Inverness: The Inverness Bar & Supper Club ($$, 406-292-3801, L/D) is not much to look at from the outside, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Bank on reasonably priced steaks, supreme walleye, steamed cod with drawn butter, and a good stiff drink from the bar. Dining room opens at 5 pm; if you’re there for lunch it’s soup and sandwiches from the bar side (see Best Bars).
Chester: The Grand Bar & Grill ($/$$, 406-759-5582, D) was once called the Chic N Coop because of its great broasted chicken, which is still their top seller. If you’re not a chicken fan, mow down one of their burgers (with homemade fries) or an entree salad (steak, grilled chicken, taco). Weekends are crowded, and so is Monday night during football season.
Dunkirk: Ten miles east of Shelby is yet another well-loved steakhouse, the Frontier Bar & Supper Club ($$$, 406-432-3600, D Wed.-Sun.) Owners Michelle and Loren Billdeaux bring a note of gourmet to standard steakhouse cuisine. He’s a classically trained chef, and she knows her market. Your choices aren’t limited to huge, hand-cut steaks. You can also order fresh seafood (salmon, mussels and oysters). Try those oysters in a shot of vodka! Extra touches such as the sauces, soups, and dressings are made in-house, making this a destination-dining experience. shelby: For one more Hi-Line slice of life, it’s The Griddle ($/$$, 406-434-7260, B/L/D), the place where men in their John Deere and Massey Ferguson ball caps come for their morning coffee and stacks of bacon and eggs. For lunch, the roast beef for French dip is prepared in-house and the hoagie bread fresh-baked. That The Griddle is always busy is all you need to know about the food, service, and ambience. And you can’t miss it just look for the giant frying pan on the sign above the diner. Best Bars
Hingham: The Hi-Way Bar & Quick Stop (406-397-3211) is a respite from sore-derriere syndrome, and it appeals to families, bikers, and John Deere drivers alike. Sit a spell, chill with a beverage, or load up on good food for less than you’d expect. The husband-and-wife team of Mike and Kyle Spencer have a good thing going: She runs the kitchen while he works the front. Lunch is blue-plate style, and although limited in selection, it isn’t short on tastiness.
Inverness: Boots, buckles, and cowboy hats balance well in the Inverness Bar & Supper Club (406-292-3801). On the bar side, it’s comfortably cramped, with slightly dusty dark wood, a functional back bar, and faded turquoise barstools. Around the corner is the dining side with tables dressed in gray, blue and white tablecloths. The buzz is as genuinely congenial as the servers. The place has been in the Dahlke family for 50 years; daughter Shawn and her husband, Elton, have had it since the late 1990s. The bar has entertainment that crosses generational lines: big screen TVs, gaming machines, a foosball table, and darts. The prices are just as friendly: a burger will run you less than $5, and the supper club is popular for its walleye, fried shrimp, and the “keep ’em coming back” steaks. We like the steamed cod served with drawn butter and a salad topped with house-made blue-cheese dressing.
Havre: A little more upscale yet still Montana-style laidback is Vic’s Place (406-945-9026) in the Park Hotel in the heart of downtown. Kurt Johnson has owned the building for many years, but four years ago got into the bar biz. His lessee next door needed a liquor license, and so it began. The theme of his small intimate bar with barrel furniture and comfortable couches is “Budget Premium” Blended cocktails, stiff martinis, microbrews (many local), and good wines by the glass are to be expected. The unexpected includes Vic’s extensive lineup of Crown Royal (nine varieties), Jim Beams (seven), Bailey’s (newest is Espresso-flavored) and Johnny Walker Blue the only place on the Hi-Line with it. Look for wine tastings and whiskey samplings at Vic’s, where you can order bar menu appa-teasers like bacon-wrapped shrimp, or sample authentic Mexican cuisine. What’s Kurt most proud of with this place? The compliments he gets for how clean it is, and the overall ambience: never a fight, never foul language and always fun. It’s a place where you can hang out with the premium beverage of your choice, have a business meeting, or just stare into your sweetie’s eyes over a romantic meal. Check out the photo on the wall of the namesake’s 85-year-old crossed hands. Vic Spindler was the longtime maintenance man for the Park Hotel and was retired when Kurt asked for his help in starting up. Vic put in a few more years and Kurt gave him his due with the name of his business. Like a parent who can’t admit which child is their favorite, we can’t say Vic’s is our favorite bar in Montana. So we’ll just say it’s our kind of place.