Big Sky. Big Burgers.
Disclaimer: THIS IS A FOOD REVIEW. Initially my intent was to roll this food review into a blog entry chronicling the next phase of our Montana trout trip, but the dining experience and food was so good that I realized it deserved a blog entry of its own. You may consider it either a bonus offering or a disappointing, second-rate bit bloggage, but no matter the what the case may be please note this does not replace the standard issue weekly drivel due at the end of the week.
As we departed Twin Bridges with the smell of fish still on our hands and sh#t eating grins on our faces, we acknowledged that we were going to require some nutrition before we got to West Yellowstone (a 2+ hour drive). We’d been told that there was a good place to eat in Virginia City, but as we pulled into town and slowly scanned both sides of the road, we didn’t see what we were looking for. The fact that none of us could remember the name of the eatery may have lead to our inability to find it. There wasn’t a lot happening in Virginia City, and for all intents and purposes the place appeared to be a ghost town. It is, in fact, just a step up from that with a population of around 132. Cool little old mining town- I’d actually like to stop and walk around the place someday. But not on this night – we were on a serious quest for food. Ennis was only a few clicks down the road and we knew we could a few options there.
We rolled into Ennis just as it was just getting dark. Quickly scanning the storefronts, we parked in front of The Roadmaster Grille. We were all getting light-headed from a lack of food so it took exactly no time to agree that this joint would suffice nicely. We swaggered staggered through the door and looked around. The bar up front was packed with a diverse crowd of people: fly fishing folks and those who weren’t fly fishing folks. I’m sure we weren’t the first weary fishermen to stumble through the doors in desperate need of nourishment, so we drew no strange glares from the other patrons. The eating area toward the back was decorated in a style reminiscent of a diner from the 1950’s and the booths were fashioned to resemble the tuck and roll upholstery of, I suppose, a ’57 Chev Belaire Coupe or some other iconic car from that era. We squeezed into the booth and hoped that an angel masquerading as a waitress would show up soon. And she did, bringing with her a set of menus and a willingness to fetch us a cold beer while we took a few moments to look over the impressive list of food offerings.
Collectively our eyes locked on the burger selection. It didn’t matter that we’d had bacon cheeseburgers the night before – after the day of fishing the Beaverhead we could all die happy, and if that day came sooner because of another bacon cheeseburger, so be it. Jimmy and I opted for the light entrees: A standard bacon cheese with a single ½ lb patty of certified Black Angus chuck steak and fries. Oh, and a salad. Stan and Marck were feeling a bit more confident so they ordered the “Kong Burger”, which included bacon, cheese, and TWO ½ lb patties of certified Black Angus chuck steak. And fries and a salad. Now if you think ordering the Kong Burgers was an aggressive move, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
We ordered our food, hoisted our frosty long-neck bottles in a toast and recalled the day’s events. Just then a large, gregarious man named Brad (the proprietor) stopped by our table and greeted us. He held our order in his hand and read it back to us with a booming voice that carried with it much enthusiasm. Treating us like VIPs, Brad insisted that we move to the large table on the other side of the dining area. We were the only ones seated for food, and he apparently wanted us to have the best seats in the house. Maybe he’d heard of us – perhaps our reputations as The Great Trout Slayers of The Beaverhead preceded us? I think he simply knew that we’d need the extra room once our food arrived and our abdomens began swelling accordingly.
What followed next was akin to a sermon. Brad is, as I said, a large man. He made no attempt to hide that fact (not that he could have had he wanted to). He also told us that he’d recently lost over 100 pounds by cutting out a lot of unnecessary bad stuff from his diet and going on human growth hormone therapy. I’m pretty sure that he just eats meat now– there was some mention of the Atkins Diet. He flexed his biceps said he feels great and his wife likes the new Brad (I won’t go into the same details as he did). His enthusiasm reached a crescendo as he went on to talk about the one burger on the menu that he’s most proud of: “The Mountain”. He described this as the “Man vs. Food” burger that’s going to get him on the TV show by the same name. “The Mountain” is described in the menu as follows (yes, I wrote it down though my notes were not perfect so I am paraphrasing here):
“The Mountain“ Man vs. Food Burger
Bottom layer of bun and ½ lb. patty cheeseburger; 2nd layer of bun and ½ lb. burger with bacon, Swiss cheese, avocado; another bun and 3rd ½ lb. burger, onions, jalapeño straws and pepperjack. Comes with a t-shirt, all for $21.95. Eat it all and get your photo taken.
Brad added that if one were to eat it all, their photo would not only be taken but also posted in the Ladies restroom. This gave us a good laugh, but he was as serious as a heart attack – which might well be the result of actually consuming The Mountain.
When our orders arrived, Jimmy and I were immediately glad to have just ordered the single burger, while Marck and Stan welcomed their Kong Burgers with wide eyes. As we dug into our food we agreed that it was excellent. The Black Angus burger was top notch, and being flame-broiled there was plenty of flavor. I said it at the time and I stand by my proclamation: It was the best burger I’ve ever had. Marck impressively made short work of his Kong Burger, but Stan’s progress stalled with about 5 bites to go. You could see in his eyes that he wanted to tap out, but we wouldn’t allow it. We urged him on by stating that it was “just” a Kong Burger, and he needed to man-up and finish strong. It’s not like he’d ordered the Mountain or anything. “Come on, dude,” we encouraged him. “Grow a pair.” I snapped a photo of Stan as he fought his way through the last few bites. I told him if he didn’t finish it, I was going to post the photo in the Mens room. In one last act of defiance he hoarked it down and managed to keep it down.
Walking was difficult but we managed to waddle out the door and resume our journey. Erique was waiting for us at the Ho Hum Motel in West Yellowstone and we had a date with the plentiful trout of the Firehole in the morning. Speaking of Firehole – nah, never mind. Suffice it to say the food was excellent and stuck with us. If you’re anywhere near Ennis, you owe it to yourself to stop by the Roadhouse Grille at 305 Main Street. Order a burger, and ask to speak to Brad. You’ll be glad you did.