Taste of Montana: Big Sky Country’s culinary hotspots

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One of the most underrated elements of the state of Montana is a culinary scene. While it may not be top of mind when it comes to planning a summer vacation, Montana’s food and drink options are vibrant, mouthwatering and sure to complement any trip. Plus, with the state’s rich agricultural industry, there are plenty of ways to taste the flavors of Montana—such as huckleberries, Flathead cherries and bison—in the form of locally grown products and Montana-made dishes, desserts and drinks.

There are several culinary hotspots found throughout Montana, with anchors that include Billings, Bozeman, Missoula and Whitefish.

Montana’s largest city, Billings has a robust food and drink scene, with several restaurants that showcase some of the best in dining, from steakhouses to seafood and locally sourced entrees and spirits. It’s also home to the state’s only self-guided, walkable brewery district. The 1.5-mile-long brewery route is in downtown Billings and includes six breweries, two distilleries and a cider house.

A beautiful and easy 2.5-hour drive from Billings, Bozeman is an elegant western town that’s become a hub for outdoor activities like fishing, skiing, mountain biking and hiking in and around the six mountain ranges that surround the city. After a day of exploring, venture to one of Bozeman’s distinct neighborhoods. Both Downtown Bozeman and the Cannery District are great places to experience the flavors of this corner of Montana. Local favorites include Montana Ale Works, Dave’s Sushi, Open Range, Feed Café and more.

Sitting at the confluence of five valleys, Missoula is the second-largest city in Montana, and its historic downtown is one of the best dining locations in the state. From craft breweries and distilleries, to restaurants that specialize in Montana-centric meals, travelers are sure to find palate-pleasing entrees and treats in the Garden City. The state’s most famous ice cream shop—Big Dipper—also got its start in Missoula and is a favorite summer destination. If you want to sample locally made beer, consider taking a guided tour of the city’s breweries with River City Brews Rafting Tours or a pedal-powered tour with Thirst Gear.

A scenic drive north of Missoula, and located an easy 30 minutes west of Glacier National Park, is the mountain community of Whitefish. While home to around 7,500 residents, Whitefish’s dining scene is one that you’d expect to find in a much larger city. In this mountain town, chefs focus on sourcing fresh and local ingredients to create distinct menu offerings. When you travel to Whitefish, you’ll find an array of diverse restaurant options—including Southern-inspired cuisine, Italian, sushi and steak—as well as bakeries, breweries and distilleries.

But rest assured, Montana’s local flavor and culinary offerings expand far beyond these urban hubs. Local favorites and small-town gems include pizza at Moose’s Saloon in Kalispell, pork chop sandwiches at Pork Chop John’s in Butte, hamburgers at Parker’s Restaurant in Drummond, Serrano’s in East Glacier Park and the Jersey Lilly in Ingomar, as well as a variety of incredible restaurants in Big Sky.

As you travel through the state, be sure to keep your eyes open for a variety of trails that will lead you to more mouth-watering and thirst-quenching destinations.

Sip on a local brew by exploring the stops that make up the Montana Brewers Trail. Chances are, along your travels you’ll see barley fields where many Montana brewers source their grains before transforming them into beers that are distinctly Montana-made.

Try sweet treats on Central Montana’s Pie Trail. This expansive trail focuses on all things pie as it winds through 19 drool-worthy destinations in 15 communities, with numerous towns and cities to explore along the way.

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