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The cowhide-patterned barrel chairs and linear flames of the built-in gas fireplace at The Northern Hotel were the first clues that Billings, Montana, was about to surprise me. While I knew I’d get a hearty, locally raised steak and freshly caught trout, there were unexpected treats on every corner of Billings. From craft beers and blackened seasoned burgers to farm to table veggies and vegan restaurants, each foodie stop truly outshining the one before it. Let’s just say I ended my trip in my stretchy pants with no intention of putting on my jeans in the near future — and my taste buds were A-Okay with that.
Located along the Yellowstone River in southeastern Montana, at just over 110,000 residents, Billings is the largest city in Montana. Despite its size, there were a surprising number of treats, brews, and belly stuffing finds around nearly every corner. Altogether, the city has eight breweries and microbreweries plus dozens of restaurants all within walking distance of the downtown area, plus many more that are a short drive away. Here are our must-stop spots to eat and grab a drink in Billings, Montana:
- Bernie’s Diner in The Northern Hotel: Their huckleberry pancakes, bison breakfast burritos and homemade sausage biscuits and gravy are heaven. You will leave here feeling very satisfied.
- Cool Beans Coffee: For that early morning or late morning caffeine fix.
- Tea City & Cupcakes: A family owned and operated shop with made from scratch cupcakes that are perfect for your afternoon sugar craving.
- The Fieldhouse Cafe: This locally sourced, organic and vegan-friendly restaurant looks like something out of an Instagram feed. Your stomach and camera will love you.
- Local Kitchen and Bar: Local ingredients from the garden vegetables to the meats. Try one of their wood fired pizzas.
- Montana Brewing Company: Steaks and beer, need we say more? They also serve pizzas until midnight if you have late night craving.
- The Burger Dive: Featured on several Food Network shows and named Burger Champion at the World Food Championships in November 2016, the key to their world-famous burgers is the blackened seasoning cooked into the burger. Even with all the accolades, this is one of those “you’ve got to try it” things (with the long line out the door every day at lunch to prove it) to add to your foodie bucket list. Beyond the burgers, the milkshakes are a reason to return several times on your trip. Don’t leave town without sipping on the s'more milkshake; it’s an out of body experience that will remind you of summer camp the second the shake hits your lips.
- Canyon Creek Brewing: Billings’ first craft brewery dishes happy hour from 2-5pm daily and offers $3 pints.
- Thirsty Street: With their brews being unfiltered and keg conditioned, this brewery offers a unique spin on the microbrewery scene. Try a pint to taste the difference.
- Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company: Owned and operated by two buddies with a love of beer, this spot has won several state awards for its fun brews. Check out Firkin Fridays at The Garage, the original brewery that started the trend of tapping a new beer on Fridays.
- Walker’s American Grill & Tapas Bar: Trust us when we say sit at the bar. The bartenders are a combination of mind readers and tastemakers when suggesting new cocktails or variations on beloved cocktails and making a drink that feels completely new and delicious. The décor is a funky mix of urban and western traditional details (like their barbed wire and blown glass chandeliers) and relaxed enough for jeans but fancy enough for suits and ties. For food, order several small plates to share so you can taste a variety of their menu offerings. Our suggestions: the Knife & Fork fries (Korean pork with a fried egg), Chili-Mint Beef Salad, with Thai vinaigrette, and the Crispy fried artichoke hearts. For main dishes, again we suggest sharing so your taste buds get to sample many unique flavors. From the meatloaf with shiitake gravy to the Chorizo carbonara, each item is more distant than the last.
- TEN: Serving traditional Montana dinners such as elk, trout and steaks, the meals are hearty and filling. Wear your nice stretchy pants and book a room at The Northern so you only have a short distance from the restaurant to the elevator to rest your head at night.
- Montana Sky: Come here around sunset so you can enjoy the views of downtown Billings while sipping on your favorite cocktail. If you’re a steak lover, they are known for their perfectly prepared steaks- everything from the NY Strip to the filets. And don’t forget to order the bacon-wrapped pork medallions if you’re looking to share multiple plates.