arrived late and they were very friendly and the service hit that perfect blend of friendly and professional with out being too familiar. Food was all good. The tempura artichoke hearts were very satisfying. I was craving pasta and the summer cappollini sounded great but I wanted a bit of protein a well. The server suggested a poached egg and pancetta to 'beef it up a bit' with turned out to be delicious. Himself had the crispy tender little quail and they were yummy. I was barely able to get a bite from him! There was dessert that was good, a berry crisp that was nicely executed! The glass of late harvest wine with it was lively and fortuitous as well...
Caveat; We were unable to eat here unfortunately. Due to recent economic issues and a drop in business they have shortened their late night hours and we arrived after the kitchen was closed. They offered us dessert, but we were in need of real sustenance and so the maître d' graciously called Scotty's to make sure they were still serving and made a reservation for us there. Friends who did dine there liked it a great deal and what we saw being cleared away looked very promising.
Bernice's Bakery http://www.bernicesbakerymt.com/
Ah. Heaven is a good bakery in the morning. Bernice's prepares many of the desserts for restaurants thru out town. We had croissants with nice fillings and quiche that was creamy and beautiful. The coffee was good, if not exactly Peet's, and the danish was tender and delicious. When I ordered my quiche an requested it be warmed a bit, but NOT microwaved the counter person looked starteled and said "oh, we don't have a microwave, that would ruin the crust!" Their warming oven rendered the quiche tender and melting without the unfortunate soggy crust often found outside a warmed up pastry.
Ciao Mambo http://www.ciaomambo.com/
Good basic bistro italian. Surprisingly, a chain. Didn't know that until I looked up the website today. Appetizers were ok. Tootsie rolls were a bit bland but tasty enough. The Bocconcini Fritti were not. Tasted very pre-prepared and had a heavy, greasy texture with no flavour. The Spouse liked his Fettuccini alla Lulubella and I have to say the steak I had, the Costata al Marsala, was really nice. I have an allergy to mushrooms that's pretty serious and I ordered it without the 'shrooms. When it arrived with they were more than gracious about taking it back and firing up a new one, not just removing the mushrooms and re saucing it. And they were quick about it as well. Dessert was a huge basket of Zeppolis, like baby beignets They were good, but the dipping sauces were stale and gooey. we ate them plain with just the powdered sugar.
The Shack http://www.theshackcafe.com/
This was good enough we went back again. Both breakfasts we had were very good. The huckleberry pancakes were awesome. Just delightful. One was the size of a plate and all I could eat. I don't know who could eat a stack of 3! Despite the name, this place is not a shack and the dining room was nice, but the outdoor patio in front was our favorite for sitting and watching Missoula go by. Omelets were good as well. Steamed chocolate made me very happy. Corned beef has was out of a can and not offensive, but nothing to write home about.
El Cazador 101 South Higgins Missoula, MT 59802 406-728-3657
Basic cheerful family style Mexican. They dealt pretty well with a large party on not much notice and everyone found something enjoy. lemonade had a powered mix taste.
A Drive-in at Broadway and Adams; Can't recall the name, but we had shakes and burgers there. Service was friendly and the burgers and fries were good. Made the mistake of ordering a dreamsicle shake that was just nasty... I guess you have to like the taste of orange soda syrup much more than I do. The spouse's shake was fine.
All in all we enjoyed our stay. Next time we would be back at Pearls earlier in the evening, and I think we would do Scotty's twice we enjoyed it so much! Missoula is a beautiful town with many hiking and rafting opportunities. The Saturday farmers market was fun as well. Missoul was THE most dog friendly place I have ever been, and coming from San Francisco that's saying something!
Missoula, MT, Missoula, MT