The lovely, broad valley near Dillon, Montana
Dillon, Montana is one of my favourite western U.S. towns, a perfect stop after a day of driving south on the I-15 from the Canadian border. There’s the setting: a broad, verdant valley dotted with Angus cows, flanked by low mountains and bisected by the meandering, trout-rich Beaverhead River. There’s the fine historic buildings and the oddly named University of Montana Western, to complement the ranching/hunting side of things. And for outdoorspeople, there’s the enduring lure of the Patagonia outlet store (Bonus: no sales tax in Montana). The only problem with Dillon is getting back on the road to resume the journey.
On our latest visit, for example, there’s no exiting the Patagonia store in under an hour, especially with an inveterate shopper/bargain hunter or two in tow. Then it’s off to the Fiesta Mexicana bus (510 North Montana Street, daily 9 am-10 pm) for an excellent lunch of made-to-order, bountiful burritos, enchiladas and chiles rellenos, eaten along an inside bench sheltered from the raw spring wind.
Inside the magic Fiesta Mexicana bus in a Dillon parking lot
It’s great to see this family-run Mexican joint embraced by the local community and travellers alike. But the regulars aren’t very helpful when asked what to order: “Everything.”
There’s a monster burrito verde lurking beneath all that greenery at Fiesta Mexicana
To avoid falling into a mid-afternoon coma, we set out for Sweetwater Coffee (“Proudly serving kindness with a side of coffee”) for a fine java jolt, chased with a great chocolate icing cookie, in a cozy, artsy setting. The diverse food menu includes a most interesting choice: a breakfast French toast sandwich.
Sweetwater Coffee, with its artsy period furniture, is a great place to hang out with a java and cookie
Then it’s around the corner to the state liquor store where, to my dismay, they don’t carry beer (What the hell? In Utah, if you want anything stronger than the “three-two” beer, like the excellent line of Epic Brewing ales, you have to go to a state liquor store). The day is saved by a trip to a Town Pump gas station (633 North Montana Street), where the limited selection of microbrews includes my favourite Montana beer—the Scottish-style Cold Smoke ale from Kettle House Brewing.
It’s hard to come by the great Cold Smoke ale outside Kettle House Brewing’s Missoula hometown. When I see it in a Dillon gas station, I grab a dozen 16-ounce cans
Only the threat of snow on the drive north through Montana finally snaps us out of our Dillon reverie. But there’s always next time through.