Breakfast and Lunch
It makes sense in a town fueled by the business of politics that there are as many or more good choices for lunch in Helena as for dinner.
Clustered in the Last Chance Gulch area are several good restaurants that serve a busy and boisterous lunch clientele. Bert and Ernie’s (361 N. Last Chance Gulch, 406/443-5680, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.) serves a sandwich-dominated menu with a wide selection of beers. Sandwiches run $6–9; dinner prices hover around $12.
The Windbag Saloon (19 S. Last Chance Gulch, 406/443-9669, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.) was a brothel named Big Dorothy’s until 1973. With this colorful history and filled with namesake politicians, the Windbag is one of Helena’s unique restaurants. The burgers (about $7) are the thing for lunch, with steaks on the dinner menu. The Windbag is one of the few restaurants open on Sunday night in Helena.
For lunch in a Helena institution, go to the Rialto (52 N. Last Chance Gulch, 406/442-1890, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.). Try the burger in this venerable old bar with a café up front.
The Brewhouse Brew Pub and Grill (939 Getchell St., 406/457-9390, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) serves Lewis and Clark Brewery beers and ales along with good pub food (the brewery is immediately downstairs from the brewpub, and offers free samples of their handcrafted beers and ales).
Helena’s most famous sweets sanctuary is Parrot Confectionery (42 N. Last Chance Gulch, 406/442-1470, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), a soda fountain and candy factory that isn’t just old-fashioned but actually old. Try the handmade chocolates or a malted milk; the Parrot’s sole feint to solid food is its renowned chili.
Helena has several excellent bakeries. The Park Avenue Bakery (44 S. Park Ave., 406/449-8424) offers European-style pastries, real French bread, and specialty desserts. A great cheese Danish and a cup of their fine coffee induces a near out-of-Montana experience.
Try the Sweetgrass Bakery (322 Fuller Ave., 406/443-1103) for healthful breads, muffins, sweet rolls, and other baked goods.
Great Harvest Bakery (1133 Helena Ave., 406/443-5623) makes hearty breads from Montana-grown wheat, plus delicious cookies, scones, and muffins.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition