Category Archives: Montana

Spring Road Trip to Tucson, Arizona

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Sonoran Desert landscape in Tucson, Arizona

With winter persisting well into April in Calgary, it was definitely time for a spring road trip to the U.S. southwest and its warming sun. The destination this time was all the way south to Tucson, Arizona—a trip involving plentiful hiking, eating and drinking.

But as they say, the journey is often as important as the destination. So before I delve more deeply into Tucson eats and drinks over the coming weeks, here’s a pictorial sampling of road life on the three-day route down and on the way back.

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Road trip breakfast of chilaquiles at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace in Flagstaff, Arizona

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Early April snowstorm in Flagstaff (elevation 7,000 feet), 2 hours north of Phoenix

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Hanging out with the cool coffee crowd at Lux Central in Phoenix

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Two jumpers in the Wave Cave near Apache Junction, east of Phoenix

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Peeking into the kitchen at Porter’s Cafe in Superior, Arizona

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Open-pit mine south of Superior, Arizona

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Outside Oracle Patio Cafe in Oracle, Arizona

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Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, Arizona

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Aquarium fish at the Desert Museum in Tucson

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Sculpture in Metal Arts Village, Tucson

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Homeward bound: Lunch line at colourful Lone Star Taqueria in Salt Lake City

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Tacos Antojitos Naucalpan in tiny Hamer, Idaho: There’s no place like it

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Run by the incomparable Carmen

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Tesla super charging station in whistlestop Lima, Montana on the I-15

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Hills outside one of my favourite U.S. towns, Dillon, Montana

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Hitchin Post, Melrose, Montana

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Favourite Road-Trip Dining Spots: The CBC Listeners Weigh In

Listeners to CBC Radio's Alberta noon program weighed in on their favourite road-trip food picks

Listeners to CBC Radio’s Alberta noon program weighed in on their favourite road-trip food picks

I was on CBC Radio’s Alberta at Noon show the other day, talking about my new Marathon Mouth ebook on great road-trip eats in the western U.S./Canada.

But the real stars were the province-wide listeners who called in or tweeted to champion their favourite food stops near or far from their homes. And despite my extensive research trips, many of their picks were places I’d never heard of. So this post is dedicated to their suggestions (I hope my spelling guesses of their names is reasonably accurate).

Bernie won a free download of the book for suggesting The Last Straw in Libby, Montana. How often do you find hand-pressed, fresh burgers made from your choice of Angus or longhorn beef or bison? Or, at breakfast, corn beef hash for under $7? It’s apparently great stuff, especially for a small town off the beaten path on Highway 2, between Bonners Ferry and Kalispell.

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Everything’s Coming Up Pink at Livingston, Montana Cafe

Chorizo tacos a delightful breakfast special at Pinky's Cafe in Livingston, Montana

Chorizo tacos a delightful breakfast special at Pinky’s Cafe in Livingston, Montana

It’s a tough act replacing a dining institution, known as much for its colourful owner as the excellence of its food. Such is certainly the case with Pinky’s Cafe, a breakfast landmark in Livingston, Montana, a short drive north of Yellowstone National Park.

When I visited a few years ago, I was greeted and served by Pinky himself—a relaxed, gregarious guy with a white ponytail—while wife Terri ably tended the morning grill. When I returned this fall, the name was the same, but they were gone.

I was starting to get all nostalgic… that is, till my breakfast special arrived on the table. Chorizo breakfast tacos! Eggs, sausage, pico de gallo and a squirt of sauce, all loaded aboard a couple of little tacos. Great, imaginative stuff. I mean, if you can bring burritos to the breakfast table, why not tacos?

The tacos are the brainchild of newish owner Morgan Milton, a trained chef who spices up the morning menu with offerings like bacon-stuffed waffles, banana-walnut pancakes and bacon caprese omelettes. Apparently, his mother does the baking, so the family tradition continues.

You know it's funky when even the bathroom carries on the pink theme

You know it’s funky when even the bathroom carries on the pink theme

So does the relaxed, small-town atmosphere, with a mix of locals and tourists filling the tables in this colourful little place.

Yes, Pinky is gone. But long live Pinky’s!

Pinky’s Cafe
109 South Main Street, Livingston, Montana
Tuesday to Saturday 8 am-2 pm, Sunday 8 am-12:30 pm. Closed Monday

3 Cheers for 2K’s in Great Falls, Montana

2K's Kafe owner Karla greets diners with a pot of coffee and a big smile

2K’s Kafe owner Karla greets diners with a pot of coffee and a big smile

We round the corner of a quiet downtown street in Great Falls, Montana at 7:30 am. “There it is,” I tell my companion, pointing to the sign: 2K’s Kafe. “It looks closed,” she says doubtfully.

But the line of cars on a mostly empty street says otherwise. Sure enough, the little diner is jammed, at this early hour, with locals. They’re chowing down on substantial plates of bacon and eggs, hubcap-sized pancakes and biscuits and gravy, all while chewing the fat.

We squeeze into the lone vacant booth, order (I get a German sausage scramble) and chat with the waitress, who happens to be owner Karla. Her mother, Karen, used to run the place, hence the 2K name.

German sausage scramble with sourdough toast; a filling start to the day

German sausage scramble with sourdough toast; a filling start to the day

The breakfast is fairly typical diner fare. The real charm is the local, unhurried character in a world of cookie-cutter outlets.

2K’s Kafe

406 3 Avenue South, Great Falls, Montana
Weekdays 7 am-2 pm. Closed weekends
406-727-2053
2 K's KAFE Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizza and Beer Joint a Fine End to Yellowstone Adventure

Backpacking through the sulphurous mists of Yellowstone National Park

Backpacking through the sulphurous mists of Yellowstone National Park

When you’re located on the doorstep of the world’s oldest national park, it kind of makes sense that you’ve been making pizza here since the primordial days of 1953.

Such is the case with K-Bar Pizza, an unvarnished bar and restaurant on a dusty street in equally unpretentious Gardiner, Montana, at the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

After a full day of hiking or geyser touring, it’s nice to appease your appetite and slake your thirst with a pie and pint. K-Bar offers some nice salads and an impressive selection of beers on tap from Montana microbrewers such as Bozeman Brewing, Bitter Root Brewery and Neptune’s Brewery (I go for the latter’s charged-up latte stout).

Pretty much everyone orders the thin-crust pizza; sorry, no burgers. This keeps the cook at the back busy tossing dough high in the air, loading it with typical toppings and then firing it into the oven. Our medium Crazy Woman—featuring alfredo sauce, sausage, garlic black pepper and red pepper flakes—is a generous amount for two.

The Crazy Woman—The PIZZA, not the eater!

The Crazy Woman—The PIZZA, not the eater!

Nothing fancy, but at the end of a week-long Yellowstone backpack fuelled by dehydrated fare, it hits the spot. It’s certainly better than any of the cafeteria offerings in the “villages” scattered through the park.

K-Bar Pizza
202 Main Street, Gardiner, Montana
Monday to Thursday 4 pm-9:30 pm, Friday 4 pm-10 pm, Saturday-Sunday 11 am-10 pm

Pork Chop John’s is a Butte, Montana Original

They sell burgers and such, but at Pork Chop John's you want to head straight for the signature pork chop sandwiches

They sell burgers and such, but at Pork Chop John’s you’ll want to head straight for the signature pork chop sandwiches

Butte, Montana may be best known for its copper mining legacy, but it can also boast not one but two regional food specialties. One is the English mining import, the Cornish pasty. The second, which it can perhaps claim as its own, is the pork chop sandwich, a deep-fried, burger-like creation immortalized by a couple of local institutions and with a 90-year history.

In the interests of research, I venture into Pork Chop John’s to sample this invention. It’s a fast-food place, where I approach the counter and order my pork puck, topped with onion, pickle and a thick coat of regular mustard.

The heart of the beast is the boneless pork-sirloin chop, lightly breaded and battered. It’s then flash fried to provide a surface crunch to the softer but still chewy centre. Call it a poor man’s schnitzel. The pedestrian bun’s only duty is to not fall apart.

Hope you like mustard on your pork chop sandwich

Hope you like mustard on your pork chop sandwich

You can throw a cooked egg aboard for another 50 cents, but why sabotage the pure porcine experience? Overall, it’s quick, reasonably affordable at $4 and small enough to keep the cholesterol levels in check.

Maybe that’s sufficient reason to knock the porch chop sandwich off your culinary bucket list. And if you get hooked, you can always have a box of 50 frozen pork chops shipped to your door.

Pork Chop John’s
2400 Harrison Avenue, Butte, Montana (one other Butte location)
Monday to Saturday 10:30 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sunday
John's Pork Chop Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon