Missoula's 10 Best Local Restaurants And Cafés, Montana Dining

A balanced combination of nature and culture, Missoula is a small city with big dreams. Its culinary scene has been growing from strength to strength in recent years, boosted by the University of Montana campus located in the heart of the city. From buffalo steaks and traditional brunch haunts to modern wine bars and historic venues, here are ten restaurants and cafés in Missoula that reflect the city’s cultural heritage.

Missoula, Montana

The Pearl Café
Voted Missoula’s best restaurant numerous times over, The Pearl Café is a staple of the local fine dining scene. The venue’s rustic charm is present not only in the elegant, wood-dominated space, but also on the menu, which features a mouth- watering combination of European-inspired and regional flavors. The classic tender, herbed rabbit in red wine sauce harks back to the complex textures of French cuisine, while the pan-seared Idaho trout with Dungeness crab stuffing is a more local option, with ingredients sourced directly from the neighboring state. Owned and headed by enthusiastic young chef Pearl Cash, The Pearl Café is perfect for an evening of tasty indulgence.

The Pearl Café, 231 E Front St, Missoula, MT, USA, +1 406 541 0231

Courtesy of The Pearl

1. The Depot

Bar, Restaurant, Steakhouse

Five on Black
Courtesy Five on Black
It may not be the most glamorous of Missoula’s culinary destinations, but The Depot has been the city’s premier steakhouse, and a local favorite for high-quality, locally sourced cuts, for 40 years running. Try the naturally aged, blackened prime rib for a mouthful of succulent goodness or go for one of the seafood options; the beer-battered shrimp and Alaskan king crab are particularly recommended. Hung along The Depot’s walls are local artist Larry Pirnie’s colorful paintings, which add an artistic touch to the venue and emphasize its strong connection to Montana’s heritage. After dinner, head out to the adjacent Deck Bar for drinks in a more casual atmosphere.

2. The Keep

Restaurant, American

Located on the grounds of the picturesque Highlands Golf Club, the building that is home to The Keep Restaurant is a gorgeous, stone-clad villa built upon the remains of The Mansion, Missoula’s landmark that burned down in the early 1990s. And yet, once inside, you’ll notice that the amazing views of the town are coupled with a more informal vibe, where a warm fireplace and regular live music events liven up the stone walls. The menu is distinctly carnivore-oriented, with specials such as the confit-style roasted duck served up with caramelized onions and a raspberry port wine sauce; or the simpler but no less tasty, grilled Montana buffalo topped with balsamic reduction and Gorgonzola butter.

3. The Buttercup Market and Café

Cafe, Market, Tea , Vegetarian, Vegan

A green café dedicated to supporting local farmers, coffee roasters and artists, the Buttercup is a favorite with Missoula’s eco-friendly crowds as well as students, thanks to its proximity to the University campus. While the lunch menu is great with its fresh soups, empanadas and salads, nothing can quite beat a relaxed breakfast at the Buttercup. Here the breakfast burritos overflow with flavors and the Local Yokel sandwich encapsulates Montana dining: scrambled egg from Spencers’ Valley View Family Farm is served with locally sourced white cheddar and bacon, and the whole concoction sits on a rich and fluffy English muffin from Baker’s Dozen. Frequent art exhibitions, discussions and meetings make this the perfect spot to join Missoula’s creative scene.

4. The Shack Café

Cafe, American

Famous for its excellent breakfasts, The Shack Café has been a staple in Missoula for over half a century. Although it moved from its original premises in the 1980s, The Shack still retains an out-of-this-world atmosphere where wooden antiques and retro decorations from the 19th century make it a typically Montanan haunt. From sweet and savory omelet packed with delicious, local ingredients to huckleberry pancakes and Rocky mountain rainbow trout, The Shack Café offers brunches galore while showcasing the area’s rich culinary heritage. A must for lovers of all things traditional.

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