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Weekend Road Trip Review: Bozeman

The Bozeman Brewing Company

I finally paid my first visit to Bozeman this weekend and, from what I remember, it was a helluva good time.

I rolled into town on Friday night and got a room at a downtown hotel called “The City Center Inn”.  It was like stepping back in time.  I’m pretty sure the hotel hasn’t upgraded their rooms since the 80′s.  Even though the decor was outdated, the rooms were big, and within walking distance of many bars and restaurants.  I wouldn’t recommend this place for a romantic stay, but for a weekend party trip, it was just fine.

My first stop was an steakhouse called Ted’s.  This place is classy, but not too classy.  The menu and decor had a quintessential Montana vibe.  Although the service was terrible, the Bison short ribs were phenomenal and were reasonably priced.  It was the first of several great meals I had this weekend.

For lunch on Saturday, we went to Burger Bob’s, which is a local landmark.  The old building really adds to its charm.  The burgers and sides were both great and the beer selection is excellent.  Of course, burgers and beers are always a great way to start the day.

From there, we walked down Main Street, checking out the shops and enjoying the street performers.  Eventually, we stumbled off the beaten path and made our way to the Bozeman Brewing Company.  Although it’s hard to find, tucked away in a neighborhood about a mile off Main, it was well worth the walk.  I’ve enjoyed many a Bozone here in Billings and was excited to try some of their seasonal brews.  I started with a Scottish Ale, which was superb.  I washed that one down with a potent 10% Dunkell and finished with a Hopzone.  It’s a shame our stupid liquor laws only allow for 3 drinks at a brewery, because I would have tried every beer they make.

After making our way back to Main Street, we stopped by Montana Ale Works for another round. There are a bunch of great old buildings in Bozman and this one might be the best.  It’s located in the old train depot, which has been restored, including an old rail car, where we sat.  The food here was nothing to write home about, but they have a solid selection of beers on tap and a big menu.  This is a great spot for people who don’t want to deal with drunk college kids.

As we headed west on Main, we noticed an Irish pub in the old Bozeman Hotel called 317.  The building is amazing, the decor is authentic, they have all of the great Irish beers on tap and a strong selection of Irish whiskeys.  317 is everything that Hooligan’s in Billings wishes it was.  A real Irish Pub.

After knocking back an Irish pint (or 5), we stumbled over to a restaurant called “Open Range”.  Not only was it the highlight of the entire trip, it’s one of the best meals I have ever had (and that’s a bold statement).  One of their nightly specials was a Brazilian stew called Moqueca.  It was outstanding and the service was even better.  Normally, I’d expect to pay at least $100 for dinner at a restaurant of its caliber. The entire tab, including two entrees, drinks for two and an appetizer, came to just over $60.

After dinner, we headed over to the Zebra Lounge to see a funk band from Jackson, Wyoming, named “Maddy and the Groovespots”. The Zebra Lounge is located in the basement of the historic Bozeman Hotel, and it is an awesome venue.  The distressed brick walls look like a dungeon when you first walk in and the walls are covered with cool rock ‘n’ roll paintings.  Although there is no stage, the room sounds great and the band was killer.  One of my biggest complaints about Billings is the lack of live music.  We could really take a page from Bozeman.

After stumbling back to our hotel room, we woke up on Sunday looking for a greasy breakfast joint to soak up the booze.  We knew we found the spot when we saw a line going out the door at the Western Cafe.  Like many of the historic buildings in Bozeman, this place is a throwback to wild west cowboy culture.  The food was even better than the ambiance.  Calling itself the “Last Best Cafe”, the Western lived up to its slogan with a chicken fried that was bigger than my head.

On our way back to Billings, we took a detour in Livingstone and headed up to Paradise Valley.  It was the perfect way to cap off an awesome weekend.  Since moving to Billings nearly six months ago, I’ve heard a lot of great things about Bozeman.  I wasn’t sure if it would live up to the hype.  After spending a weekend there, I don’t think I would want to live in Bozeman, but it’s a fun place to visit.

The town is smaller than I thought it would be, there is a serious lack of downtown lodging, and all of the action is downtown.  But the bars and restaurants were great.  I can’t wait to go back in the summertime when the streets aren’t crawling with college kids.

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