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It doesn’t look like much from the outside. Shadows of long-gone “Bar” and “Café” signs are barely legible on the cedar shingles, which are in need of some fresh stain. Doors could use some paint, too.

But inside, the Post Creek 44 Steak & Tap House is still turning out what it has become famous for — steaks, juicy burgers, house-smoked ribs, fried pickles and a full bar that boasts Montana beers and cocktails made with Montana distillery spirits.

The Post Creek 44 is about 50 miles north of Missoula off Highway 93, between St. Ignatius and Ronan. It’s easy to drive by it, but worth the stop for appetizers or a meal or to watch a football game on the big-screen TVs.

The bar and restaurant have had many lives through the years, some captured in historic pictures that hang on the wall. The earliest is a black-and-white photo of the Nuse Tavern, which operated on the site from 1948 to 1956.

In recent times, owner Tammy Wadsworth updated the inside of the bar and restaurant and started to showcase Montana spirits, beer, meat and in-season produce. She owned it for 10 years and embraced some not-just-bar-food offerings, including a “Taste of Alaska” dinner of prawns, scallops and cod; a steak special that included a gorgonzola-mushroom sauce; and a Blackberry Chipotle Jalapeno Burger, which is still on the menu.

But in October, a new owner — Stacy Roberts — took over. She said her dreams are to build on to what Wadsworth started, continuing to focus on hearty, fresh house-made food and Montana products.

“I’ve always liked a challenge, and this is a new challenge for me. It’s a new chapter in my life,” she said. “I’ve always dreamed of owning a bar and restaurant.”

Roberts grew up in the area but left about nine years ago for various jobs, most recently as a teacher in the oilfield towns of North Dakota. “This is a lot different from what I was doing in the North Dakota,” she said. Family drew her back.

Earlier this year she started learning the bar and restaurant business at the Post Creek 44, with Wadsworth as her teacher. The sale closed last month.

In the summer, Post Creek 44 is a popular spot for tourists, drawn in by the four-plus stars and many raves given by online reviewers. “Off the beaten track but well worth a stop,” “awesome,” “friendly,” “Everything was delicious” are just a few of the comments.

This time of year, though, patrons are mostly locals, people from Arlee, Polson or Ronan, travelers from Missoula heading to Flathead Lake, Kalispell residents heading to Missoula, or other Montanans who’ve heard about the restaurant’s ribs, burgers and steaks. It’s close to the National Bison Range and the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, which draw visitors even in winter.

At the bar are 20-plus taps, most for beers from around Montana. Or order one of the bar’s nine specialty cocktails, each featuring spirits from Montana distilleries. A sampling:

• The Blinker, made with grenadine, grapefruit and Sudden Wisdom Rye Whiskey from Missoula’s Montgomery Distillery.

• Montana Bulldog, made with cola, Willie's Coffee Cream Liqueur and Snowcrest Vodka, from Willie's Distilling in Ennis.

• Farmer’s Daughter, made with rosemary simple, lime juice, lemonade and Crisp Cucumber Gin from Whistling Andy in Big Fork.

• North Fork Flood, with ginger ale, lemon and North Fork Rye Whiskey from Coram’s Glacier Distilling.

• Dirty Girl, with root beer and Orphan Girl Bourbon from Headframe Spirits in Butte.

According to Roberts, the most popular steak is the King Cut Ribeye, made from beef aged for 35 days and seasoned with the house seasoning. It’s $25. The ribs are a big hit, too — a pound of ribs, rubbed with Post Creek 44’s own rib seasoning and slow-smoked for hours at the restaurant. Cost: $16.

On the burger menu are some unique offerings, most using Montana meats. An elk burger is a favorite, along with the 44 Bacon Burger, made with local bacon and a special house sauce. The Black and Tan (Montana beef, beer cheese, stout-battered onion rings) and the Blackberry Chipotle Jalapeno Burger (Montana beef, local chipotle pepper cheese, jalapeno and local blackberry jam) are top picks, too. Burgers run $9.50 to $12.50

Come hungry; Most of Post Creek 44’s juicy, flavorful, fresh burgers weigh in at a half-pound of meat each.

Appetizers include Fried Pickle Spears, Garlic Butter Prawns, Flour Dusted Calamari, chicken wings, and Post Creek Chips, which are Yukon Gold potatoes topped with mozzarella, bacon, barbecue sauce and onions. Another favorite: The $11 Junkyard Ribs, which are meaty pork ribs, dusted and fried and coated in sweet and sour sauce, green onion and sesame.

The restaurant also has house-made soup, a lunch menu, a children’s menu, and a menu for people who want smaller meals, such as roast beef and house-fried chips, ribs and coleslaw, or soup plus a grilled cheese sandwich.

Each week the restaurant and bar has rotating dinner specials:

• Thursdays: Spaghetti

• First Friday: Prime Rib

• Second Friday: Ribs

• Third Friday: Steak

• Fourth Friday: Seafood

What’s ahead? Roberts said she hopes to keep the menu much as it is for now, but will try new flavors and combinations; Post Creek 44’s kitchen staff is creative and always experimenting, she said. She wants to bring in more music and dancing, hopes to open one of the rooms for local artists to show their work, and already has booked nine holiday parties for local businesses.

She found the old “44” numbers — a reference to guns and a remnant of past names of the bar — stacked outside and brought them in for wall décor.

And yes, the outside will get a facelift and landscaping in due course, she said. In the meantime, the delicious menu itself — and the bar and big-screen TVs — will keep drawing in fans, new and old.

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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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