"Where do you want to eat?"

"Where do you want to eat?" generally followed by a responding "I don't know" is an exchange that is a little too familiar for a lot of today's diners. With an abundance of restaurants to choose from, deciding on one common restaurant to satisfy the desire for a good meal can seem daunting. Now enter the motivation behind this blog. The city of Great Falls has a multitude of restaurants to choose from, offering a wide variety of options depending on the dining experience you seek. A good number of these restaurants are "chains", corporate giants offering the same menus in a variety of locations throughout the country. Nothing personal against these chain restaurants, but especially in today's economy, it is incredibly important to support local businesses. When the public invests in locally-owned buisnesses, the money is recycled back into the local community. Therefore, this blog will only feature the locally-owned restaurants of Great Falls. Each week, one local restaurant will be featured and reviewed, with the intent that the next time "where do you want to eat?" is proposed, a locally-owned business will be supported.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner at Home

Despite the many enjoyable experiences I have had at the many local restaurants Great Falls has to offer, nothing beats a home cooked meal on Thanksgiving.
To see my entire family under one roof is a rarity anymore, with a sister who lives in Olympia, Wash. and a father who works in Florida, but we all manage to come together for the holidays.
I never gave the cold, blustery weather outside a second thought once I entered my parent’s house and the warmth and smell of the roasting turkey enveloped me.
Dinner was a combined effort between my mother, sisters and brother-in-law, resulting in an array of delicious foods!
The meal itself consisted of seven side dishes and the coup de grace, the turkey itself.
My older sister made her infamous scalloped potatoes (she also made these for Christmas dinner last year) using Yukon Gold potatoes grown in Mt. Vernon, Wash. and smoky cheddar and gouda Cougar Gold Cheese, produced on the Washington State University campus.
Under a crispy layer of baked cheese, the potatoes themselves were crisp and plentiful, and the combination of the cheeses the potatoes were bathed in gave the dish a perfectly unique flavor.
My older sister also lays claim to the creation of the cranberry sauce, a tart and juicy addition to the meal consisting of whole cranberries grown in the coastal town of Grayland, Wash.
My brother-in-law made his corn casserole, also a returning favorite from last Christmas.
His combination of corn, cheddar cheese, crushed saltines and pimento was a welcome variation to the usual steamed corn I am accustomed to.
The green beans, stuffing and sweet potato casserole were all creations of my mothers.
The fresh green beans were sautéed until just barely blackened, giving the beans a crisp, smoky delicious taste.
The stuffing was moist and fluffy, and abundant in flavor as it consisted of cubed bread, celery, onion, mushroom, nuts, cranberries and apples.
The sweet potato casserole is a personal favorite of mine, and no one can make it like my mother can.
She takes fresh sweet potatoes and crushes them into a smooth, creamy mixture of brown sugar, sweet potatoes and marshmallows.
She tops this concoction with a layer of marshmallows covered in a crumbly topping of oats, nuts and brown sugar and bakes it until the marshmallows melt, resulting in a mouthwatering dish that is sweet enough to be called a dessert.
The highlight of every Thanksgiving meal I have enjoyed with my family is the turkey, and this year my mother did not disappoint.
The locally grown Hutterite turkey weighed in at 20 pounds and was basted in its own juices and fresh herbs.
I have always been impressed with the turkeys grown on Hutterite farms, and this one measured up to the bar others before it have placed.
The turkey was incredibly juicy and tender, and was supplemented with a gravy made from its own drippings.
After dinner was given ample time to settle, but before the tryptophan could take effect, we sampled the pies that were made for dessert, also a combined effort between my mother and my sisters.
My mother made a pecan pie, and was probably a personal best for her in my opinion.
She made the crust out of organic pumpkin granola, mixed nuts, oats, and whole wheat flour, giving the pie a nutty crumble taste to it instead of a doughy crust.
My little sister made an apple pie, and, as I do not know the specifics behind this creation because she refuses to let anyone in on her secret, I do know the pie was absolutely delicious, consisting of plenty of crispy cinnamon apples and a sweet tangy sauce.
My older sister made her husband’s favorite pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkins transported all the way from Dugualla Bay Farms on Whidbey Island, Wash. to create the creamy, sweet pie topped with homemade whipped cream.
My family is incredibly talented in the kitchen, and I ate enough to keep me feeling full all throughout the next day was well.
I had an absolutely incredible Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope everyone else did as well. 
Happy holidays!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eddie's Supper Club

On the corner of 2nd Ave. N. and 38th St. N, the stark white building of Eddie’s Supper Club, plain in appearance, is easily passed by, fading into the background as you continue your commute. 
The appearance of the building itself does not offer much to the imagination, and unless this restaurant serves as the destination, many commuters who never venture inside miss out on a fantastic dining experience.
The Coffee Shop

The Supper Club
Advertised as “The King of the Supper Clubs” since 1944, Eddie’s Supper Club consists of the unique aspect which combines two locations in one building.
Just inside the doorway with teal painted walls, the Coffee Shop offers a cheaper menu consisting of more casual meals such as sandwiches, burgers, and soup and salads.
Located on the other side of the Coffee Shop is the Supper Club, a more sophisticated setting with a more specific menu.
Red dominates the interior of the Supper Club from the carpets to the windows; even the tables are equipped with a red, flickering tea light candle.
Old-time western art and paintings line the perimeter of the Supper Club, hanging on the wood paneled walls.
Several chandeliers hang from the ceiling, casting a soft glow throughout the dining room.
The staff at Eddie’s Supper Club is incredibly friendly, helpful and observant, never leaving a dirty dish on the table.
The menu for the Supper Club, more refined and selective in options, showcases the “World Famous Campfire Steaks” for which Eddie’s Supper Club is most proud, ranging in price from $25 to $30.
Both the Supper Club menu and the menu for the Coffee Shop are available to order from however regardless of where you sit in the restaurant.
The toasted raviolis came highly recommended by the waitress, saying she will never again eat ravioli the traditional boiled way.
Smothered in a tomato meat sauce, the toasted ravioli contained ground beef encased in a ravioli shell, lightly toasted just enough to provide a slight crunch.
The homemade sauce was delicious, and possessed a hint of brown sugar in taste.
Almost immediately following the appetizer, the waitress returned with the main course, a Campfire Deluxe Burger Sandwich with a side of potato skins.
The hand-formed 12 oz beef patty sat on a toasted whole wheat Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles piled on top.
The unique seasonings used in cooking the thick, juicy burger gave it a smoky, cooked-on-an-open-fire taste.
The potato skins, similar to incredibly thick French fries, surrounded the burger.
The fluffy potatoes were served crispy and hot with a side of a homemade sour cream-bacon mixture for dipping.
Despite the blizzard occurring just outside the windows, I opted for the homemade peppermint ice cream sundae for dessert.
Probably one of my most favorite desserts since the start of this blog, the vanilla ice cream contained little pieces of peppermint embedded within providing a very pleasant peppermint taste to the ice cream.
Topped with a modest amount of chocolate syrup, this finishing touch resulted in a taste identical to that of an Andes Mint, an absolutely perfect way to end this meal.
Eddie’s Supper Club offers quite an individualized dining experience, as the crowd never grew to more than a dozen patrons.
The staff strives to provide you a relaxing and enjoyable meal, constantly making sure everything is ok and that the water glasses stay full.
Families, friends, coworkers, and any other diners should, if they haven’t done so already, consider Eddie’s Supper Club when deciding where to eat.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Sting Sports Bar and Casino

A full parking lot and a building stuffed nearly to capacity caught my attention Thursday night, causing me to venture into The Sting Sports Bar and Casino.
Originally a pizza establishment, The Sting has been in operation for many years and since its’ move to its’ current location on 5th street south, The Sting has been a popular destination for the nightlife crowd of Great Falls.
The lifelong Montana residents who own The Sting, Richie and Sara, have striven to provide the city of Great Falls with an establishment that strongly supports the local community and sporting events of Montana.
Dozens of televisions line the ceiling of The Sting, broadcasting a multitude of sporting events in every direction.
Starting at 6 p.m. every Thursday, you can be sure to hear the musical talents of the local band, The Thrillbillies, belting out their renditions of popular rock and roll and country songs.
Although this band is highly talented and provides the bar with a fun energy, it is difficult to carry on conversations during songs as you have to shout over the music in order to be heard 12 inches away.
Old-time movie posters and fliers advertising sporting events adorn the walls painted in bold, primary colors.
Offered at The Sting Sports Bar and Casino is food typical of that found on a bar’s menu, primarily consisting of finger foods and sandwiches for around 10 dollars.
Salads are also offered as a healthy alternative for the conscientious diner.
Of the options on the appetizer menu, the waitress suggested the mini-tacos.

Mini corn tortillas filled with ground beef and spices, the mini tacos were served with a side of sour cream and salsa.
A word of caution about the mini tacos: give them plenty of time to cool as the insides are incredibly hot when the tacos arrive at the table.
The tacos did, however, have an enjoyable taste to them, and were plentiful in number. 
The shell was crispy and crunchy on the edges while the inner portion of the tacos maintained a soft shell feel.
The ground beef was lightly seasoned, giving the tacos a subtle edge in flavor.
For the main course, the Chicken Philly Sandwich sounded like it would be a good choice.
Described as a chicken breast topped with grilled onions, green peppers and melted Swiss cheese, the Chicken Philly was served on a toasted Kaiser roll with a side of tater tots.
The chicken was tender and juicy, all around well cooked and delicious.
The grilled onions and peppers were melted into the cheese and provided a smoky grilled taste to the sandwich.
The tater tots, however, lacked flavor different from the oils used to cook them.
Overcooked, the tater tots were too crunchy and so flavorless even a dose of salt couldn’t cure the problem.
Although the tater tots did not meet my expectations, probably my biggest disappointment of the night came when the waitress informed me that The Sting does not serve dessert!
Needless to say I was upset, however, had I entered The Sting with a different agenda this night, I may have had an entirely different experience.
The Sting Sports Bar is exactly that, a sports bar.
The live music was enjoyable to listen to, and the atmosphere was fun and relaxed, radiating with a positive energy.
I would highly recommend The Sting as a destination to meet friends and unwind from the day over drinks and appetizers.
I would suggest looking elsewhere, however, if your intent is to enjoy a quiet, quality meal out.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

3D International

3D International brought the first Mongolian Grill to Great Falls in 1996. 
A buffet of meats, fresh vegetables, seafood and noodles accompanied by a plethora of sauces and seasonings, the Mongolian Grill is an all-you-can-eat but not-take-home dining out experience.
Upon entry to 3D International, you are greeted by a friendly host who leads you back into the dining area, illuminated by the chandeliers and wall sconces which cast subdued lighting throughout the richly colored interior.
With little to no wait time, the cocktail waitress took the drink orders, and shortly thereafter, returned with the drinks.
The appetizer menu choices were limited, had an Asian flare, and complimented the Mongolian Grill Buffet as a dinner option nicely.
To start the meal, the Asian Appetizer Platter was recommended by the waitress.
Consisting of all fried foods, the platter contained egg rolls, potstickers and shrimp purses served with an array of Asian dipping sauces.
The most appetizing item on the platter was the egg rolls, as the potstickers and shrimp purses were overcooked and hard.
The bite-sized eggrolls were crispy on the outside and stuffed full of flavorful veggies and meat.
Once the appetizer was finished, the Mongolian Grill and buffet was chosen as the main course.
Here you will find a variety of meats and seafood consisting of frozen beef, pork, chicken, white fish and shrimp.
The veggies were plentiful, fresh, and crisp.
There was no wait line as people moved quickly through the buffet, piling their choices in their bowls.
Once your bowl is filled, the man behind the bar cooks the contents on a large, black circular grill.
Grilling multiple bowls at once, you can stand and watch him grill your meal before your eyes – abbra-caddabra your meal is done, hope you got the right one!
Because the Mongolian Grill is an all-you-can eat buffet, the restaurant does not allow you to take home your leftovers, so be sure to bring your appetite.
All of the desserts at 3D International are homemade, onsite.
For help in selecting a dessert, the waitress suggested the Turtle Cheesecake.
The cheesecake was brought to the table at room temperature which unfortunately detracts from the taste of cheesecake. 
The texture was that of a cheesecake which had been sitting out for some time.  It had an opaque look to it and a dry, stiff texture versus a crisp, white look and creamy texture of a freshly made cheesecake.
The topping was thick fudge syrup which was dry to the touch and overpowering in taste compared to the cheesecake itself. 
Overall, dessert was less than satisfactory and not a choice I would recommend.
The dining experience as a whole was not a disappointment, however.
The entree is as healthy as you make it, and the buffet is constantly replenished, never running short of food.
The wait staff is friendly and the restaurant is very clean, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
My recommendation would be to bypass the appetizer and skip the dessert, as neither options were rave worthy – save your appetite for the Mongolian Grill.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cattleman's Cut and Supper Club

Just off the Vaughn Frontage Road and across the way from the cattle stockyards and auction grounds, the Cattleman’s Cut and Supper Club provides a western dining experience you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

Western prints and bison bronzes decorate the walls that separate the two large and open dining rooms, while faux foliage borders the ceiling.

Deep cranberry walls contrast the otherwise neutral interior of the restaurant, dimly lit by the small lights embedded in the ceiling.

The menu at Cattleman’s Cut offers an array of options to satisfy nearly any type of diner.

Seafood, chicken, lamb, pasta, buffalo and duck headline the different options, but the pride of Cattleman’s Cut are the USDA Montana sized steaks and nightly featured prime rib.

The namesake of the restaurant, “The Cattleman’s Cut”, is a 36 oz. rib eye steak sliced from a choice rib eye loin and butterflied, served proudly for $45.95.

Health conscious diners, or those with smaller appetites, can select option from the portion of the menu titled “On the Light Side”, where entrees are offered in smaller portions for prices ranging from $13 to $15.

For experimentation, I ordered the Rocky Mountain Oysters for an appetizer, an item I have never tried and didn’t know existed until I moved to Montana.

According to the menu, these sliced and seasoned “calf nuts” are breaded and deep fried, served with cocktail sauce on the side.

Without thinking about what it was I was about to consume, I closed my eyes and tasted the Rocky Mountain Oysters, which resembled a flavor similar to that of chicken fried steak.

The cocktail sauce added a distinct contrast, enhancing the surprisingly pleasant flavor of the Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Smoken Joe’s BBQ Baby Back Ribs are the Thursday night special at Cattleman’s Cut, and the featured meal of this review.

The ribs are slowly smoked over a smoldering sweet hickory fire, and rubbed with “Joe’s Dry Rub Seasoning”.

Joe’s Baby Back Ribs are available for order three ways: mini slab (four bones) for $10.95, half slab (six bones) for $16.95, or a full slab (12 bones) for $24.95.

These tender, moist ribs have a smoky, juicy taste that makes your mouth water.

The modest amount of BBQ sauce that coats the ribs enhances the flavor of the meat, plentiful on the bone.

The ribs are served with a side of BBQ sauce, but the sauce is not needed to enjoy the sweet taste of these juicy ribs which sold out in the amount of time it took me to eat my meal.

Rosemary roasted potato quarters are served on the side are pair nicely with the ribs.

A crisp potato skin contains the fluffy potatoes, dusted in herb flavor.

Homemade sweet, crumbly cornbread is also served on the side, and is paired with a honey butter spread that adds the perfect amount of flavor to the side.

To end this exquisite meal, just in time for the holidays, I ordered the Eggnog Custard Pie.

Served on a chilled plate sprinkled with powdered sugar and a dollop of cool whip, this hearty slice of pie was delicious to say the least.

The subtle eggnog taste of the cool, smooth custard was highlighted by the sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg on the top of the slice.

The Cattleman’s Cut and Supper Club maintains a welcoming environment for any type of diner, offering a casual friendly atmosphere with which to enjoy your meal.

Diners came dressed in attire ranging anywhere from t-shirts and blue jeans, country western shirts and cowboy boots, to sports coats and button down shirts.

The Cattleman’s Cut provides a unique location for business meetings, club events, special parties and banquets, however there are no private banquet rooms available.

In addition to the on-site offerings, Cattleman’s Cut can also offer off the premises catering, and is equipped to handle groups of anywhere from 100 to 2,000 people in size.

Among other benefits, the Cattleman’s Cut provides you an enjoyable meal away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bar-S Supper Club

Located just off the scenic River Dr. N., the Bar-S Supper Club is a tribute to Montana in more ways then one.

The beauty of Montana is depicted just inside the heavy double doors, where a floor-to-ceiling waterfall trickles down the wall.

Stuffed wildlife is displayed throughout the bar and restaurant in a manner customary of a hunting lodge.

The barn wood paneling and window framing as well as the bare log rails that line the ceiling add to the rustic, authentic feel of the establishment.

The large, open dining room invites a feeling of community and friendship amongst the diners.

The menu features locally grown, grass fed beef in the form of steaks and, according to the waiter Ian, the “best prime rib in Montana”.

Seafood options are also offered at Bar-S and prices range from $20 to $40.  The Steamed Shrimp Lobster Style provides a healthy alternative for the health conscious diner and is available for $21.95.

For the appetizer, Ian recommended the Shrimp Wraps.  Minced shrimp encased within a crispy wonton shell, was served with a side of sweet chili sauce.  The Shrimp Wraps had a mild seafood flavor that when dipped in the sweet chili sauce, created a slightly spicy edge.

Complimentary bread was brought to the table at the same time as the appetizer.  The warm wheat bread melted the sweet honey butter immediately, as it was spread on every slice. 

Because it was proclaimed to be the “best prime rib in Montana”, I ordered the Queen cut Prime Rib cooked medium for $19.95.  The size of the queen cut prime rib was quite generous and consumed much of the dinner plate.  The tender, juicy steak had a smoky grilled edge and when paired with the zesty horseradish, created a mouthwatering effect worthy of its proclamation as the best in Montana.  The prime rib was served alongside crinkle-cut Bar-S chips.  These potato slices were deep fried, although not oily.  Homemade, thick, creamy ranch was provided for dipping.

A local baker prepares the desserts offered at the Bar-S Supper Club.  To culminate the dinner, the lemon cheesecake was recommended.  The smooth, creamy cheesecake had a fresh, citrus zing, and was the perfect size to wrap up this dinner.

The Bar-S Supper Club is a great place for family dinners, dinner with friends, or any other type of outing.  Reservations are recommended each night in order to ensure seating in a timely manner.  The staff is friendly, the environment is lively, and your experience is sure to be enjoyable at the Bar-S Supper Club.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Prospector Saloon and Gaming Parlor

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007, may hold little significance for many, but for those associated with the Prospector Saloon and Gaming Parlor, this date will not soon be forgotten.
On this particular day, The Prospector Saloon on Smelter Avenue and 9th Street was engulfed in a fiery blaze, reduced to a pile of rubble by the time the flames were extinguished.
A little more than a year following this eventful day, The Prospector Saloon and Gaming Parlor was rebuilt from the ashes and sits once again at the busy intersection of Smelter Avenue and 9th Street North.
The newly constructed building is rustic in appearance, wood being the dominant aspect of the interior with a river rock gas fireplace centered in the dining room.
Sitting in the high backed wooden booths, you can’t help but notice the exposed beam structure of the ceiling, giving the restaurant an authentic, lodge-type appearance.
Each table has an individual amber light suspended from the ceiling, creating a soft glow over the table.
The diverse menu holds no restrictions for the diner, allowing breakfast to be ordered at any time of day.  Options on the menu vary from salads, sandwiches and burgers, to steak, ribs, seafood and pasta, and prices range from about $10 to $20.
If you happen to visit the Prospector between Thursday and Sunday, the Prime Rib is featured, and is a specialty of the Prospector.  Prices range from $16.95 for a 10 ounce cut to $29.95 for a 20 ounce. 
Selected to showcase for an appetizer was the Prospector Nachos.  Presented to the table in a tin pan, the Prospector Nachos consist of tortilla chips topped with ground beef, nacho cheese, onions, tomatoes, black olives and jalapenos, served with salsa and sour cream on the side.
The nacho toppings were proportionate to the amount of salty, crisp tortilla chips that lined the bottom of the pan, and the flavors of the entire pan blended well.
Unfortunately, on this particular night, the Prospector was short on supply, which consequently limited the dining options and portion size of the appetizer.
Based on the description, the Saloon Burger was chosen for an entrée.  Described as a “burger to die for”, the Saloon Burger is a 1/3 pound patty seasoned to perfection and stuffed with Roquefort cheese.
Served alongside a pile of golden, fluffy French fries, the juicy Saloon Burger was enough to satisfy any hunger.  The seasonings added a perfect touch to the burger, giving it a distinct, garlic and onion flavor.  The flavor of the cheese was infused throughout the stuffed burger, allowing for a smoky taste in each bite.
The only option for dessert this night at the Prospector was a slice of Blueberry Pie.  Brought to the table on a glass plate, the slice of pie, much to my disappointment, did not reflect the quality one would expect from the Prospector.  Lacking a fresh taste, the crust tasted stale and the blueberries lacked much of a taste at all.  Leaving much to be desired, this slice of blueberry pie tasted like it had spent too much time in the display case.
The Prospector Saloon and Gaming Parlor is a beautiful establishment and the atmosphere is enjoyable.  The friendly staff greets you upon entry, and they have the ability to work as a team for their patrons.  Regardless of who is waiting on you, any staff member is willing to help you if you have a need. 
Although this was not a night of exemplary food quality, compensations were made on behalf of the Prospector in an effort to make the night an enjoyable one. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Goode's Q and Bayou Grill

The comfort foods of the South come together at Goode's Q and Bayou Grill, bringing you one of the most unique dining experiences Great Falls has to offer.

In a log cabin just off 15th Street North, the menu at Goode's combines bar-be-que, gumbo, Cajun and Creole creations from cultures such as French, Italian, German, English, Spanish, African and Native American, providing you quite the multicultural experience.

Salads, pasta, burgers, po-boys, bbq and gumbo headline the menu at Goode's, offering a little something for everyone for right around $10.  Fried alligator chunks for $8.25 were advertised on special Thursday night for the bold diner.

A special section of the menu is dedicated to vegetarian meal options such as Habib's Po-Boy (grilled red onions, mushrooms, green and red peppers, and olives served on a toasted hoagie with tomatoes, spinach, and "the Q" remoulade), and The Hema (marinated portabello mushrooms grilled and topped with smoked Fontina cheese and served on a toasted hoagie with tomatoes, leaf lettuce, and topped with "the Q's" raspberry chipotle vinaigrette).

In an effort to highlight the more unique dishes Goode's has to offer, the Bayou Lobster was selected as an appetizer.  Contrary to its name, the Bayou Lobster is actually seasoned and breaded crawfish served with a spicy cherry glaze.

Similar in taste to calamari (although not as chewy), the crawfish had a distinct, salty seafood taste.  The cherry sauce, more sweet then spicy, counteracted the seafood taste and tamed the overall flavor of the dish.  The taste is delicious and the texture of the crawfish is one that easily becomes addictive, you'll empty the plate in a matter of minutes.

Next, the waitress highly recommended the Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee for the main course.  This southern style stew is made up of shrimp and crawfish sauteed with vegetables, wine, herbs, and tomatoes in a rich seafood stock, served over rice with a slice of jalapeno cornbread on the side.

Feeling adventurous, I ordered the etouffee not knowing really what to expect.  When the meal was brought to the table, the smell alone was enough to make your mouth water.  Smelling strongly of oregano and basil, the distinct aroma of the herbs overwhelmed the other senses, inviting you to just breathe the smell in.  The creamy stew had a delayed, slightly spicy bite to it, a residual effect of the seafood stock the dish was stewed in, and it was controlled nicely by the grains of rice within.  The subtle spice gave the stew a perfect edge, encouraging you to come back for each spoonful.  Riddled with plump shrimp so large it took more then one bite to consume them, and crawfish soft like crab meat, you are sure to get a spoonful each time you come back for more.

The cornbread, although made with jalapeno peppers embedded within, was not the least bit spicy.  Coupled with the stew, the pair created a sweet and spicy effect, a perfect balance for the palate.

Two options were available for dessert, both homemade in-house creations.  After receiving high recommendations for both the Bread Pudding and the Peach Crisp, the latter was chosen to end what had been an adventurous and delicious meal.

Served in a porcelain boat-like dish, the warm peach crisp was brought to the table with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream running down the sides.  If seasons have a smell, this dessert illustrates the scent of Fall perfectly.  The cinnamon and nutmeg paired with the sweet smell of peaches creates an image of the colorful autumn leaves falling to the ground on a sunny, crisp day.  The tangy sweet peach flavor, combined with the cinnamon and nutmeg spices, results in the down-home comfort food taste Goode's strives to achieve.

True to their motto, "Goode's Q and Bayou Grill isn't fancy, just Goode".  Upon entry to this restaurant, one of the more noticeable traits is the small dining area.  Tables are grouped somewhat closely together, strengthening the feeling of family Goode's offers its guests.

Sitting amongst the lights, beads and garlands, you can almost picture a busy New Orleans street just beyond the windows.  The laughter and conversations amongst the other diners creates a comfortable, small-town atmosphere and the friendly staff make everyone feel at home and welcome.

Goode's Q and Bayou Grill has so much more to offer then just a night eating out.  The food choices alone invite you to venture out of your normal eating habits and enjoy creations of other cultures.  Families and friends are provided a warm and relaxing environment to catch up and reconnect.

If a night of "Goode" food, "Goode" friends and "Goode" times is what you're after, Goode's Q and Bayou Grill is definitely a stop worth making.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dante's Creative Cuisine

Sitting at a table in Dante's, one would be hard pressed to allow the use of gold within the establishment to go unnoticed.
Dominating the interior, gold is embedded throughout the entire restaurant, creating an ambiance of class, luxury, and wealth.  Gold chandeliers hang from an ornate, bronzed gold tiled ceiling.  Shiny golden banisters line the walkways, reflecting the light from the chandeliers.  Each table has a golden, oil-burning candle, flickering on top of the stark white tablecloths.

Hanging on the building's original brick walls, local canvas paintings are available for purchase.  Foliage hangs from the ceilings and also creates boundaries within the restaurant, creating a smaller, more intimate setting. 

In contrast to authentic Italian design, Dante's interior design is not meant to detract from the quality of their food, but rather to enhance the luxurious aspect of the overall dining experience.

Dante's takes pride in the preparation of the meal, as is illustrated by the respective prices of each meal.  Each item on the menu is unique to the restaurant, and individually crafted, thereby justifying the higher then average price tag.

Featured in this review is a three course meal containing the Caprese Bruschetta for $8.95, followed by the Shrimp Scampi for $24.95, and culminating with the Chocolate Peanut Butter Stack for $4.50, all highly recommended by the black-clad waitress wearing an elegant, floor-length apron.

(left) Caprese Bruschetta, (above) warm fresh bread, (right) house salad with homemade Gorgonzola

The Caprese Bruschetta was a perfect starter.  Diced tomatoes, basil, olive oil and fresh Mozzarella is prepared on top of sliced Bruschetta bread.  There was a hint of garlic (I'm assuming a garlic butter was spread on the bread prior to the toppings), which was subdued by the strong flavor of the fresh basil.  With four pieces, the intent of this appetizer is not to satisfy hunger, but to make you hungry for more.

Warm bread followed the appetizer.  For dipping, the waitress prepared a balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic mixture at the table-side by crushing a fresh garlic clove and mixing it with the oil and vinegar.  This mixture created a unique taste that can best be described as sweet and tangy at the same time.

Prior to the arrival of the main dish, a house salad is served.  Mixed in with bed of fresh greens, Dante's creates their own house Gorgonzola dressing.  This rich and creamy dressing gives the salad a unique, almost sweet taste.

Following the house salad, the Shrimp Scampi was brought to the table.  Ordered "A la Dante's", jumbo shrimp were sauteed in butter, garlic, lemon and white wine, mixed in a garlic-cream sauce, and served over linguine.  Beautifully presented, a rosemary sprig rested on top of the bed of pasta, and gave the dish an authentic-like rustic aroma.  Each flavor in this smooth and creamy dish was discernable.  The basil contrasted the garlic in the cream-based sauce.  True to their name, the jumbo shrimp were large, plump and meaty.  They had a fresh taste, complimented by the garlic cream sauce they were bathed in. 

In an effort to gain a complete, well-rounded appreciation for Dante's, I inquired about a dessert menu.  Moments later the waitress appeared at the table carrying a tray full of samples of the desserts Dante's has to offer.  After explaining each item on the tray, she recommended the Chocolate Peanut Butter Stack. 
Presented on a plate covered in chocolate and caramel drizzle, this bar has layers upon layers of rich, decadent flavor.  At the base is chocolate cake (or brownie), topped with layers of peanut butter, crunchy wafers, creamy fudge, walnuts and a gooey caramel sauce.

The overall dining experience of Dante's is that of class and sophistication.  Dante's offers patrons an escape form the daily grind of life to a place of elegance and luxury, both with the decor of the establishment, as well as with the food prepared within.  Although anyone is welcome in this establishment of casual fine dining, this would be a restaurant I would reserve for special occasions. 

Dante's is the perfect environment for romantic occasions or special celebrations, not necessarily geared toward family outings or casual get-togethers.  For a unique, classic, and more refined dining experience, Dante's offers just that.  Dante's Creative Cuisine offers a dining experience not commonly found elsewhere in Great Falls. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rikki's Pizza and Pasta

The Paycheck family is evidence of the fact that family ties run strong in this town.  In addition to owning and operating Ryan's Station, Rikki's is also owned by the Paycheck family.  Rikki's and Ryan's Station are namesakes, both named after the two brothers, thus creating the brother restaurants.  Located just south of 10th Ave South on ninth street, Rikki's is a modest establishment that has much to offer.

The restaurant has a very modern, sophisticated look to it.  The interior is painted in dark rich tones, the dim lighting complimenting the colors nicely.  Each table has its own lamp that descends from the geometrically designed ceiling which helps to enhance the restaurant's size.  Rikki's seems to be a believer in the "less is more" theory when it comes to decorations, minimal landscape artwork and flowered wreaths being the only interior decorations.  The soft music playing in the background helps to diminish the chatter amongst the other diners while simultaneously adding to the overall classy feel of the restaurant.

The hostess greets you upon entry so there is no wait time, asking your seating preference as she takes you back.  Once seated, Chris, the friendliest waiter yet since I began these reviews and the only one to make introductions, brought water to the table.  He was incredibly patient while the menu was analyzed, and offered his honest opinions on dishes, helping to achieve a satisfactory decision on the meal.

Reflecting the name of the establishment, the menu at Rikki's is that of predominately pizza and pastas.  Unique to Rikki's is the Greek Ziti (ziti with Sicilian pesto, red onions, roasted bell peppers, Kalamata olives, and green beans with white wine and a garlic-herb butter topped with feta cheese) for $11.95, as well as the Angry Lobster Linguine (lobster, pancetta, caramelized onions, asparagus, roasted garlic and linguine in a spicy white wine tomato sauce) for $14.95.  In contrast to its brother restaurant, Rikki's has options available for those who are seeking a healthy meal out.  A fresh veggie pizza topped with tomato sauce and herbs, broccoli, mushrooms, red onions, roasted red and yellow bell peppers, Roma tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese, would be a satisfactory, guilt-free option.  Rikki's also offers a Greek Pi (Sicilian pesto, black olives, red onions, diced tomatoes, pepperonchinis, topped with Mozzarella and feta cheeses with an oregano and balsamic drizzle) is advertised at $12.95.  Other vegetarian options are marked throughout the menu.  Also offered are salads and sandwiches, similar to those found at Rikki's brother establishment, Ryan's Station.  Sandwiches range in value from $7.95 to $8.50 while salads are anywhere from $8 to $10.

To start, Chris suggested the Baked Lobster and Mascarpone Dip for $9.75.  Served with sliced foccaccia bread, this dip was absolutely delicious.  Bubbling upon arrival, the creamy dip was so rich and flavorful, you almost want to skip the foccaccia bread altogether and eat the dip with a spoon.  Not wanting to leave any amount behind, you may even be tempted to lick the bowl.  Were it not for the main course, you would be sad to finish this amazing appetizer.

Luckily, the Spaghetti Squash Saute is equally pleasing.  Although priced at $12.95, the price is fair for the amount and quality of the meal.  Sauteed with broccoli, green beans, carrots, green onions, diced tomatoes, roasted garlic in a garlic-herb butter and topped with Parmesan cheese, the spaghetti squash saute looks identical to a plate of yellow spaghetti.  The squash has an almost sweet, buttery taste to it, giving it its unique flavor.  The temperature of the food was perfect, allowing you to enjoy your meal from the moment it is placed before you.

In lieu of a dessert menu, Rikki's offers a dessert tray.  This unique idea gives you the option to see your dessert before you place your order.  You can view all dessert options, and choose the one that looks the most tempting.  The dessert tray is a great tactic and useful tool for the diner.  A simple picture in a dessert menu would not have done the Chocolate Toffee Mousse Cheesecake justice.  Presented on a plate of chocolate drizzle, this cheesecake is so rich and creamy, the taste is identical to a chocolate truffle.  A ribbon of toffee is weaved throughout the slice, adding a subtle but welcomed contrast in flavor.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, but you know it was an enjoyable experience when you are somewhat reluctant to leave.  The staff at Rikki's makes you feel so welcomed and right at home.  A great place for families to venture for a special night out, Rikki's is also suitable for couples looking for a nice, quiet environment to enjoy each other's company in.

Like its brother, Rikki's also offers a party room.  Doubling in size, Rikki's party room has the ability to offer personalized service for up to 50 people.  This room is also available by reservation, and can be reserved by calling 406-761-8052.  The next time you are looking for a venue to host an event or just a relaxing night out consider Rikki's, you will not be disappointed with the experience.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ryan's Station

  Alongside the railroad tracks just north of the Sun River lies Ryan's Station, a moderately sized restaurant, bustling with activity.  This modest establishment almost has a pub-like feel to it, with the subdued tones and modern artwork adorning the walls.  The soft lighting creates a complimenting ambiance, giving you a relaxing environment with which to enjoy your meal.  The noise level is kept to a minimum:  the acoustics of the restaurant minimize any background chatter by other diners so as not to drown your own conversations out.

Upon entry to this restaurant, the friendly staff, dressed in matching black polo's, greet you instantaneously with a smile and lead you to a seat, thus eliminating any kind of wait time.  Creating a sense of neighborly friendship, the servers maintain a casual relationship with their patrons.  Carrying on conversations, joking and laughing when appropriate, they add to the overall "at-home" feel of the place.

Boasting with variety, the menu offers a wide selection of dishes to choose from.  Depending on your appetite, Ryan's Station offers options such as salads, paninis, tacos, pasta and steaks, among other entrees.  Beer is available on tap as well as bottled, and an extensive list of cocktails adult diners can peruse.  Prices are modest:  most sandwiches are marked around $7.95, including the Portobello Mushroom sandwich (a portobello mushroom grilled with onions and peppers, topped with lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette, all on a grilled bun).  The Baked Seafood Penne (rock crab, shrimp and artichoke hearts mixed in with alfredo sauce and penne pasta, topped with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs) comes in at the top of the price spectrum at $15.95.  Unfortunately, there are little to no healthy meal options available at this establishment.  If healthy dining is your intention, Ryan's Station does offer a Grilled Walleye (walleye fillet grilled with ginger-lime butter and topped with Parmesan garlic bread crumbs) for $14.95, but other healthy dishes are few and far between.

Featured for the evening at Ryan's Station were the Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip (creamy blend of cheeses, rock crab and artichokes served with Parmesan garlic toast), followed by the Baked Mac and Cheese (macaroni baked in a creamy Fontina and cheddar cheese sauce topped with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs).  Within 15 minutes, the appetizer arrived at the table.  Bubbling over with melting cheese, the creamy dip was served piping hot.  After only about five minutes the dip had cooled, and paired with the Parmesan garlic toast for dipping, was outstanding.  The proportions of crab and artichoke were just right, each bite containing plenty of both.

Not long after the appetizer arrived, the waitress brought out the main course.  Tucked neatly underneath a layer of melted Parmesan cheese, the Mac and Cheese was rich and creamy.  Dusted and browned to perfection, the layering of toasted, crumbly Parmesan cheese provided a subtle crunch to the otherwise soft texture of the meal which complimented nicely.  This comfort food of all comfort foods has an aroma that can envoke nostalgic memories, all you have to do is close your eyes.

Only a rich, decadent dessert would have been worthy to follow such a rich, flavorful meal.  Midnight Craving is the kind of dessert that will rise to the occasion.  Sitting on a plate drizzled with chocolate sauce with two maraschino cherries nestled against it, this large, three layered piece of chocolate cake is plenty for two to share.  Topped with mini chocolate chips and each layer separated by a thick layer of fudge, rich doesn't even begin to describe the flavor of this cake, which would satisfy the worst of chocolate cravings.

The arrival of the bill came all too quickly.  You can't help but feel rushed when the check is brought out before you have been given the opportunity to order a dessert, which is what happened during this meal.  Perhaps the vast amount of leftovers from the meal sent the message that dessert was not even going to be considered, but what's a night out without dessert?

All in all, Ryan's Station offers a very comfortable and enjoyable experience for any number of people.  Families feel right at home, casual couples can enjoy a relaxed environment, and coworkers can unwind after a long day at work.  Even laid back sports fans would enjoy themselves, entertained by any one of the ten television sets that border the ceiling throughout the establishment.  A party room is also available with reservations.  Advertised as seating up to 25 people and providing personal service, Ryan's Station can cater to most any kind of event in this private, secluded room.  No matter the motivation behind your night out, the combination of great food, friends, and environment found at Ryan's Station is sure to please.