Bozeman, Montana eateries and things to do
Suggested tips from a local to those visiting our University "boom town." Bozeman is a small but hip, outdoorsy and urbane Rocky Mountain city that's landing on many "Top Ten" lists for tech startups and lifestyle. If you visit, be sure to check out:
Best restaurants - Blackbird (Northern Italian), Aleworks (pub food), Sweet Chile (Thai fusion), Seven Sushi (Japanese), Starky's (Americana), Tinga (authentic street-style burritos and tacos), Community Co-op - organic grocery store.
Best coffee house - Wild Joe's Coffee House (organic locally roasted coffee, teas and bakery).
Best community radio station - KGLT 91.9
Best downhill ski area - Bridger Bowl (half the price of the better known Big Sky, and much closer to town.
Best cross country skiing - Bohart Ranch
Best waterfalls - Drive up Hyalite Canyon to the reservoir for the short hike to Palisades and Grotto Falls. Also, Pine Creek Falls 10 miles South of nearby Livingston.
Best Hikes - Cottonwood Canyon, Up to the "M",
Best route to Yellowstone Park - Instead of 191 to West Yellowstone, drive I-90 over to Livingston and follow Route 89 alongside the Yellowstone River through the spectacular Paradise Valley and down to Gardner.
Best 4 wheeler drive - The road to Fairy Lake.
Best bicycle riding - Bozeman has so many great bike and mountain biking trails, it's impossible to single any one out, but if you just want any easy peddle on a flat trail, try the Gallagator and connecting trails south through town to Goldenstein Road.
Best Old Wild West Experience - It's a long drive, but Virginia City, Nevada City and Bannack State Park are the real deal.
Welcome to the boards : )
As a local, I'm going to reply to the parts of the post that pertain to food (we only discuss food on Chowhound.)
The resto scene in Bozeman has been anemic for many years - I've lived here for almost 12. Only in the past few years have there been one or two additions worth mentioning (and there have been a lot of closures.)
Blackbird is decent, but for my money, I prefer the consistency, good quality, attentiveness, and genuine attempts at authenticity at Sweet Chili for Thai food. Bozeman sorely needed a Thai restaurant, a real one, and the support it gets reflects that. They take reservations, they're honored and you can count on a visit from the owner during your meal.
Best coffee house is a very personal choice, and as shown by the reaction to the news that a Starbucks will be opening in Bozeman, it seems that no coffee house distinguishes itself here. In the article in our local paper earlier this week there were many scathing comments about Wild Joe's, specifically that the wait is interminable, and the coffee not good. I don't know anyone who patronizes it. I imagine it gets traffic from pedestrians on Main Street.
On the topic of coffee, I think our best coffee provider dovetails with my other favorite resto, and definitely the favorite for lunch - Chickpea Cafe. Another recent addition to Bozeman, the food is just plain yummy. Fresh, made with care, and there, too, the crowds show that we're happy to have Chickpea here. They make a terrific cup of coffee, and espresso, and fresh baklava, to boot. I have yet to see a decent pastry at any coffee house in Bozeman. (A side note, the bagels at Bagel Works are better than any bagel I've had in NYC in the past decade.)
La Tinga is so over-rated, I can't understand why people bother. Again, I think it's the downtown convenience for some. Anyone looking for Mexican food should make the drive to Helena - or Buffalo, WY. Seven Sushi, started by former Dave's employees, routinely runs out of fish, and earns quite a few complaints about service. I lost interest in the place. Dave's is still the go-to locally for sushi for good reason. Mind you, both of them make "American" sushi - my Japanese friends who live here shun both places.
Bozeman's gotten better, but it's got a long way to go. I seriously resent getting the check in some of these places, with big-city prices for laughable offerings. It's when I'm sitting in my favorite place, Restaurant Alma, in a food swoon, that I have a pang and realize how much I resent what goes on in Bozangeles sometimes.