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aaustin

Livingston, MT

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We'll be in the Livingston area for a quickie 2-day post-wedding break (nope, the honeymoon comes later, so I'm not using that word.)

I'd like to make reservations for a nice dinner...doesn't have to be too fancy, but nice wine, good food. I did a search and found a place called 2nd Street...what's that like? any and all help would be great.

Thanks

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This story probably won't help with your current plight, unless you can travel back in time, but Livingston, Montana, has long had a prominent place in my panoply of food stories.

Many years ago my friend Lightning and I were giving our friend Leo a ride back to college in Spokane, Washington, after Easter break. We left Minnesota on Saturday and had driven all day and all night, stopping only for gas, and to pick up a traffic ticket in Glendive.

The sun was just coming up behind us as we caught our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. We were pretty hungry as we pullled into Livingston. We asked a guy at the gas station where we could get something to eat on a Sunday morning, and he suggested the dining room at the train station.

The depot and restaurant were right out of the late 1800's or early 1900's. The huge dining room was lavishly appointed and the tables had full linen, china and silver service. Hippies from "out east" weren't exactly welcomed with open arms anywhere in Montana in those days, so we didn't feel any more out of place there than anywhere else west of the Mississippi.

Not having slept, we weren't in the mood for traditional breakfast fare, and we fortuitously decided just to have pie and coffee. Lightning had cherry, Leo had the apple, and I had a slice of coconut cream. The pie was fabulous! We each had another slice of a different flavor, and took some more to go.

Thereafter, for many years, every time somebody I knew was traveling west I insisted they make a point of stopping at the Livingston train depot for pie. To a person, they all returned with rave reviews.

I understand the station is now a railway historical musuem, and if it includes an eating area I doubt if they still serve the same wonderful pies, but maybe it would be worth your while to check it out?

SB (likes pie):raz:

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Russell Chatham's place is The Livingston Bar and Grill. Here's a link to his website, but there is no link for the restaurant. I suggest that you email them for more information, menu, etc.

From Russell Chatham's website

In 1995, Chatham conceived and designed a restaurant. Chatham?s Livingston Bar & Grille was built during the first ten and a half months of 1996, opening on November 15th of that year. Having celebrated its ninth New Year?s Eve with a formal dinner and dance, the restaurant is enjoying a reputation as one of the Rocky Mountain region?s premier dining establishments.

Chatham does not do anything poorly. I saw a fine exhibition of his work in Key West a few years ago, and the quality of his book publishing is also very high. (His paintings are used for the covers of books of fiction and nonfiction by Jim Harrison and Rick Bass.) I would bet the restaurant is the same.

If you go, please report back.

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Russell Chatham's place is The Livingston Bar and Grill. Here's a link to his website, but there is no link for the restaurant. I suggest that you email them for more information, menu, etc.

From Russell Chatham's website

In 1995, Chatham conceived and designed a restaurant. Chatham?s Livingston Bar & Grille was built during the first ten and a half months of 1996, opening on November 15th of that year. Having celebrated its ninth New Year?s Eve with a formal dinner and dance, the restaurant is enjoying a reputation as one of the Rocky Mountain region?s premier dining establishments.

Chatham does not do anything poorly. I saw a fine exhibition of his work in Key West a few years ago, and the quality of his book publishing is also very high. (His paintings are used for the covers of books of fiction and nonfiction by Jim Harrison and Rick Bass.) I would bet the restaurant is the same.

If you go, please report back.

I just spoke to a friend who lives up there and she also suggests Chathams. She also suggests the chop house. Any experience?

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We went to Chathams, and I'll tell you about that in a bit. First, though, a report on Chico.

We were told to go to Chico for our short 2-day honeymoon. Being that we live in Jackson, I figured getting out of a ski resort would be a nice change of pace.

We drove up, which was a beautiful drive, and arrived at Chico in the evening. We had reservations that night but luckily had a couple of hours to wind down and enjoy our excellent 2-person tub in our cabin. We'd heard that people come to Chico for the food, so that sounded good. Well....I wouldn't drive from Livingston for the food, nor the service. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't better than Chatham's. We arrived for our reservation but the table wasn't ready, so we headed to the bar. We sat down at the bar and in front of us are 8 dirty glasses, which the bartender took her time getting off the bar. Huh. Then we ordered a couple of drinks--wine for me, scotch for him. Oddly, a server from the dining room orders a drink and the bartender gets a drink for the server BEFORE getting my husband's drink but after getting mine. That was just dumb. We decided to look at the menu and wine menu before dinner, and upon asking about one bottle of wine vs another of a different vintage, our bartender said half-mindedly, "yeah, that's a good one....."

Helpful!

We eventually sat down at our table and were greeted by, as the new husband said, our "midwestern weatherman" server. I swear to you he started off talking like a human and then went into his newscaster voice 2 sentences in. We ordered mushrooms with snails, which ended up being unsalted and dull. I'm not one for ordering snails, but my new husband has memories of that being a special occasion food and when we saw them on the menu I knew we'd be eating them. Plus, the whole place (chico, I mean) reminded me of the resort that they all stayed in in the movie Dirty Dancing, so the snails kind of were in keeping with the "this was the swankest vacation spot ever...in the 60's" vibe I was getting.

So you can see we're kind of getting into the kitsch and enjoying the flaming desserts firing up around the room. We decide to order the Delmonico. After trying to keep away from pate in order to look decent while wearing a white dress in public, I was ready for a pate-coated filet wrapped in pastry. It was carved tableside, which we both loved. This was getting fun. The filet wasn't great...they underseasoned everything, and that's a sin with steak....but we both loved it just because. I then proceeded to order the flaming dessert. I felt like I was eating in a place my grandmother would've really thought was fancy. Being that the new hubby and I both spent years in NYC, this held a different kind of appeal to me. I kept thinking that some day soon, a NYC restaurateur would be opening a retro restaurant serving all of these kinds of dishes you don't see anymore, and that the NY trendies would love it.

So the next night we were excited to try Chathams. We'd spent the day walking around Livingston, and had a very nice lunch at 2nd St Bistro. He had a very wonderful bowl of French onion soup, I had the greek lamb salad (badly dried out lamb, but otherwise great). I loved the atmosphere and the homemade bread. We'd go back for sure.

So we walk into Chatham's on Valentine's Day without a reservation---by the way, I loved that they had a sign on the door about not serving farmed salmon. I'm not sure why they did, but they "had me at hello" with that. I knew this place cared about their ingredients.

So, we both like sitting at the bar, so we figured we'd just do that. And who is working the host desk but Mr. Chatham himself. A very warm welcome and pretty soon he's moved some drinkers so the two newlyweds can sit down. We ordered a nice eggplant--goat cheese appetizer, then moved onto a steamed artichoke with adictive curry mayo and a very world-class caesar salad with spanish anchovies for us to add onto our forks for each bite. Nice.

Then onto the special for me--veal chops atop cheesy risotto and surrounded by sherry-mushroom sauce. The risotto was gummy, which was a bummer, but everything else was good. He ordered penne puttanesca, which had great flavor but the pasta was a bit overcooked and lacked any bite. We skipped dessert.

I should mention that Russell came over to visit with us and the rest of his tables throughout our meals. We liked him.

And not to be a star f-er, but in the middle of our dinner, Michael Keaton came in with a few friends for a drink. We got to have dinner next to Batman. Who woulda thunk?


Edited by aaustin (log)

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