Creative transformation of doors into tables at Wake Cup Coffee House, Fort Benton, Montana
Traditionally, I’ve only stopped in Great Falls long enough to gas up along the I-15 while gazing across the freeway at the prison and its razor-wire fence. But there is more to this surprisingly large city of 57,000 people. It boasts an interpretive centre dedicated to the Lewis and Clark expedition (which passed through here in 1805), a museum celebrating cowboy artist Charlie Russell and 40 miles of trails along the Missouri River. Like much of Montana, downtown Great Falls has seen better days and some eateries—while offering decent, bountiful grub—could easily be defined as dives. But there are at least a couple of places worthy of a short detour off the highway.
Step inside Morning Light Coffee Roasters, and you’re apt to inhale the scent of a large batch of coffee beans being roasted in a giant pan, with circling paddles agitating them as they slowly brown. With good ventilation and careful tending to prevent an oily black finish, there’s no acrid smoke here, just a smell as inviting as baking bread. You can sample the freshness of these beans by ordering a java, taking a seat in the spacious cafe and perhaps dipping biscotti while catching up on your email. And if you’re there during Happy Hour (2:30-3:30 pm Monday to Friday), all coffee drinks are half price.
Morning Light Coffee Roasters
119 9 Street North, Great Falls
Monday to Saturday 6:45 am-5:30 pm, Sunday 8 am-4:30 pm
Okay, Great Harvest Bread Company (GHB) is a franchise, something I don’t usually promote in my road trip eating picks. But the GHB in Great Falls was the very first bakery in the chain, and the wheat that is ground into flour every day for its breads comes from nearby Fort Benton-area farms. So there. The lineup of hearty breads includes a sprouted wheat loaf and a garlic bread with big chunks of cheddar. My turkey, bacon and swiss sandwich, layered with sprouts and tomato slices, is a two-piece mouth stretcher, the moist and slightly sweet sunflower bread holding everything snugly together and nicely balancing the bacon’s saltiness. A healthy, (aside from the bacon) substantial lunch for only $6.50.
Great Harvest Bread Company
515 1 Avenue North, Great Falls
Monday to Friday 6 am-6 pm, Saturday 6 am-4 pm (sandwiches made 11-2). Closed Sunday
I need a hinged jaw to tackle this delicious Great Harvest Bread sandwich
Fort Benton is a lovely, quiet town alongside the placid Missouri River. It’s definitely worth a quick trip off Highway 87 or even a 45-minute side trip from Great Falls. It’s one of Montana’s oldest communities and was a key travel link and supply line in the opening of the U.S. northwest. That history is nicely told at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument Interpretive Center (now there’s a mouthful).
While in Fort Benton, stop by Wake Cup Coffee House for a nice coffee, scone (some are sugar free) or a more substantial broccoli salad or quiche. The spacious cafe has local art on the walls and a beautiful architectural touch—old doors turned into tables, with glass tops covering aged black-and-white photos.
Wake Cup Coffee House
1714 Front Street, Fort Benton
Monday to Saturday 7 am-5 pm, Sunday 7 am-2 pm