We took a month for our road trip from Avon, CO to Vancouver, BC and did a lot of eating along the way. Our seventh stop was Helena, MT and this is an excerpt from our blog posting on our stay there (go for more detail to
1. For dinner on Sunday night, the first night we were in town, we happened on one of the best restaurants in Helena. We had a very nice meal at Lucca's (56 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59601, tel. 406-457-8311, web: www.luccasitalian.com). It's a casually elegant room, with a high ceiling. There were plenty of people there when we arrived but we were seated immediately. We liked the restaurant right away because they brought an amuse bouche of crostini with pepper and goat cheese. It was very good; we love amuse bouche. Next we were brought ciabatta with sun dried tomato butter and romano, balsamic and olive oil dip. As usual, we shared everything. We started with a steamed pesto mussels for $12.95 (described on the menu as a pound of succulent mussels poached in white wine, garlic, shallots and basil pesto). They were succulent and the pesto an innovative addition. The meal came with a delicious salad highlighted with cranberries, pecans and romano (and it was big enough for two). Next we shared a linguine with clam sauce that had plenty of tiny clams in a yummy sauce. We had two glasses of La Flor Malbec ($7 x2) and had a very good meal. The man working the front of the house (a part owner we think) was personable and informative. He recommended a couple of places for us to try and try them we did later in the week. Dinner at Lucca's was $54.90 (no tax; it's Montana) which is more than we had been spending but totally enjoyable.
After dinner, we walked next door and had two ice cream cones at the Big Dipper (on Last Chance Gulch). They tasted like their names: an El Salvador coffee and a cardamon ($4.50) which is not always the case. It was (only just) warm enough to enjoy the ice cream. All in all a fine way to start our stay in Montana as residents.
2. On Monday, … we went for lunch at a restaurant recommended by the man working the front of the house at Lucca's. It is open for lunch during the week and only on certain evenings. It is called Benny's Bistro (108 E. Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59601, tel. 406-443-0105, web: www.bennysbistro.com). It's a charming space and our server was quite chatty and helpful. We spent $8 plus tip for a soup and salad, both of which were excellent. We decided to go back for dinner on Wednesday night when they would be open.
3. On Monday night we had dinner at On Broadway (106 Broadway, Helena, MT 59601, tel. 406-443-1929, web: www.onbroadwayinhelena.com). We went there because the other restaurants which had been recommended to us (like Benny's Bistro) were closed on Monday night. We didn't like the decor of On Broadway but the food was quite good. The room had a double high ceiling, lots of old-fashioned oak wood and walls of brick. The lighting was too dim and the room was dominated by a large bar on one side and booths on the other side of the room. Between the sides of the room were stand-alone tables with uncomfortable wooden chairs. We had a booth with padded seats on the side of the room. We shared a really delicious pan-blackened yellowfin ahi tuna coated with cajun seasoning ($22.75). It was served with roasted green chili aioli, seasonal vegetables and basmati rice. That dish also came with a salad which we had with a parmesan cream dressing before the fish. We also ordered a side of vegetables ($4.75) and 2 glasses of house Chablis ($8). Our server, Sarah, was okay. The hostess was very good and we liked her. Although it wasn't our best meal in Helena, we certainly enjoyed the food and the price was right at $35.50 plus tip.
4. For dinner on Tuesday night we went to Mediterranean Grill (42 S. Park Ave., Helena, MT 59601, tel. 406-495-1212 http://mediterraneangrillhelena.com/). Again, we didn't like the room (nothing objectionable but just not to our taste) or our server for that matter (again, nothing objectionable) but we had a very good meal. We ordered one meal and shared it. We had a Medaglioni de Manzo al Funghetto ($25.95) described as 8 oz. of tenderloin beef medallions, sautéed with Portobello mushrooms, garlic and Marsala wine, and served with roasted baby red potatoes and seasonal fresh vegetables. That meal came with a soup or salad and we chose the soup which was a Turkish lentil and spinach soup. The both the soup and the main were very tasty and more than enough food for the two of us. We had 2 glasses of Lindemans Caberet Sauvignon 2 x $5. We spent $35.95 (no tax) plus tip.
5. For lunch …on Wednesday, we went to Real Food Market and Deli (1096 Helena Ave., Helena, MT 59601, tel 406-443-5150, web: www.realfoodstore.com) which was close to the insurance broker's office. There we had "lunch by weight" similar to what we had experienced (and loved) in Brazil. We ate for $8.63 and it was good, not great. We were actually under-welmed by Real Foods Market and Deli (a better name than food).
6. On Wednesday night Benny's Bistro was open for dinner and we went and had a lovely meal. (Benny's Bistro, 108 E. Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59601, tel. 406-443-0105, web. www.bennysbistor.com (owner Margaret Corcoran).) We spent $41. Benny's Bistro is one big room on two levels, with an open kitchen, brick walls, and big windows facing the street. No tablecloths but linen napkins. Margaret Corcoran is charming and the food is wonderful. As usual we shared everything. First came foccacio with balsamic and olive oil. Then a small side salad with balsamic dressing. For our entrée we ordered pesto stuffed scallops—pan seared and served on a bed of fresh spinach with basmati rice and lentil pilaf, with asparagus ($23). We had 2 glasses of Malbec – Altos Las Holmigas ($7 x 2 = $14) and side order of winter vegetables ($4). Margaret Corcoran told us about another restaurant called the Caretaker's Cabin which we reserved for Thursday night.
7. On Thursday night we went to The Caretaker's Cabin for dinner (212 S. Park St., Reeders Alley, Helena, MT, tel. 406-449-6848). This restaurant was recommended to us by the owner of Benny's Bistro, Margaret Corcoran. We had a lovely meal for $26 plus tip. It’s a charming historic house with few tables. Noni and Catherine do everything, as well as own the restaurant. It is open for lunch Wednesdays through Fridays and, with an a la carte menu, from Wednesday through Friday for dinner as well. On Saturday there is a prix fixe 5-course dinner for $45. It is BYOB and we brought an Argentinean Malbec that we like, produced by Los Alamos (there was no corkage). There are two small rooms for diners with small round tables. The décor is the appropriate period as are the table cloths.
(As usual) we shared everything. The fresh wild salmon that we had was served with a picante glaze and accompanied by balsamic rice and asparagus. (See our blog posting for a photo of our entrée—I have a terrible time posting photos on Chow.) The entrée was served with a salad and Noni split it for us and gave each of us a different salad dressing from the list (all of them sounded good). Noni's service was delightful and the room warm and cozy, with only one other table being used. (See a photo of Audre and Noni on our blog post.) For dessert there was a crème brûlée with a soupçon of chocolate at the bottom. The texture was like silk and the taste divine. We had a lovely meal and evening at the Caretaker's Cabin.
8. On Friday morning we had breakfast at a place recommended to us called No Sweat Cafe (427 N. Last Chance Gulch, tel. (406) 442-6954) for $15. We shared everything as usual and enjoyed ourselves. We had one large blueberry pancake which we later learned had cornmeal in a base of whole wheat flour. The cornmeal added a texture that we both really liked. We also shared an omelet with tomatoes and cheddar cheese that came with hash browns and sour dough bread. We had 1 orange juice and too coffees. We were happy campers.
9. For our final meal of our first six days in Helena, we went to A Taste of the City with a Touch of Grace (234 1/2 E. Lyndale Ave. at Ewing St., Helena, MT, tel. 406-227-5552, web: www.capellasrestaurant.com). The outside looks like a derelict building in a less than wonderful neighborhood. But inside the decor was a delightful surprise; it is charming and decorated in a tasteful modern way. (See our blog post for a photo of the interior of the restaurant.)
We spent $35 for a great meal. It was a BYOB restaurant (which we love). The way Audre found the restaurant was unusual in our experience. She found an ad, liked the name and then found the menu in the Yellow Pages! We both liked the sound of the menu items too. We asked people about the restaurant but no one had tried it. So we tried it!
We shared the Pork Rilletes (a preparation of meat similar to pate) on French Crustini with mango relish and avocado mousse ($9) to start and liked them. For our main we shared the Muscovy Duck Breast with Bing Cherry Gastrique and Jalapeno grits ($26). The duck was perfectly cooked and delicious. The cherries were delicious too as was the grits.
We talked to the owner/chef Jeremy Mather, who doesn’t look the part of chef, and learning about his career and mentors. We enjoyed talking to him (and hearing that he was personal chef to Paul Newman). We hope lots of people try his restaurant and that he does well.
10. Other comments on food in Helena:
On Saturday morning before shoving off, we went to the Helena Farmer's Market. It really wasn't in full swing at that time of year but we bought from Mrs. Kittlel, some Kittel’s Chokecherry Jam (1303 Green St., Helena, MT 59602, 406-442-0605). It was good, not great.
The continental breakfast at the Super 8 in Helena was more extensive than others we have seen. There were 6 different types of dry cereal and fresh fruit (apples). In addition there were waffles (frozen) that needed to be put in a waffle iron to heat. There was also a “Precooked Western Style Flavored with ham Omelet” on offer that was in a warming tray. Never having seen anything like it (except, maybe, on a plane) we asked to see the ingredients. It was made by Papetti’s “Table Ready” and distributed by Michael Foods, Inc. Minnetonka, MN, (1877-367-3447). The list of ingredients was 14 lines long and probably included everything that one is not supposed to ingest. At a minimum it violates some of the rules of Michael Pollan in Food Rules: "If the ingredient list is long, do not eat it" and another rule as well: "eat food made of plants, not made in plants." We sat in front of the gas fireplace for a few breakfasts but later in our stay we decided it was nicer to eat at the table in our room. We would get plastic spoons, a bowl for Audre's cereal (we carry Dimitri's favorite cereal bowl) and milk. Audre would cut the fruit for our breakfast and make coffee in our room. We ate our own cereal anyway so this system worked and was more pleasant than the breakfast area at the Super 8.
No Sweat Cafe
427 N Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59601
El Salvador Restaurant
332 W Center St, Provo, UT 84601
42 S Park Ave, Helena, MT 59601
106 E Broadway St, Helena, MT 59601
107 N Public Rd Ste 1, Lafayette, CO 80026
Last Chance Cafe
8 W Main St, Sunburst, MT 59482