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From rooftop to basement, three outstanding choices for dining at the Kimpton Armory Hotel

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We all are dealing with the pandemic in our own fashion. For me, addicted to wanderlust and being grounded for many months has been a source of melancholy. To soothe my soul, I’ve allowed myself some overnight trips in Big Sky Country to check out what’s new in our communities, especially with the food scene.

A recent excursion to Bozeman to join my friends Molly Ambrogi-Yanson and Molly Douma Brewer for dinner at the new Kimpton Armory Hotel did wonders for lifting my spirits. Opened in August 2020, this is the first Kimpton Boutique Hotel brand in Montana.

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Kudos go out to the Kimpton Armory Hotel investors, who re-purposed a two-story concrete affair in the heart of Bozeman that was slated for tear-down. The Armory, built in 1941 on Mendenhall Street, was designed by noted Bozeman architect Fred Fielding Willson in a classic 1920s neo-deco style. It housed the 163rd Infantry Regiment of the Montana National Guard. With an eight-story addition that houses the sleeping rooms, the Sky Shed rooftop lounge and a swimming pool, the Kimpton Armory Hotel is now the tallest building in downtown Bozeman. The property also has a beautiful music hall with a 600-person capacity, ideal for concerts and private events, weddings, etc.

Careful planning has gone into the hotel interior, respectfully blending the original art deco elements with today’s resources. The Kimpton offers three unique settings for dining. The Sky Shed is a comfy gathering spot for drinks and appetizers, Fielding’s on the main floor is a full-service restaurant, and in the basement, the Tune-Up bar features appetizers and desserts.

Overseeing all of the food venues, including private parties, is Chef Mark Musial. Mark joined the Kimpton at the start of 2020 and hit the ground running, with his input on the design of the dining sites and developing all the menus. He had previously been with the famed Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado: “I started as a line cook, and seven years later, I was the executive chef of the West Building at Broadmoor.”

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Chef Mark credits his classic French training to Executive Chef Bertrand Bouquin at the Broadmoor. When Mark expressed interest in cooking, Chef Bouquin asked what he knew about food, and the answer was nothing. Bouquin agreed to mentor Mark, provided he would commit to the process. Commit he did and found his passion in life. Mark’s philosophy is simple: “A responsible chef sources the best ingredients, locally sourced when possible. Ideally, there should be no more than two to three ingredients on a plate, perfectly executed.”

We started our evening at the Sky Shed, sitting in the glass-enclosed patio around a fire pit. From this top floor of the Kimpton, we had a bird’s eye view of Bozeman and its surrounding landscape, including the Bridger Mountain Range.

For the first six months, Pan-Asian inspired appetizers are featured at the rooftop lounge.

We started with Korean meatballs, a Chinese cucumber salad, and shrimp skewers served with a miso and okonomi mayo. The Bridger Express, a cocktail featuring Ruby River gin, St. Germain elderflower, ginger and lemon, was the appropriate drink to pair with our first course. Every six months, Chef Mark will flip the menu, with Israeli-themed nibbles up next on the docket. “Israeli?” I ask. Chef Mark replies, “Why not! It’s amazing food.” He lets me know that the Sky Shed is his space to play with crafting the unexpected starters.

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We moved down to Fielding’s Restaurant for our main course. The vintage-like décor is reminiscent of yesteryear. Chartreuse colored semi-circle booths line one wall, with additional seating at tables with subdued orange leather chairs. Paintings from Montana artists dress the walls. An open-air kitchen at the back and a full-service bar with additional seating round out this appealing restaurant.

While respecting the traditional fare you would typically find in Montana, Chef Mark has been inventive with his menus beyond steak and burgers. Starters include hummus, mussels, burrata, and Fielding’s Bread Skillet (rosemary focaccia served with warm herb butter).

The showpiece of the menu options was the angry trout dish, garnering looks of disbelief when the waiter brought it to our table. The trout indeed looked very angry, skin on, folded in half with his tail sticking out of his mouth. It appeared complicated to eat at first glance, but it was easy to lift the skin and pull away succulent pieces of flesh without any bones. We dined on twice-roasted acorn squash, a yummy mix combining the squash with cider honey butter, pecan dukkah, pecorino, and celery heart. Bouillabaisse, brimming with scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams, and cod in a saffron and Pernod broth, rounded out the main courses of our feast.

There are two items on the menu that I’m anxious to try on my next visit. I caught a glimpse of the braised oxtail layered onto potato puree and served with crispy chili, looking scrumptious as the waiter carried it out. Being a fan of mushrooms, the wild mushroom pot pie with brandy cream, kale, new potato, pastry crust is calling my name.

We finished up the evening in the Tune-Up Basement Bar, where over 100 brands of whiskey are featured. There is a small stage for live music, which will feature both local and regional musicians. With its seductive low light, Tune-Up could be the perfect setting to rekindle an old flame. Our conversation, however, was quite the opposite of romantic. Sipping on wine and cosmopolitans, we chuckled at how our new working from home norm was to wear jammies all day (or multiple days) and push personal grooming to the back burner! We finished up the evening on a sweet note, nibbling on cinnamon sugar churros, crème Brulee, and Rocky Road profiteroles, filled with chocolate ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce.

As general manager Aaron Whitten describes it, the Kimpton Armory offers up everything a guest needs for experiencing Bozeman hassle-free. Park the car, check-in, and relax or take a stroll one block to Main Street for browsing and shopping. Back at the hotel, start with a drink and appetizers at the Sky Shed. Head down to Fielding’s for the main course, then finish up with a drink and dessert at Tune-Up. There are no worries about driving after a few drinks. It’s a simple matter to find your way back to your room for a comfy stay.

Kimpton’s current offers are enticing for Montanans with a 406 prefix, who can get a 25% discount on lodging along with a drink at the Sky Shed. Unique to Bozeman is the progressive dinner underway at the hotel on Friday and Saturday nights. Patrons work their way from the Sky Shed down to Tune-Up. Reservations are recommended. The prix-fixe menu is $55 for food; add $15 more for wine pairings. Check out Kimpton’s website for offers that combine the great outdoors with this property.

This was my first experience with a Kimpton hotel. The words boutique and luxury are often associated with this brand, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But my initial impression of the Kimpton Armory happened on the sidewalk when the bellman came out to assist with my luggage. He was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, which spoke volumes to me on how this new hotel has adapted to Montana’s brand of luxury. I’ll be back.

Donnie Sexton, who retired in 2016 after a long career with the Montana Office of Tourism, currently freelances as a travel writer and photographer, covering destinations around the world. is a digital destination that serves up Montana's tasty food, travel and culture stories … one bite at a time.


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