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Thirty years ago, I went to university at Missoula, Montana: home of the Grizzlies. As a fresh-from-the-country twenty something, Missoula proved educational in many ways. Downtown bars and restaurants in Missoula are just plain cool. Missoula Club, or locally, The Mo Club, provides THEE best pre-game/post party burger I’ve had anywhere. But there are lots of equally cool spots to consider.

Now there are new notable names downtown. For an authentic bowl of Jambalaya or Gumbo or anything Cajun, definitely try the Dinosaur Café inside Charlie B’s. There’s the Old Post for colossal, tasty, and nutritious lunches or The Iron Horse for a bushel of nachos. One can always find a good gluten-free kale, quinoa all-natural-with-sticks-and-berries kind of meal in Missoula, but I enjoyed a cooked-to-perfection bison burger at James Bar.

Plonk, a wine bar, was superb, but missed the Missoula vibe. They need some bead curtains and a fern or two to soften that slick west coast feel. There’s no need to mention the numerous breweries available to any beer officiannado, but a new kind of drink experience can be found at the Montgomery Distillery where they like to spank their rosemary in a Honeybee Highball including vodka, Wustner brothers honey shrub, lemon soda, and that naughty rosemary. An intriguing menu of unique ingredients provides such delicately flavored drinks as a Rosy Finch comprised of vodka, lime, kaffir lime-vanilla syrup, watermelon puree, and house aromatic bitters served over ice (below right). The other drink pictured is a Rocky Mountain Flip with gin, fir-tip/juniper syrup, egg white, cardamom bitters, lemon and nutmeg, shaken of course.

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Montgomery Distillery, Missoula, MT

When I attended the U of M, naïve young farm girls did not go into Reds unattended. I don’t know what it is like now. Conversely, the university bar used to be Stockman’s. Presently I’m told, not so much. Then, as now, if you desire live music The Top Hat is the place to go. With its recent complete renovation it feels current, hip, exhibits logical use of the space to accommodate a long bar, band stand and dance floor, as well as more intimate seating sections.

The Brothers Gow at The Top Hat

The Brothers Gow at The Top Hat

The Brothers Gow, based in San Diego, jazzed their rock with hints of reggae into a high energy blend. With no cover charge and exhilarating light show, they made The Top Hat my new favorite place in Missoula. They’ll be in Flagstaff, AZ next. Read more about them at http://www.brothersgow.com/the-band.html.

Yes, Missoula still has that wonderful hippy feel and it is still at its heart a college town where you’ll find countless twenty something males with their ball caps on backwards and their female counterparts with wide lace headbands pulled down to just above their eyebrows. People may come to Missoula for all manner of reasons. Perhaps they come to enjoy the numerous recreational opportunities, to enjoy the culture, the art, the scenery, the food and drink and music, or like me, they may just revisit a comfortable familiar mind set. The Garden City, snuggled in its picturesque valley, is still all about acceptance and open-mindedness, so they don’t look askance at an old weirdo like me when I join their ranks for a weekend.

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