Earlier this month Missoula gave out its first Legacy Business Awards, spotlighting five businesses that have been serving local customers for more than a century.

Emy Scherrer, historic preservation officer for the City of Missoula, says the city wants to recognize other longtime businesses in the future — perhaps, for example, Missoula’s oldest restaurants.

Where will her research take her?

Maybe to the classic Missoula Club, with its burger-and-beer combo so famous that former President Bill Clinton stopped in to try it in 2008. The Mo Club started in 1890 as part of the Missoula Hotel, then moved to its current location at 139 W. Main in 1926 after a fire.

Maybe to the Double Front Café, home of the lip-smacking Double Front Chicken. It opened in 1936 and has been serving up its classic fried favorite ever since.

And most likely to the iconic Oxford, which opened first at 225 N. Higgins Ave. and then moved, in 1955, to its current location at Higgins and West Pine Street.

It’s hard to pin down exactly how old the Ox is, according to Missoula author Steve Smith’s “The OX: Profile of a legendary Montana saloon.” The book came out in 1983 — thought to be the centennial of the bar and grill. A conflicting tale pegged the Ox’s opening a few years later, maybe 1888.

In any event, it was listed in a city directory of Missoula by 1890, Smith wrote.

The Ox opened first as a bar and cigar store, then added a candy counter and soda fountain. Eventually the owners ditched the sweets and started the grill, which still has a devoted clientele breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In the early days, the all-male cooks and waiters shouted colorful-lingoed food orders like “He needs ’em!” (calf brains and eggs), “Yodeling T-bone” (a Swiss steak) and “Inside job” (liver), according to Smith.

Mmmm. Bacon.

Ever drive by the Daily’s Premium Meats plant on Mullan Road and wonder what is actually made there these days? I do.

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Daily’s bacon, of course, is famed around Montana — and its rich history begins in Missoula. About the same time the Ox and the Mo Club were launching, John R. Daily and his business partner, James Walsh, opened the Union Market on Higgins Avenue. The year was 1893; the new market’s specialty was fresh meats.

When Walsh retired in 1899, Daily took over the business, changing the name the next year to the J.R. Daily Meat Co. He built a small empire in Missoula, with a slaughterhouse, processing plant and six markets.

Daily’s eventually started to focus on the production side of bacon and meats, and closed its retail outlets, but continued to make sausage and other meat products for decades in Missoula. In 2005, a partner company — Seaboard Farms, now renamed Seaboard Foods — bought Daily’s Premium Meats.

About 150 people still work at the Missoula plant, according to David Eaheart, senior director of communications for Seaboard Foods. Bacon for food service is produced there now: “This includes the signature honey-cured bacon as well as sugar-cured, deep Applewood-smoked and peppered bacon,” he explained, answering questions via email.

“If local restaurants serve Daily’s bacon, it comes from the Missoula plant,” he said. Retail bacon found at local supermarkets is likely made and packaged at a new plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, he said.

Daily’s signature honey-cured bacon is the company’s most popular bacon, according to Eaheart. “Our focus is to continue producing the most-sought after and best-tasting bacon for our customers,” he said.

New flavors, new venture

On opening day of Missoula’s farmers’ markets last week, local spice-blend company The Silk Road pointed out its two newest spice mixes: Lebanese Za’atar, and Turkish Baharat. They came out only about a year ago, said Sam Risho, who owns the company with his wife and brother.

The Turkish Baharat is “earthy, savory” with a hint of coffee, Risho said. The spice tin describes it as “aromatic, zesty & slightly sweet with lingering heat.” It is good in ground meats, stews and as rubs on fish and poultry.

The Lebanese Za’atar’s first ingredient is sumac, a classic Lebanese spice; other ingredients are toasted sesame seeds, oregano, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, marjoram and thyme. It is light and tangy, perfect for lighter meats like chicken and fish, and for “dipping, topping, encrusting, baking and roasting.”

These new blends are from the middle of the silk road of the spice trades, and complete the East to West series of spice blends from the Missoula company. Find recipes for the blends at TheSilkRoad.recipes.

Sam Risho also hinted that a new project in the works: A delivery-only restaurant that should start serving this summer. Watch for menus and details at The Silk Road’s table at the Clark Fork River Market on Saturdays.

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Mea Andrews was a Missoulian reporter and editor for 27 years, covering food, art and Missoula County growth and development before leaving the paper. She is now retired.


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