Located in the northwestern reaches of Montana, the scenic ski town of Whitefish has been dubbed one of the coolest small towns in America and its eclectic dining scene, no doubt, plays a part. Whether sophisticated seasonal cuisine, Montana-inspired ‘Mountain Mexican’ or soulful Southern fare whets your appetite, our guide to Whitefish’s 10 best restaurants will feature something to suit your tastes.
Cafe Kandahar has been a premiere Montana dining destination since opening over 25 years ago. Chef Andy Blanton – a four-time James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef Northwest – crafts thoughtfully constructed cuisine from a farm-to-table perspective with a menu that showcases seasonal and local ingredients. Cafe Kandahar’s setting in the beautiful boutique Kandahar Lodge makes for a fine setting in which to try sophisticated dishes like smoked opah belly with blood oranges, salsify and arugula or succulent elk tenderloin with huckleberries, Swiss chard and sweet potato.
Loula’s is a laid-back venue serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and a made-from-scratch menu featuring fresh, local products. Located inside Whitefish’s grand Masonic Lodge, Loula’s is a great place to experience local art while dining – its walls are filled with regularly changing Montanan art and photography. Popular menu items include lemon-stuffed French toast, Cajun po’boy sandwich and Friday night’s dinner special of wall-eye fish tacos. However, if Loula’s has one must-try dish it’s most certainly it famous pies – available in flavors like huckleberry-peach and bourbon pecan.
Bar, Bistro, Restaurant, American, Mediterranean, Tapas, $$$
A chic bistro specializing in Mediterranean cuisine that artfully blends a respect for tradition with contemporary flair, Latitude 48’s tempting dishes include prosciutto-wrapped shrimp served with Castelvetrano olive tapenade; and chili, honey and pan-seared quail with feta and couscous offered alongside fire-roasted pizzas and home-made pasta dishes. Latitude 48’s international wine list features over 20 wines available by the glass or as a weekly wine flight dinner pairing. For a more casual dining experience, head downstairs to the Red Room Lounge where tasty tapas bites are served alongside martinis and cocktails.
For soulful Southern and Cajun fare in the heart of northwestern Montana, look no further than Tupelo Grille – a casual fine dining restaurant routinely cited among the best eateries in the Flathead Valley. Chef Cecile Andersson – a native of Denmark with 20 years’ culinary experience under her belt – crafts creative dishes like crispy duck leg with buttermilk bacon waffles, and Montana pork ribeye with bacon-jalapeno-blue corn bread pudding. The menu also includes dishes such as Cajun chow chow alongside classics like gumbo and crawfish cakes. At Tupelo Grille’s bar you’ll also find tapas, house cocktails and live music.
An authentic pit BBQ restaurant, Piggyback BBQ is a haven for meat lovers where all the classics – ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket and burgers – are smoked using Flathead cherry wood for a unique, local home-cooked flavor. Piggyback BBQ’s laid-back, friendly restaurant is perfect for relaxing with one of its signature classic BBQ platters (served with a choice of sides that include Cajun rice, Southern potato salad and smoky baked beans) or a signature sandwich like the Montana dog – a 100% beef hot dog topped with pulled pork, cheese and Montana sauce.
The Boat Club’s exclusive location within the lovely Lodge at Whitefish Lake means it boasts the only lakefront dining in town, with the serene waters of the lake visible from its classy dining room year-round, and picturesque patio deck in warmer months. Executive chef Jorge Morales focuses on Montana-grown produce while blending comfort food classics with contemporary flair to create tempting starters like elk meatballs with huckleberry barbecue sauce and puffed wild rice and mouthwatering mains like Montana Wagyu meatloaf with smoked cheddar mashed potatoes, baby carrot, asparagus, bacon sun-dried tomato jam and chasseur sauce.
Bringing a fresh take on typical Mexican fare, Pescado Blanco serves unique ‘Mountain Mexican’ cuisine. Chef-owner David Lewis artfully fuses the culinary sensibilities of southern Mexico and northern Montana to come up with dishes like local elk chorizo tacos with sautéed onions and chili, cheese, salsa and roasted jalapeno crema; or honey-cumin Coho salmon with smoked corn black bean salsa and cilantro rice. Classics like freshly made guacamole, burritos and enchiladas are also served alongside a number of batidos – a Latin American take on a smoothie.
Opened in 2012, Stillwater Fish House and Oyster Bar is a must-try dining destination for lovers of seafood. Fresh seafood is delivered daily from the American coast to create dishes like creamy seafood bisque (with Alaskan cod, Gulf Coast shrimp, brandy, sherry and fresh chives). The menu also offers dishes such as Thai baked halibut with yellow curry, grilled plantain, tempura green beans and sticky and its oyster sake shooters – an oyster eaten with sake infused with juice, oils, herbs and spices – are very popular.
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Sweet Peaks Ice Cream was born from husband and wife Marissa Keenan and Sam Dauenhauer’s mutual love of ice cream. From its small parlor in downtown Whitefish, it has since grown to include branches in Bigfork, Kalispell and Missoula and even has an ice cream truck often seen at local events and festivals. Using milk and cream sourced from Montana’s Hutterite dairy farms mixed with local and exotic flavors to craft its ice cream, Sweet Peaks offers 16 regularly rotating varieties which range from classics like Madagascar vanilla to creative recipes like lemon dill and orange cardamom.
Nestled in the heart of downtown Whitefish, Wasabi Sushi Bar is the city’s go-to for Japanese and Asian fusion cuisine. Previously voted Best Sushi Restaurant at the Best of the Flathead Awards, Wasabi offers a wide range of nigiri and sashimi from kaibashira (spicy scallop) to shiromaguro (peppered albacore) alongside fusion sushi rolls like the locally themed Montana roll with smoked rainbow trout, egg, scallions, cucumber, chives and roe. Alternatively, opt for one of chef Phil Vilar’s tasty grilled dishes like shichimi-rubbed salmon served on a bed of jasmine rice with asparagus, cilantro-lime and cashew nuts.