2010 USA Roadtrip Gardiner, MT to Bozeman, MT

It's a very short drive from Gardiner to Bozeman, MT. We left Gardiner at about 10:30 a.m. and arrived in Bozeman, MT at about 11:30 a.m. We outdid ourselves looking at the hotels around the I-80 before we chose the Fairfield Inn by Marriott (828 Wheat Dr., Bozeman, MT 59715, tel. 406-587-2222, e-mail: gabriel.hodge@archonhospitality.com, web: www.Marriott.com/BZFI) at the special, highly negotiated price of $64.15 (including wi-fi, refrigerator, microwave, electric coffeemaker, hairdryer, continental breakfast and the 4% room tax). Fortunatey for us, when we arrived Gabe Hodge, the general manager, was working at reception. He was the one who made us the deal. It was a nice, comfortable and large suite with a sofa, a coffee table and a table with 2 comfortable chairs. Dimitri had a desk to work at and Audre had the table for her computer (that did double-duty as a breakfast table--after we experienced screaming babies in the room for continental breakfast). The hotel had a Jacuzzi which we used and liked. It was our most luxuriously large room of our 2010 USA Roadtrip.

Bozeman says of itself: it's a charming town in a “John Wayne, Norman Rockwell, Bob Marley sort of way” according to the “Bozeman, Montana Community Guide.” And it is. It was great to be there in spring, with all of the flowering trees and plants in bloom. Lovely. In 2008 Bozeman had about 90000 people and all of the ginormous, national chains a town of that size would have.

Bozeman’s historic district features homes from the early 1900’s, with character and charm. It’s a fairly flat town with beautiful mountain vistas in the distance. We had read about a restaurant called Food for Thought that advertises that it makes everything from scratch (270, W. Kagy Blvd., Bozeman, tel. 406-587-4454, web: http://www.fftdeli.com/) before we got to Bozeman. It's down the street from the dinasaur museum and very convenient for people going there. We shared one tortellini salad with foccacia bread for $4.95 and it was very good.

On our first night in Bozeman, we went to Cafe Zydeco for some cajun fare for a change. It's at 1520 W. Main St., in Bozeman, MT (tel. 406-994-0188, web: http://www.cafezydeco.com/). It was good and a bit funky, in an old house. We had one Catfish Tchoupitoulas (chop-a-two-las) which was a grilled fillet of catfish topped with crawfish etouffee and served over rice ($15.95) and one Seafood Gumbo described as an authentic cajun comfort soup with shrimp, crawfish, crab and catfish ($9.25 for the small size) which was also very good. The total came to $25.20 and we had more than enough extra to take back to our room.

The next day in Bozeman we luxuriated in our room in the morning, then we went to Rosauers , a big supermarket like Whole Foods for lunch. (It's at 3255 Technology Blvd. W, Bozeman, MT 59718, tel. 406-587-0637 $6.40 (Bob Burris, Store manager: e-mail: 140mgr@rosauers.com). Rosauers was recommended to us by Gabe Hodge, our general manager (who by the way is married to the general manager of the Homewood Suites, which we thought was pretty cool).

We liked our lunch at Rosauers. We had 1 red lentil curry ($3.81) and 1 asparagus and crab cream soup ($2.59) in the bistro area. It is a serve-yourself place and the seats are in a semi-circular area around a gas fireplace. The area has floor to (double-high) ceiling windows so it's filled with light even on a gray day. Again we were delighted that we didn't have to pay sales tax.

After lunch, we did some shopping at Rosauers and were impressed with the selection and the low prices for wine. We paid less for Los Alamos Malbec in Montana than we did in Argentina!

That night we went to John Bozeman's Bistro (125 W. Main St., Bozeman, MT 59715, tel. 406-587-4100, web: www.johnbozemansbistro.com) and spent $43 (again no sales tax) plus tip (which was more than we had been spending but certainly reasonable). We shared one North American bison flank steak, dry rubbed with a rich coffee Ancho-chili spice blend and char-grilled ($28). We asked for it rare and (as usual in our experience in this part of the country) it came medium rare. It was a little tough (it was flank steak after all) but we knew it would be (because it was wild). The menu included a bison tenderloin which probably would have been more tender but we didn’t like all of the over-the-top accompaniments. With our bison flank steak came creamy butternut squash risotto and one of the week’s “super food” creations. We chose the quinoa, asparagus and zucchini side and it was good, as was the risotto. On top of the bison were crispy fried veggie strings and an intriguing whisky barbeque-infused compound butter. With our dinner, we had 2 glasses of El Portillo Malbec (each $6) that were fine. Our server, Rita, was delightful and the historic building was charming. The art on the walls was very good. All in all John Bozeman’s Bistro was a success (and much better than the people on Chow—click here to read the thread--had led us to believe it would be).

The next day we drove to Norris Hot Springs, Route 84 at Hwy. 287, Norris MT 59745, tel. 406-685-3303, http://www.norrishotsprings.com/ for a soak. The drive from Bozeman started out flat with farmland and turned into rolling hills with rivers by the road. The area around Madison River was truly lovely with spring green rolling hills and farms.

Norris Hot Springs says it is the "Water of the Gods" and a geothermal wonder. They say: "Travelers discover a unique place to relax, refresh and enjoy in every season. Located in the small community of Norris, Montana, we're at the crossroads of some of the big sky's most scenic drives. West Yellowstone to Helena, Butte to Bozeman, with the Lewis and Clark Caverns and the majestic Madison River minutes away." We paid $10 for the 2 of us and stayed for about 2 hours. While it is basic, rustic and small, we had a good time. There were lots of sweet red-winged black birds around the pool and it was the first time we'd seen that bird. Too bad the place wasn't more photogenic; we didn't take any snaps.

That night for dinner we went to Lemongrass Thai (290 W. Kagy Blvd., Suite C, Bozeman, MT 59715 tel, 406-551-2168) and had a truly excellent meal that was an unexpected delight. We spent  $33 + tip.
Lemongrass Thai on Urbanspoon
The Tom Kha Gal, chicken coconut soup was full of fresh mushrooms, galangal, chiles, kafir lime leaves and cilantro ($7). For our main we shared one Pam’s Pad Khee Mao (Spicy Drunken Noodle) Flat noodles stir-fried with fresh garlic, chili, onions, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and basil, with chicken (choice of tofu, chicken or shrimp). This is a serious dish for spicy food lovers. Please beware. Man, was it delicious and spicy; the people at the next table gave us some of their rice to cool off our mouths. ($12 or $14 with shrimp). We had 2 glasses of Torrentes ($14). The restaurant opened in Dec. 2009 and one of the owners is Thai. It has a double-high ceiling with a sleek, modern décor and an open kitchen. It’s casual and chic with linen napkins and highly polished tabletops made of tile. When we arrived at around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night every table was taken and there was a line, waiting. It was a short wait. By 7:15, it was less busy. What a great meal at a great price.

While we were in Bozeman we stopped at the Dock, Indian and Thai Cuisine (806 N. 7th Ave., Bozeman, tel. 406-587-1111) and it’s just a grungy bar.

The next day was Sunday and off we went to Helena after breakfast at a restaurant, rather than in our hotel room. We went to Cateye (23 N. Tracy, Bozeman, MT 59715, tel. 406-587-8844, e-mail: chefkevlar@hotmail.com, web: cateyecafe.com, owned by Kevin and Tina Caracciolo). It was recommended by a woman at the Country Bookshelf (but it was not in the Downtown Boseman Association Member Directory that was given free at the Country Bookshelf or in the Bozeman Community Directory distributed by the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce--that should have tipped us off). When we got there we were impressed: there was a line and it is charming. We ordered one banana nut bread French toast after quizzing the server. We asked if the bread was soaked so that it was like pudding in the middle and crisp on the outside. She said it was over 1 inch thick and soaked. We asked if it was served with real maple syrup. No, she said, it wasn’t. But we ordered it anyway. We also ordered the Cateye version of an omelet (which was really scrambled eggs) "in the Greek style with taters and whole wheat toast." The eggs were a little dry and made with green olives (not tasting like Greek olives), spinach and feta cheese. The home fry potatoes were very good, the eggs okay and the bread non-descript. Because we expressed our disappointment with the French toast, that item was taken off the bill, leaving us with the eggs, the good orange juice and coffee for $14.

Next time we will try the Nova Café, 312 East Main St., Bozeman, MT 59715, tel. 406-587-3973, web: www.thenovacafe.com. It was the other breakfast place recommended by the woman at the Country Bookstore. Or we'll the Community Co-op (they have a harp upstairs on Sundays, we were told) 908 West Main St., Bozeman, MT 59715, tel. 406-587-4039, web: www.bozo.coop

By the way, for those who are obsessed with accommodations like we are, the other hotels in Bozeman we saw were:

1.Super 8, 800 Wheat Dr., Bozeman, tel. 406-586-1521 Special price for suite #302: $64.13. king $54.13 the suite was a good-sized room with large couch and recliner but no table, just a coffee table and one desk. Justin Futal, GM, e-mail: bozemangm@yahoo.com, web: http://www.super8.com/
2. Ramada Limited, 2020 Wheat Dr., Bozeman, tel. 406-585-2626. Cheryl McElroy, GM,King: $60, 2 queen beds: $79, suite: $88. Too small or too expensive or both.
3. Microtel, 612 Nikles Dr., Bozeman, tel. 406-586-3797. Darin Barbe, GM, web: http://www.microtelinn.com%20all/All tiny rooms: $48.08 queen, $58.78 2 queen, $71.62 suite.
4.Homewood Suites, 1023 Baxter Lane, Bozeman, tel. 406-587-8180. Sandra Hodge, GM, e-mail: Sandra.hodge@hilton.com, web: http://www.homewoodsuitesbozeman.com/. We talked with Michael the Assistant GM. The smallest room was good sized with a full kitchen. Very nice place but the cheapest room at a highly negotiated price would have been $101.58 including everything.
5. Rodeway Inn, 817 Wheat Dr., Bozeman, tel. 406-585-7888
1 queen: $53.95, suite: $73.21 Too small
6. TLC Inn, 805 Wheat Dr., Bozeman, tel. 406-587-4941, web: http://www.tlc-inn.com/The place is old and the rooms, even the suite, were small. King: $43.80

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