"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.