514 E. 3rd St.
Stand on any mountaintop in nearby Glacier National Park and you begin to understand Montana’s famous moniker. The blue Big Sky stretches from horizon to distant horizon, seeming to crush the earth.
As the fourth largest state in America by land mass, Montana is a pretty diverse place.
From the oil field roughnecks on the barren Eastern Plaines, to the unemployed union workers in gritty Butte, to the Blackfoot Indians across the flat north country, to the Hollywood celebrity refugees in bucolic Bozeman and Helena, Montana means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
But for those of us who don’t live here, when we close our eyes and think of Montana, the cozy town of Whitefish is probably what comes to mind.
Whitefish is the quintessential small Rocky Mountain town.
Nestled in the shadow of Big Mountain carved up with high-priced ski slopes, Whitefish’s Central Avenue is lined with quaint shops selling western gear and fun watering holes like the Great Northern Bar and Grill.
Sure, Whitefish is a bit touristy, but it still has the feel of a real place.
That sense of Rocky Mountain authenticity hasn’t yet been subjugated to the tourist shops selling t-shirts that say, “Montana. The Last Best Place.”
But the slogan is fitting for Montana — and Whitefish especially.
As I strolled through town on a sunny Saturday morning searching for breakfast, I couldn’t help but sense how fleeting Montana’s greatness can seem.
“You call something paradise, kiss it goodbye,” Don Henley once sang.
Whether it’s the proliferation of Montana’s cheesy roadside casinos or the influx of California leftists like Don Henley himself, you can’t help but admire the beauty of this small town while fearing it won’t always stay this quaint.
So, all I can say is enjoy Montana’s “Last Best Place” while you can.
And when you do come to Whitefish, stop by for breakfast at the Buffalo Café.
You’ll be treated to a Montana meal well worth the wait for a table.
While the specials listed on the blackboard like the local huckleberry french toast were mighty tempting, I have a rule.
And that rule is – if a place is “famous” for something, order that something.
In this case, Buffalo Café is famous for their “Buffalo Pie.”
Since 1979, the Buffalo Café has been piling plates high with eggs, hash browns and various breakfast meats in delicious combinations.
Trying to decide was agonizing. It all sounded so good.
Sausage? Bacon? Ham? Fancy Kansas City bacon? Smoked cheddar? Green chili? Cream gravy? Spinach? Onions? Peppers?
I was as conflicted as Barack Obama facing a foreign policy crisis.
Eventually I settled upon the Morning Glory Pie.
That’s all I have to say.
Of course “Buffalo Pie” is nothing like a pie.
There is no crust.
I thought maybe the hash browns would serve as the base with the mountain of other ingredients serving as the pie filling, but that’s not the case either.
The base of this “pie” is a savory and slightly spicy patty of country sausage which added just the right amount of kick.
The next layer is the Buffalo Café’s famous hash browns, topped with grilled onions and spinach, topped with a couple of eggs over-easy, topped with a hearty serving of peppery cream gravy.
Holy heart attack, Batman!
This just might be one of the greatest breakfasts to grace my taste buds.
The spice from the sausage, the pepper from the gravy, the sweetness from the onions, the crisp from the fried potatoes, and the runny goodness of the eggs produced a kaleidoscope of flavors, textures, and colors in every bite.
I even savored every bite of the local nine-grain buttered toast served on the side.
Normally I toss aside bread as a distraction to the main attraction. But not at Buffalo Café.
Of course I couldn’t help but suffer a bit of buyer’s remorse — not from dissatisfaction with my purchase. But regret as in what else on the menu might I be missing.
I relieved a bit of my angst by ordering a side of Buffalo’s famous “Kansas City bacon.” You can never have too much meat after all.
More like a cross between Canadian bacon and country ham, Buffalo’s Kansas City bacon was thick and smoky, an ideal accompaniment to a hall of fame breakfast.
I left Buffalo Café and Montana feeling like I had discovered something special.
I think you’ll feel that way too.
But hurry. It indeed may be the last best place.
Rating: Bought the Shirt!