Miss Montana — the plane — has been on my mind lately. As you know from news reports in the Missoulian and elsewhere, passionate volunteers are working seven days a week to get the Dakota DC-3 plane ready for a historic trip from Missoula to France to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6.
So I headed out last week for a sneak peek of the action at the Museum of Mountain Flying. The museum isn’t officially open for the season yet, but the door is ajar most days as pilots, engineers and others working on Miss Montana are getting her airworthy, bolt by bolt.
Yes, casual visitors can stop by to see her (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is best), says Bryan Douglass, logistics director and vice chairman of the project. Just stay out of the way. And make a donation: There’s a handy collection jar in the museum, or go online at missmontanatonormandy.com. There’s a dinner-drinks-music-auction gala send-off on Saturday, May 11; you can reserve a ticket for the gala online too.
Missoula’s Miss Montana DC-3 will be back in Missoula later in the summer for another milestone, the 70th anniversary of the Mann Gulch Fire tragedy. Twelve Forest Service firefighters jumped from the same plane on that fateful trip in August 1949.
So what does a DC-3 plane have to do with food? Only that a hearty breakfast is a good way to get ready for a day at the museum this summer. The museum is a labor of love by volunteers who staff it every year. Spend a morning there and you’ll learn a lot of local history, including:
• Why did Charles Lindbergh visit Montana?
• What’s the Montana connection with the 1950s and 1960s TV show “Sky King?”
• What does a snowplane look like?
• Who was the first female commercial helicopter pilot in Montana?
And lots more, of course. Officially, the museum opens Memorial Day (Monday, May 27, this year) and closes Labor Day. The Smokejumper Visitor Center is on the same schedule. Visit both and you’ll have a sharper picture of the importance of backcountry flying and smokejumpers in Montana.
Back to breakfast. Here are two places on West Broadway, not too far from the airport. Maybe they’re on your way:
3695 W. Broadway
You’ve probably passed the Forest Lounge a hundred times without a glance. It’s run down and wears it’s mantle as a dive bar with pride. But pickup trucks pack the parking lot, a sign that it has a loyal clientele.
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It’s owned by Charlie Baumgartner (of Charlie B's fame), and has usual bar food for most of the day and night. Long-time and old-time Missoulians may know it best for its mid-week feast of prime rib — a generous portion of prime rib with salad, baked potato, garlic bread and a cookie for $12.50. It’s served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday. Stop by early because it can sell out.
But the Forest Lounge has simple, hearty, easy-on-the-wallet breakfasts, too, served 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. For some regulars, the waitress just says, “The usual?”
The #3 breakfast — two eggs, toast, hash browns and bacon, ham or sausage — sets you back just $6. Biscuits and gravy, $5.25. Two pancakes with a side of bacon is $6.75, or order French toast and sausage, ham or bacon for $5.50.
Fancier (or hungrier) diners can have chicken-fried steak or a 6-ounce sirloin steak with eggs, toast and hash browns for $7.50-$8.50.
Laughing Grizzly Bar and Grill
2300 W. Broadway
The Laughing Grizzly has a popular weekend brunch with bloody Marys and bottomless mimosas, and offers lots of made-from-scratch, comfort creations all day long, including slow-cooked prime rib, pulled pork and pot roasts, often using locally raised beef and bison.
Breakfast ranges from basic to innovative, all fresh and made to order. Simpler fare includes eggs, toast, hash browns and sausage, pit ham or bacon for $8.99; biscuits and house-made sausage gravy for $7.99; or two big buttermilk pancakes for $4.99.
But if you want something more sophisticated, there is plenty to choose from — say, the Meathead omelet, or the Heart Attack potatoes-and-gravy dish, or the Enchiladas & Eggs, with tequila-chicken enchiladas and a chef-made red sauce served with eggs. Other customer favorites include:
• Eggs Benedict Florentine, with toasted English muffin topped with slices of fresh tomatoes, sautéed spinach, poached eggs and house-made Hollandaise sauce ($12.99).
• Corned Beef Hash, with home-style potatoes, onions and peppers, two eggs and toast ($12.99).
• Chicken-fried steak and eggs, with gravy, two eggs and hash browns ($12.99).
• Hot Bird Scramble or omelet, with smoked turkey, green chiles, green onions and Swiss cheese, hash browns and toast ($10.99).
Good breakfast, good Montana history. A good combination.