August 28, 2009

Burgers at City Center Steak House

Reviewed by Craig Dugas

■■■■□ 3.9 / 5 “Tight on cash? Check out this $5 meal!”

You probably won’t find the City Center Steak House on any Bozeman restaurant guides – don’t worry, Taste of Bozeman is on it!

As we walked inside the City Center Steak House, the stench of stale smoke was not the greeting I had hoped for. Confronted by a dimly-lit area of seating that was probably a hot style in the 70s, I half expected to see a group of Goodfellas hanging out. But, for a 5 dollar burger, fries and soft drink, it was worth checking out.

Fortunately, the weather outside was pleasant and accommodating, so we asked the hostess to seat us on the patio. Service was quick enough and plenty friendly, so all that remained uncritiqued was the food.

Not only could one get a burger, fries and soft drink for 5 bucks, but they had at least 7 or 8 different types of burgers that were applicable. Not only that, but you could also opt for a chicken breast instead of beef! I ordered the southwest burger, chicken style. It was served hot, topped with ample fresh “guacamole sauce,” and tasted… pretty good! The fries turned out to be steak fries, but were surprisingly hot and mostly crispy. There were a few sogs in the bunch, but overall it might just be the best $5 meal you can get in Bozeman. As an honorary guest put it, “it’s an $8 burger for 5 bucks.” It sat a bit heavy for the Friday afternoon, but I’ll be back to enjoy this again.

In hindsight, I should have ordered the iced tea instead of a Diet Coke, since the soft drink mixture was a bit off and tough to swallow. Fortunately they brought us ice water (also in 70s style glasses) and a pitcher of water to provide ample refills.


Reviewed by Eric Barnes

■■■■□  4.5 / 5 “Economically excellent”

Even though I have literally driven past the City Center Steak House Lounge & Casino on Main Street a million times, I have never noticed it before. It’s hidden behind the Magnuson hotel next to the Bamboo Garden Chinese restaurant. I’m usually hesitant to eat at places that contain the word “casino” in their name, but for this place, I will make an exception. We ate out on their patio. It was good way to enjoy the great weather.

The best part is they have a special on their burgers: $5.00 for a burger, fries, and a drink.

I ordered the bacon cheese burger. While the beef didn’t have quite the freshness of, say, Ted’s beef, it was still juicy and flavorful. The bacon came in two, thick strips. Top that with lettuce, tomato, onions, and a pickle and you’ve got the ideal burger.

The fries were awesome—crispy on the outside with soft potato-y goodness on the inside. They were so good that I ate every fry on my plate.

Everything about this meal was great. And did I mention it was only five dollars? I have yet to see a better burger deal in Bozeman of this quality.


August 27, 2009

El Camino Gobbler at The Garage

Reviewed by Eric Barnes

■■  3.6 / 5 “A beef burger’s alter ego”

Sometimes a big, juicy beef burger is the perfect way to appease a big appetite. But what about a not-so-big appetite? The Garage‘s turkey burger is just the thing. It is called El Camino Gobbler on the menu. Despite its silly Spanish/English mash-up name, the burger is quite flavorful. The flavor comes not only from the finely ground turkey, but from the chilies, spices and salt mixed into the patty itself. After getting half way through the burger, I realized I was becoming very thirsty–a sure sign the sodium content was high.

My biggest complaint was the overall dryness of the burger. Without the extra juices and greases of a standard burger, it felt like there was something missing. It could almost have benefited from a light spread of some sort.

And something must be said about the price: $9.35 (includes a side of fries, coleslaw, or veggies). You’ll need a big wallet for that not-so-big appetite, but you won’t be disappointed.


Reviewed by Craig Dugas

■■■■  5 / 5 “Best turkey burger in the West”

One of my absolute favorite burgers in all of Bozone is the El Camino Gobbler served by The Garage. It’s an amazingly flavorful southwestern spiced turkey burger mixed with green chiles, onions, garlic and a handful of seasonings.  It’s cooked to perfection over an open flame every single time I’ve ordered it, although the burger was noticeably over-salty today :/

If you’re looking for a slightly lighter fare, order it with a side of Cider House cole slaw instead of fries. The term cole slaw turns most people off, but this is a very light and tangy slaw prepared with a pleasant vinegar and oil base (in other words, no mayo or creamy texture).

The Garage is an iconic downtown restaurant, with a long wait to sit down and even longer wait for your food, but if you show up early enough (11:15am) or order it to-go, you’re probably better off.



August 19, 2009

Bozeman Broaster Chicken

Update: Bozeman Broaster has since gone out of business.

Reviewed by Craig Dugas

■■■■  4 / 5 “All-around winner”

UPDATE: Bozeman Broaster Chicken has since gone out of business :(

A new chicken shop has opened up its doors recently in that shady little spot near the Mall on West Main Street called Broaster Chicken.

Upon setting foot inside the establishment, you might get the felling as if you’re in a city and you step off the gritty streets into a quiet, clean, and friendly place.
Although I take slight satisfaction that the broasting process results in a slightly healthier version of fried chicken, what made this place stand out was a very tasty, well-rounded meal. The chicken was good and things got better from there. The fries were crispy and fresh, and the wedges (aka Jo-Jos) were flavorful and potato-y. The side of broccoli salad was delicious, with creamy dressing, nuts and sweet red grapes. The chilled side of marinated harvest beans were far better than average baked beans. Topping the plate off with a warm, fluffy biscuit – it’s a hard meal to beat.
Fresh, flavorful food, good service, decent prices – makes an overall treat.
Broaster Chicken
Bozeman, Mt 59718
Call ahead: 406.587.4343
Although their Web site feels a bit rushed (there are a few outstanding typos and development text), Bozeman Broaster accepts online ordering – which when I tried to place my order did not go through a secure protocol (https), although upon visiting their site again recently it appears they have fixed this issue. Never use your credit card online when you cannot verify a secure connection.


August 14, 2009

Tacos at Taco del Mar


Reviewed by Eric Barnes

■■■■  4 / 5 “Muy bueno!”

Taco del Mar (located off 19th Ave near Smith’s) is a favorite in our office—and for good reason. The food is inexpensive, quickly prepared and tasty. They have a special deal on Tuesdays called “Two-Fer Tuesday”, which consists of two tacos with rice, beans and a drink for $5.99. Not a bad deal.

I ordered two hard-shell tacos with ground beef in one and braised chicken in the other, which they topped with generous portions of cheese, lettuce, and salsa. I also requested hot sauce, but I barely noticed it. No matter. The taco shells were crunchy and retained their shape until the end, unlike some other taco franchises where the shell either gets too soft from moisture or explodes into an instant salad upon first bite. Not Taco del Mar. These tacos are the real deal.

As their tag line goes, they’re “keeping it real.”

August 13, 2009

Tater-Pigs at the Sweet Pea Festival

Reviewed by Craig Dugas

■■■■  4 / 5 “I’ll give you 4 reasons to get a Tater-Pig”

Behold the Tater-Pig. It’s “world famous,” “good n’ hot,” and served in a handheld boat with a gigantic dollop of sour cream and sprinkles of bacon bits and dry chives. The Tater-Pig is to the Sweet Pea Festival as the smoked turkey leg is to the Bite of Bozeman – if people weren’t eating them, they were talking about them.

After much deliberation, I’ve realized that you should get your annual Tater-Pig for the following reasons:
  • The taste – it’s no filet mignon, but it’s a solid upgrade on the baked potato.
  • The price – it’s $4.00, you can’t beat that.
  • The name – it’s fun to say, don’t deny it.
  • The competition – although reasonably priced, Sweet Pea fare is generally average (burgers, hot dogs, pizza, etc).
To make it surprisingly tastier, order up a fifty cent slice of butter-soaked garlic bread.  Really, it’s soaked, so you can scoop some out and take it with a bite of tater – delish.
Tater-pigs, made in harmony by the Chord Rustlers.


August 6, 2009

More Mini Reviews on Bite of Bozeman

Reviewed by Craig Dugas

Spanning four blocks of the hottest streets of Downtown Bozeman, the official Taste of Bozeman crew arrived early to scope out the 40+ restaurants and food vendors participating in the 2009 Bite of Bozeman. We wandered up and down both sides of the closed-off Main Street analyzing the ideal way to maximize our taste buds. A seemingly endless lane of dining tables surrounded by bands at each intersection made a perfect atmosphere for enjoying some great food.

Banger’s n Mash at Bacchus Pub twitter:@bacchuspub
■■■■  3.8 / 5 “Mmmm United Kingdomy”
The abundance of “United Kingdomy” flavor from the sausage and gravy was terrific – a perfect accompaniment to the raw flavor of the mashers. This dish was quite good, and I would definitely get it again, however it was served on the cooler side, and the banger skin was unbreakable. Bacchus Pub offered this and 3 other classic dishes for $3.00 apiece – perfect size for the Bite.

Turkey Leg from the GranTree Inn
■■■■■  5 / 5 “Couldn’t have possibly been better.”
You’d think you were getting in line to enter the Magic Kingdom at Disney World – for over 2 hours it never got any shorter. Fortunately, the line moved quickly and we even got to have a quick pow-wow and photo shoot with the turkey smokers themselves. They were really enjoying the festivities and serving probably thousands of legs! Throughout the entire night, you literally couldn’t look up without seeing someone chomping down on these giant sticks of smoked meat – they were absolutely perfect. The outer edge was very tough, of almost jerky-like consistency, and once you chewed through a bit, the meat underneath was among the warmest, juiciest, most tender turkey meat I’ve ever tasted. Oh, and they were priced right at $5.00!

Cannolis from All Things Italian twitter:@italiancooking
■■■■  4 / 5 “Tasty & fresh!”
I’ve had quite a few fresh cannoli’s over the years, and when I bit into the well prepared crusty shell made by All Things Italian, I expected to be bombarded with classically sugar-filled innards. Don’t get me wrong, the sugar filled version is fine, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find a mixture that exposed the natural flavor of ricotta with just a hint of sweetness. At $3.00, it was a great item for the price. Unfortunately, I was slightly bombarded by their $1.00 gift card advertisement on my way to order, but otherwise made out just fine.  I didn’t make it to Sweet Pea Bakery’s dessert kabobs, but I heard they were outstanding.

Spiced, Unsweetened Iced Tea from Olivelle twitter:@olivelle
■■■■■  4.8 / 5 “100% Refreshing”
Olivelle, known for it’s massive assortment of traditional and specialty oils and vinegars likely does not carry this unsweetened tea (although I’m not positive about that). Though, after enjoying many Bite of Bozeman treats, an unsweetened tea sounded refreshing. For $2.00, I thoroughly enjoyed a chilled tea beverage with a very light, smooth flavor and a hint of spice.  I hope they continue to offer this wonderful beverage at future events.

Fry Bread from Knights of Columbus
■■□□□  2.4 / 5 “Hey, it’s fry bread”
Like some people, I associate fry bread (or dough boys to Maine natives) with your average state fair, and this was no exception. It wasn’t exceptional and it wasn’t bad. The bread was provided gratis via a sampler platter, and was a fun way to start the evening :)

A huge success, we had a great time and can’t wait to participate next year! Props go out to the businesses (All Things Italian, Sweet Pea Bakery, Over the Tapas, Bacchus Pub, and some others) that went out of there way to create affordable smaller portioned treats so we could enjoy even more food! Hopefully all of the restaurants and food vendors next year will follow in their footsteps!


Mini Reviews on Bite of Bozeman

Reviewed by Eric Barnes

I was afraid it was going to rain on the Bite of Bozeman parade this year. It had started raining a little bit before, which made me think the event was going to be wet and gloomy. Fortunately, the weather cleared up and was perfect. But enough about the weather. Let’s talk about the food!

Unagi Sushi at Watanabe’s
■■■□□  3.6 / 5

The kimono-clad Japanese ladies displaying various types of sushi at the Watanabe booth were one of the sirens at Bite of Bozeman to draw me in. After much internal debate, I chose the unagi (eel) roll for $4. Soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi were also provided.

Aside from the good taste, the thing I enjoyed most about this sushi was that it was perfectly bite-sized (unlike some sushi rolls that are so big that you can barely fit a piece into your mouth!) The sushi wasn’t as fresh as I’d like, but knowing that they had to prepare many rolls ahead of time, this is only a minor complaint.

Cannoli at All Things Italian
■■■□□  3.4 / 5

The cannoli from All Things Italian was surprising. I took one bite and, at first, was slightly disappointed by the mild flavor. I had been expecting something more sweet. But after a few more bites I came to enjoy the simple, delicate taste. The outer shell was crispy and contrasted the soft ricotta filling quite well. By the end of it, I was ready for another! The cannoli was $3.

Kimchi at I-Ho’s
■■■■■  5 / 5

When I ordered some kimchi at I-Ho’s, the ladies behind the table were ecstatic. “Did you hear that?” one lady exclaimed to another lady. “Someone wants kimchi!” I got the impression that, up until that point (which must have been around 7:30pm), they hadn’t sold any of it.

It was the best $4 I spent the whole evening. The pickled cabbage was spicy, fresh, delicious–so much better than anything you can buy canned at the grocery market. Of course, you might want to take this review with a grain of salt: kimchi is an acquired taste and not for everyone. (How we missed a picture of this is beyond me, but I’ve included a shot of the friendly lady at the counter.)

Final thoughts

One of the things I appreciated most about Bite of Bozeman was the whole dollar prices. Everything was evenly priced at $3 instead of $2.99, for example, which really eased the flow of money transactions.

Props go out to all the businesses who came out and provided us with the great food. I can’t wait until next year!


August 3, 2009

Calzones at Post Office Pizza (Gallatin Gateway)

Reviewed by Craig Dugas

■■■■  4 / 5 “Walk by outside, take a deep breath of mountain fresh air blended with pizzariffic aroma – you’d be sold, too!”

If you’re headed in the direction of West Yellowstone or happen to be a local near Four Corners, you might want to give P.O. Pizza a try. This quaint pizza shop has that incredibly small town feel that so many places have lost these days. I called ahead an order for two calzones for pick-up, which I was informed would be a 40 minute wait. They offer pick-up, dine-in (very limited seating), and take-n-bake options.

These ‘zones are the real deal – filled with a blend of ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, spices and two fillings of your choice. Sauce is served in the traditional fashion – on the side. It was a very simple sauce, perfect for dipping the fresh crust.

All-in-all, fresh ingredients, kind service and a good price made this calzone top-notch… definitely will go back!

305 Mill St
Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730
(406) 763-4000