I’m a little jittery to fully enjoy my lunch at Pueblo Lindo, in McCall, Idaho. It’s not the usual three cups of road coffee jangling around an acidic stomach that does it. It’s the two hours of white-knuckle driving to get here in a late October snowstorm, traveling in a 25-mile-per-hour (40 kmh) convoy, hoping we’re going fast enough that I can get up any icy hills in summer tires and using the white van in front of me as a guide to see the road as the “window” created by the slush-encrusted wipers keeps getting smaller and smaller. So by the time I pull up to Pueblo Lindo for a nerve-calming break, it’s all I can do to properly taste the decent chicken burrito with rice and beans, the best part being the accompanying basket of warm tortilla chips with a piquant house-made salsa (all for a bargain $5). By the time I finish, the road’s been plowed, and I can renew the long drive to the next meal. By the way, the McCall public library charges $2 for 15 minutes of Wi-Fi access for non-cardholders. Someone should report them to the Gates Foundation!
1007 West Lake Street, McCall, Idaho
Daily 11 am-9 pm
Missoula is a charming college town (population 68,000) with a foothills backdrop and the Clark Fork River dividing the downtown from the rest of the city. But the University of Montana certainly doesn’t encourage motoring visitors; it’s almost impossible to park within a mile of the place without a university or residential parking permit. And the street-naming system is downright weird; an example from below is South 4th Street West (if you’re going to have a quadrant system, follow Calgary’s lead and go, for instance, with SW). The city’s food scene, though, is lively, with a number of fine places you can drive right up to.
I’ve already heralded Bob Marshall’s Biga Pizza as one of the best pizzerias in the mountain west (241 West Main Street. Weekdays 11 am-3 pm and 5 pm-9:30 pm, Saturday 5 pm-10 pm). It’s here that I first encounter the outstanding *KettleHouse Cold Smoke Scotch Ale, which because of arcane state laws on microbrewery production limits is for now pretty much only available in western Montana. So, of course, I have to visit the character-filled KettleHouse Brewing Company’s taproom, where an afternoon crowd is gathered to sample a pint or fill a larger “growler” to go. Here’s another bit of strange state law: A small brewery taproom can only serve a patron 48 ounces of beer between the hours of 10 am and 8 pm. Other FAQs from the Kettlehouse website: “Can you ship me some beer? No. Sorry. Plan a vacation in beautiful Missoula instead.” “Do you have food in your tap rooms? No. But you can bring in your own.” Note: Their “six-packs” are four, 16-ounce cans.
KettleHouse Brewing Company
602 Myrtle Street, Missoula
Daily noon to 8 pm
There’s definitely something to be said for keeping things simple and doing one or two things well. Le Petit Outre (“The Little Outrageous”) has that nailed. As a small bakery, it produces a wide variety of excellent handcrafted breads—ryes, baguettes, cocodrillos, ciabattas and the like, some baked in a French hearth oven—as well as pastries and nice buttery, flaky croissants to munch on. It also has fine coffee, whether it’s a nice strong blend from a pump pot or a well-crafted cappuccino from its Synesso espresso machine. In good weather, there are a few tables outside; otherwise, it’s takeout.
Le Petit Outre
129 South 4 Street West
Monday to Friday 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-3 pm, Sunday 8 am-2 pm
There aren’t many places I’d frequent simply to sit in the space, ordering latte after pour over just so I don’t have to leave. *Caffe Dolce is such a place, with its tile floor, light orange walls and high ceiling reminiscent of a centuries-old Italian building. Actually, owner Peter Lambros had it built only a few years ago, though an Italian artist did spend a Michelangelo-like 750 hours on a scaffold to paint the ceiling (a side room is lined with Italian pottery for sale). One of the baristas says she loves working here, especially on a wintery day, when the high windows make the space feel like a giant snow globe. By the way, they make good coffees here, along with iron-grilled sandwiches, a large selection of gelato and, something of a rarity, a bowl of fresh breakfast fruit. Just order things one at a time, so you can spread your stay out.
500 Brooks Street (the one described here) and 2901 Brooks Street (Southgate Mall), Missoula
Check the website for hours, which are too confusing to list here
The Montana pasty (paste-ee) is supposed to be the preserve of Butte. It’s where English-born miners carried their Cornish pasties underground in lunch buckets. I guess no one told Lisa she couldn’t take the Butte tradition to Missoula and open Lisa’s Pasty Pantry. Some folks say her version of the meat-filled pastry pocket is better. I can only tell you it’s a mighty tasty pasty: a bunch of hand-cubed beef, potatoes and onions packed into a crimped pastry and then baked till golden. Add a little gravy if you want, and you’ve got a filling lunch for a bargain $6. Though they seemed a little insulted when I don’t finish things off with one of their fruit turnovers.
2004 West Sussex Avenue, Missoula
Monday to Friday 11 am-7 pm, Saturday 10:30 am to close. Closed Sunday
Death by sandwich? There are worse ways to go. In fact, the amount of mortadella and dough I’ve already consumed this trip might cause my porcine valves to seize up. But when I see the Megadeath sandwich on the Tagliare Delicatessen menu board, I’m powerless to resist. Mercifully, I only order the $9 half loaf, er, sandwich. The whole would be enough to choke a horse, if a horse ate ham, finocchiona (whatever that is), hot sopressata, pepperoni, hot capicola and various other things pressed between two hunks of ciabatta and sawn in half. Some of the meats and/or the “feisty” vinaigrette give this sandwich the slight kick of a mule. If that’s insufficient meat for you, consider the Zeppelin, an unholy alliance of roast beef, turkey, salami, ham and pastrami. Way down the menu, there is a vegetarian option, featuring goat cheese and pickled beets. These takeout sandwiches can be messy, so take care how you eat them.
1433 South Higgins Avenue, Missoula
Monday 10 am-5 pm, Tuesday to Friday 10 am-7 pm, Saturday 10 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday