Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thank You, Matt Montana!

No, his name isn’t really Matt Montana – although the "Matt" is correct.

All of the seasonal employees in Glacier wear name tags with their first names and their home states. So our Red Bus driver on our Going-to-the-Sun-Road tour was Matt from Montana. Chuck had asked him a question about the broasted chicken at a restaurant in West Glacier, and since Matt has not eaten at that restaurant, he recommended the broasted chicken at the Nite Owl/Back Room restaurant in Columbia Falls, MT.

This is two separate restaurants under one roof and with one ownership. The Nite Owl is open all day; the Back Room opens at 5:00 p.m. After five, you can order from both menus in both dining rooms. The main difference is that the décor in the Back Room is slightly more upscale than in the Nite Owl. We chose the Nite Owl.

We came for broasted chicken (on the Back Room menu), so we barely noticed what else they serve. We both ordered the half white with boiled red potatoes, baked beans, and cole slaw. The beans were southern style sweet and delicious; the slaw was shredded and creamy; the potatoes were potatoes (I didn’t eat mine). And with our meals came large pieces of Indian fry bread. I think fry bread is similar to the sopapillas we had in New Mexico except fry bread doesn’t puff and have a hollow interior. But they share a slightly sweet, slightly yeasty flavor that is perfect with either honey or the honey butter served at the Night Owl.

But let’s talk chicken. Broasting is frying in a pressure cooker. This seals in the natural juices and produces a grease-free crust that is almost brittle. Each of our orders included two large breast pieces and two wings. So much chicken that I anticipated having cold chicken for breakfast the next day. This was perfect chicken. The coating was lightly seasoned (the secret ingredients raise their heads again) and crunched loudly with every bite; the white meat was extra moist and juicy. There was so much food that we ended taking home one whole breast, plus a good third of another, which became a light supper the following night. (There went breakfast!)

As we were leaving, Chuck started talking with one of the servers over by the dessert refrigerator. It was then we learned about Ruthie, in her late 80’s, who still comes in to help make the desserts. Here she is pictured with a piece of her cherry cheese pie with an oatmeal nut crust. Guess what we took home for a late dessert that night?

The web describes this/these restaurants as “locals” places, and the crowd two days later at lunch was proof of that. Seated next to us was a table of six old-timers who gather regularly for lunch. Chuck referred to them as the “town council.” And they seemed to know everyone entering the restaurant.

Since the chicken isn’t available until 5:00 p.m., we needed to look elsewhere on the menu. Chuck ordered the chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, white pepper gravy, and green beans. The mashed potatoes and gravy were very good and the beans tasted as if they had never seen a freezer or a can. But his reaction to the steak was mixed.

He has an order of preference when it comes to chicken fried steak. His favorite is batter dipped and deep fat fried. Second is batter dipped and fried on a grill and third is breaded and deep fat fried. The breaded and grilled style is his least favorite and this was the style at the Nite Owl. The serving was huge, and the meat was tender and gristle free with a good beef flavor.

I opted for the three piece fried halibut platter with fries and slaw. You know that the fish has been frozen if they are uniform in size and shape. I don’t know if they came pre-battered or were battered in the kitchen, but the coating was a perfect example of British fish and chips style. The fish were served flaky, sweet, and moist. With the fish came very good hand-cut fries, and instead of my slaw, I received the green beans. I was about to catch our server and ask for a switch, but she was busy. So, I decided to just eat the beans. Am I glad I did. A little salt, a little pepper, a little butter, and I was in bean heaven.

So we had eaten dinner and lunch at the Nite Owl. What was left? Breakfast, of course. It was the day before we were to leave the Glacier area, and we had laundry to do and errands to run. What better way to start than with a wholesome breakfast. How wholesome was it? I’ll let you be the judge.

Both of us ordered one of the three breakfast specials. (The special not chosen was a half pound slice of bone-in ham with eggs, hash browns, and toast for $7.95.) Chuck’s was the sausage skillet ($7.95) with potatoes, two eggs, and sourdough toast. You’d expect that the potatoes would be the primary ingredient. You’d be wrong. We counted at least five different varieties of sausage along with ham mixed in with roasted potatoes and onions. This came topped with grated cheddar cheese and with two scrambled eggs on the side. Before ordering, Chuck asked our server if he was proverbially “biting off more than he could chew.” She told him that she thought my choice was even more filling.

And what was that? The grits casserole – two giant scoops of yellow grits mixed with a hefty portion of good breakfast sausage and green and red peppers and topped with melted bright yellow cheese.
Yes, the cheese was undoubtedly processed.

Having collected a number of southern ladies group cookbooks over the years, I have noticed that Velveeta often occurs as an ingredient. Why? Sometimes it is just perfect – that’s why. If you are looking for down home, rib-sticking comfort food, this was it. I normally don’t bother with the toast, but in this case I used it to wipe the serving bowl clean.

We left Glacier wishing we had found the Nite Owl earlier in our trip but grateful to Matt Montana for telling us about the 4.0 Addie spot.

Just a closing note. We frequently receive comments about the size of the meals we eat and why we don’t seem to be getting fat. (Or at least Chuck doesn’t.) After a breakfast like that at the Nite Owl, lunch is not an option. We didn’t eat again until about 7:00 that evening and then it was just a ham and Swiss sandwich.

1 comment:

cory said...

Hi...this is greetings from Cory in China...I came to read ur blog cuz u mentioned a man Matt..haha i really would like to know is that the one wearing a paire of glasses? We are good friends in GNP and i do miss everything there in GNP...i was working in Lake Mac.Lodge this summer =)oh,it should be last summer,it has already 2010~!!