I am at heart a budget traveler. It doesn't take any effort. Born of Depression-era parents, it was instilled in me at an early age. Of course, I like my splurges and when it comes to exotic beer, I will think nothing of spending more than most would think necessary. That said, I rarely break down and buy things when they are over-priced due to location. National parks as a rule are out of the way, remote and hence tend to charge more for most items, especially cooked food.
My wife and I had been camping for over five months and though we had hit some cities and had some meals out, this was a long trip that required us do without more often than with. The payoff was well worth it, seeing hundreds of amazing places and stockpiling more memories than most have in a lifetime. After three nights of awful weather camping at Many Glacier Campground followed by four days of backpacking in Glacier National Park's vast wilderness, I finally succumbed. I woke up Doreen and said I had a surprise for her. Rather than huddle behind the little wind screen I had erected to keep us out of the wind/rain while eating, I walked her across the parking lot to the Swift Current Motor Inn's restaurant. There was a short wait but we were soon seated in a nice warm dining room.
Favorite Dish: We both ordered make your own three-egg omelets filled with mushrooms, bacon, and cheddar cheese. It came with home fries and two slices of toast. Everything was excellent quality. Just like a diner, coffee was all-you-can-drink and we added new meaning to this concept as we wanted to stay in this warm oasis as long as possible, downing cup after cup, looking out the window as the rain drops ran down. I am not big on going out to breakfast. To me, it's an easy meal to make and I'm happy to whip it up, but though this was pricey, the look on D's face was worth every cent.
We paid $24 for the two omelets, two coffees, and tip.
That night I surprised myself by suggesting we head back to the same restaurant for pizza. We had spent many hours hanging out in the Swift Current Lobby, smelling the pizza every time the restaurant door opened. After the breakfast turned out so well, we had to quench our curiosity about the pizza too. It came out piping hot, loaded with cheese and not a bad crust either. It was huge. Well, not quite as big as it looks in the picture, thanks to my wide angle lens but we could just about finish it. We took our time, enjoying it with a couple of local micro brews. There was no reason to rush. We'd be heading back to the cold tent after we left. In fact, we might have closed the place!
We paid $28 for a large cheese pie, two pints of beer, and tip.
We did not really want an expensive buffet breakfast at Glacier Park Lodge, so after we checked out, we backtracked to the north again, heading for the spectacular Many Glacier area of the NP. However, in our explorations of East Glacier Park the evening before, we had spotted a likely looking spot for breakfast on the edge of town. The Whistle Stop Restaurant is housed in a ramshackle building, with a covered outside front seating area from which you can access the inside of the restaurant by stepping through a long open window! Further seating is available just inside the restaurant or in a separate attachment along the side (where we sat). The place specializes in omelettes and French toast and has a real 'homey' atmosphere.
Favorite Dish: I figured it would be a while before we had another decent meal, so I opted for their 3 rashers of Bacon, one Egg over easy, Toast and black coffee (US$5.75). Sue decided she would try the French Toast (US$5.50) to go with her herbal tea. My meal was very good but Sue's serving was much larger and 'richer' than we are used to - they did say the portions are generous! We could not say that we did not have enough to eat for our US$13 as we left!
If you read any guidebook or website about East Glacier, the number one place you'll hear about is Serrano's. I was excited to try it, but the first night I arrived, the place was packed, with a long line on the front porch, so I moved on. The second night, I made sure I got there right after it opened and was able to score a table on the back patio. Service was very good - drinks were refilled quickly. You get a bowl of chips and salsa, though if you run out of salsa, the next bowl costs extra :( Sadness because it was so good! The entrees ran in the low - mid teens. I went with the seafood enchiladas - crab, scallops, and shrimp covered in a creamy tomato sauce. Fantastic! The seafood was fresh, plentiful, and in good sized pieces. I would have come back the first night and waited in line had I known what I was in for. Don't be put off by the crowds (which were there again as I left) - you won't be sorry you waited. Highly recommended.
This little restaurant sits up the street from the Mountain Pine Motel and next to Brownies Grocery store (coincidentally owned by the same folks.) Breakfast is what most people rave about, but I stopped in for dinner. I was seated fairly quickly out on the patio, which was nice to watch the world go by. Unfortunately, service was a little slow (although when I mentioned I had to be somewhere, it did pick up.) I had the Walleye dinner, which came with a salad and bread. Overall, the food was OK, but I regretted not choosing a sandwich because I thought for what I got on the dinner, the price was a little steep (about $17 for the meal alone, not including tip and drink.)
If you go during Huckleberry season, they advertise the pie, and if it is there, definitely spend the $4 to get a slice. By far, it was the best part of the meal. The fresh berries were just fantastic!
There aren't a lot of choices in East Glacier, and you probably could do worse. You definitely can do better - I did the next night.
The Ptarmigan Dining Room at Many Glacier Hotel is a full service restaurant with spectacular lake and mountain views that will take your breath away. They specialize in Continental and Swiss Cuisine. The food is very good but the view is so special that you might not even notice. The next closest restaurant is sevreal miles away, however, you won't mind once you see the Ptarmigan Dining Room.
The restaurant is open for breakfast (buffet) lunch and dinner every day in season. Attire is casual and reservations are not accepted. Box lunches are also available for those who want to take a picnic with them.
The dinner prices at Many Glacier Hotel were slightly better than those at Glacier Park Lodge, although Many Glacier was more remote and in a much more beautiful setting.
Favorite Dish: I had the buffalo tips and gravy over noodles. It reminded me of beef stroganoff. Frankly, I wondered if they might be running short of buffalo meat because my dinner was mostly noodles. Still it was good.
On our trip to Glacier National Park we enjoyed staying and eating at three of the different historic rustic lodges. However, for lunch each day we packed simple fixings for picnic. We never had a problem finding a place to make sandwiches and enjoy our mid-day meal in the great outdoors.
Favorite Dish: Whole grain bread, peanut butter and honey, luncheon meat, potato chips, fresh fruit and a cooler with ice, energy drink and diet cola. Who could ask for anything more.
During our visit to Glacier National Park we enjoyed two breakfasts and two dinners in the dining room of the Glacier Park Lodge. It is named the Great Northern Steak and Rib House after the Great Northern Railway.
For breakfast there is a very ample buffet and the dinner menu offers a wide choice of entrees. Prices are neither cheap nor outrageous. The setting and service would be hard to beat. Our servers were international college students, mostly from European countries who are recruited to work in the National Park for the summer season.
There is a spectacular mountain view from the restaurant, but only a few tables are situated to take full advantage of it. The spacious interior of the lodge itself, with it's great log timbers, is view enough. Dinner portions are hearty and ample, which were appreciated after a long day of hiking and exploring the mountains.
After a long drive from West Glacier back over the Continental Divide, followed by another drive along the southeast side of Glacier NP, we finally arrived at our first accommodations stop of the trip - Glacier Park Lodge. This was the 'flagship of the fleet' when Great Northern Railways built its network of hotels to serve the National Park, and its prime eating location is in the Great Northern Steak & Rib House pictured here. It was past 5 PM by the time we arrived, after a full day of driving and sightseeing, so we had a settling in drink in their bar before we went down for Dinner at about 8 PM.
It did not take us long to notice that most of the restaurant staff were very healthy looking youngsters and seemed to be speaking with an Eastern European accent. Our waitress soon filled us in - they were part of a regular exchange program in which university students from Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia and other countries come over to work for the summer at various locations in the Park. I don't know why, maybe it is difficult to get American student help in 'remote' locations like northern Montana?
Favorite Dish: We both decided that it was time for a serious meal, so we ordered Pan-Seared Mountain Trout with fried Red Potatos, Brocolli, Califlower, Red Peppers, Yellow & Green Zuchinni and Red Onions served with slices of Lemon (US$18 each). We also had side dishes, with mine being Garden Salad with Blue Cheese dressing (a bit weak for my taste), and ordered a glass of wine each to accompany the meal. The Trout was delicious and we both enjoyed our meals as we took in the atmosphere and reflected back on a successful first day in Glacier NP! With a tip, the total cost of Dinner came to US$53.
After driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road for the fourth time, and stopping for a hike on top of the Continental Divide at Logan Pass Visitor Centre while passing by, it was half-way between lunch and dinner by the time we turned up at our final accommodations in the Park, on Saint Mary Lake at the eastern edge. The small building in the pic serves as both the Rising Sun Motor Inn office and restaurant, so we were soon ushered to our table by one of the tallest and lankiest guys (looked like 6 ft. 6 in. to me) I have seen in a while (this time a Russian exchange worker). The focus at Two Dog Flats is on typical Montana type food but with a Tex-Mex slant on it.
Favorite Dish: Sue chose a Grilled Chicken Caesar Wrap which consisted of grilled chicken, Parmesan cheese, croutons and lettuce tossed with Caesar dressing wrapped in a flavoured Tortilla, with chips and a pickle spear (US$7). After having had some in Belize earlier in the year, I thought I would give the Jerk Chicken Breast sandwich a try. This came with peppers & onions and was served on a bun with lettuce and tomato as well as an order of Fries ($7.75). I had to have a pint of draft Fat Tire beer ($4) to wash it down while Sue stuck with her standby glass of Chardonnay ($4.25). It had been a while between meals, so both dishes went down very well.
We came back for breakfast before hitting the road back to Calgary, Alberta to turn in our rental car and head home. We each had a standard breakfast of egg, bacon or sausage, hash brown potatos, toast and coffee ($6.25) and it did the trick much better than the previous morning at the Lake McDonald Lodge!
After a couple of small to medium hikes (in the Two Medicine Lake and Many Glacier areas) on the morning and early afternoon of our second day in the National Park, we were able to check into our accommodations at the Many Glacier Hotel. This hotel was built with a Swiss theme to it, including the Interlaken Lounge and its adjoining main restaurant, the Ptarmigan Dining Room. Like the restaurant itself, the nice lounge area has big windows overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake at the front of the hotel (2nd photo). We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the hotel and sitting in the lounge having a few cold beers and glasses of wine as we discussed our adventures to date! The waiter service there was a bit slow (a mixture of American and European staff) but it was no problem to walk into the next door bar area to order and retrieve your own drinks. Eventually we arose for dinner, and entered the Ptarmigan (open from 5-9:30 PM).
Favorite Dish: For this evening meal, we decided to share some appetizer plates. I liked the look of the Bruschetta Bernadette, consisting of grilled baguettes garnished with cucumber, tomato, garlic & fresh herbs marinated balsamic vinegar ($6.50) while Sue ordered Seafood & Spinach Dip - a flavourful blend of seafood with spinach, garlic, Romano cheese and onions served with warm Tortilla chips ($7.95). We really enjoyed the mixture of these two dishes and retired to the outside deck at about 8 PM, where the sun was shining in the cloudless sky and a fairly strong but warm breeze was blowing. We actually stayed there until the sun set and then it was off to bed in preparation for our major hike to Grinnell Glacier in the morning!
The Dining Room also offered a buffet breakfast or you can order individual items like toast, bacon, coffee, etc. We had a quick breakfast there in the morning before heading down to the dock to catch the 'Chief Two Guns' boat ride for the first part of our hike.
Our first day in Glacier NP was spent on a 'mission' - when we left Canada's Waterton Lakes NP for Glacier, we needed more DVD discs for our video camera, after spending two and a half weeks shooting away in Alberta. This part of southern Alberta and northern Montana does not have a lot of specialized shopping spots and it turned out that the quickest place to get supplies was over the Rocky Mountains continental divide, just outside the West Entrance of Glacier. So it was that we took our first drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, from which we emerged into the little town of West Glacier at about 2 PM, four hours after crossing into the USA. We were quite hungry by then and the West Glacier Restaurant, located right across the street from where our shopping needs were met, looked like an inviting spot.
Favorite Dish: The interior was spacious and the lunchtime crowd was thinning by the time we walked in and were ushered to a table. Because we had to turn around and now drive back over GTTS Road to the east side of the NP, we decided to keeps thing simple with their Lunch special of a Tuna Melt sandwich with a cup of Clam Chowder (US$6), washed down by water. The food was tasty, but it took some time for the bill to arrive so we could get underway again. Still, we were happy as we left to hit the trail again!
I would have to rate the menu a notch above that of the Ptarmigan Dining Room at the Many Glacier Hotel. I had the trout bruschetta and the pork chop. The pork chop was a nice thick cut with a light cherry sauce. Most importantly it was nice and juicy and not dried out as pork is so often cooked. We had a large party (16 folks) but the staff were friendly and accomodating.
Breakfast includes a nice buffet spread for $8 and has eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, a variety of fruits and cereals, muffins, bagels, toast, etc. It's the place to go if you don't want to leave the hotel unless you don't mind a microwaveable danish from the small convenience store off the lobby.
Favorite Dish: Pork chop with cherry sauce
The restaurant at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn has basic Italian dishes such as pastas, pizza, calzones, etc. along with soups and salads. The food isn't stunning but is adequate after a long day of hiking or if you're in a big family group. The student staffers are friendly and fun. It's definitely conveniently located if you're staying in the Many Glacier area and is a nice alternative to the Ptarmigan Dining Room or Swiss Lounge at the Many Glacier Hotel.
Landing on the Pacific side of the continental divide for the second time in our trip, this time to spend a night at the Lake McDonald Lodge, we had a chance to sample the fare at its Russell's Fireside Dining Room. With its wood beam construction, large windows fronting onto the lake and various stuffed animal heads mounted on the walls, the decor of the large room evokes images of the early days of the Park. We had some phone calls to make after an early evening arrival at the Lodge, so when we finally made it down to dinner around 8 PM on a Sunday night the place was really hopping. However, after only a short wait next door in the adjoining overflow bar area, we soon had a window seat.
Favorite Dish: Once again, neither of us was famished, so we decided to keep our order down to a dull roar. Sue had Crab Cakes sauteed with a spicy remoulade and topped with fried leeks (US$7.50) and a side Caesar Salad (US$5). I like my bright colours, so ordered Baby Tomatos and fresh Mozzarella balls with a relish of basil, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar served with grilled baguettes (US$7). The total dinner cost was US$28. We both enjoyed this meal but were not quite so lucky with breakfast in the morning. I had one egg with ham, hash brown potatos, whole grain toast and coffee (US$5.25). However, the potatos were very soggy and the toast was so slow in coming that we had our meals almost finished (rather than let them go cold) before it arrived. The waitress said that their toaster was backed up with orders, but that is the first time I have ever seen a bottleneck for something as simple as that - the place was nowhere near full of people.
This eclectic restaurant has a laid-back ambience that is very welcoming. It has been featured in several well-known publications, including the New York Times. The food is awesome and the margaritas are to die for!
This is a seasonal operation, open May 25 - Sept 15, from 8:00am - 10:00pm daily.
Reservations, while not required, are recommended for larger groups.
I'm told that they also have a year-round restaurant in Missoula, although I have never been there.
Favorite Dish: I love their burgers.