Thursday, September 4, 2014

Buffalo Café: Montana’s Last Best Place for Breakfast

Buffalo Café
514 E. 3rd St.
Whitefish, MT

Stand on a mountaintop in nearby Glacier National Park and you begin to understand this state’s famous moniker. The blue Big Sky stretches from horizon to distant horizon seeming to crush the earth.

As the 4th largest state in America by land mass, Montana is a pretty diverse place.

From the oil field rough necks on the barren eastern plaines to the unemployed union workers in gritty Butte to the Blackfoot Indians across the flat north country to the celebrity Hollywood refugees in bucolic Bozeman and Helena, Montana means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

But for those of us who don’t live here, when we close our eyes and think of Montana, an image of Whitefish is what comes to mind.

Whitefish is the quintessential small Rocky Mountain town.

Nestled in the shadow of Big Mountain carved up with high priced ski slopes, Whitefish’s Central Avenue is lined with quaint shops selling western gear and fun watering holes like the Great Northern Bar and Grill.

Sure, Whitefish is a bit touristy, but it still has the feel of a real place.

That sense of Rocky Mountain authenticity hasn’t yet been subjugated to the tourist shops selling t-shirts that proclaim Montana “The Last Best Place.”

But that is an apt slogan for Montana -- and Whitefish specifically.

As I strolled through town on a sunny Saturday morning searching for breakfast, I couldn’t help but sense how fleeting Montana’s greatness can seem.

“You call something paradise, kiss it goodbye,” Don Henley once sang.

Whether it is the proliferation of Montana’s cheesy roadside casinos or the influx of California leftists like Henley, you can’t help but simultaneously admire the beauty of this small town while fearing it can’t possibly stay this quaint.

All I can say is enjoy Montana’s “Last Best Place” while you can.

When you do come to Whitefish, you have to stop by for breakfast at the Buffalo Café.

You’ll be treated to a vacation highlight Montana meal well worth the wait for a table.

While the gourmet specials on the blackboard such as the local huckleberry French toast were mighty tempting, I have a Suit757 rule about dining.

If a place is “famous” for something, order that something.

In the case of Buffalo Café, that “something” is their famous “Buffalo Pie”.

Since 1979, the Buffalo Café has been piling plates high with eggs, hash browns and various breakfast meats in delicious combinations.

The decision making was agonizing. They all sounded so good.

Sausage? Bacon? Ham? Fancy Kansas City bacon? Smoked cheddar? Green Chili? Cream gravy? Spinach? Onions? Peppers?

I was as conflicted as Barack Obama facing a foreign policy crisis.

Eventually I settled upon the Morning Glory Pie.


That’s all I have to say.

Of course the Buffalo Pie is nothing like a pie.

There is no crust. I thought maybe the hash browns would serve as the base with the mountain of other ingredients serving as the pie filling, but that’s not the case either.

The base of this “pie” is a savory and slightly spicy patty of country sausage which added just the right amount of kick to the pile of goodness on top.

The next layer is the Buffalo Café’s famous hash browns, topped with grilled onions and spinach, topped with a couple eggs over easy, topped with a hearty covering of peppery cream gravy.

Holy heart attack, Batman!

This just might be one of the greatest breakfasts to grace Suit757’s taste buds.

The spice from the sausage, the pepper from the gravy, the sweetness from the onions, the crunch from the fried potatoes and the runny goodness of the eggs produced a kaleidoscope of flavors, textures and colors in every bite.

I even savored every bite of the buttered local nine-grain toast served on the side.

Normally I toss aside bread as a distraction to the main attraction. But not at the Buffalo Café.

Of course I couldn’t help but suffer a bit of buyer’s remorse -- not from dissatisfaction with my purchase. But from regret from just thinking about what else on the menu I might be missing.

I relieved a bit of my angst by ordering a side of Buffalo’s famous “Kansas City bacon”.

A Suit can never have too much meat after all.

Good call.

More like a cross between Canadian bacon and country ham, Buffalo’s Kansas City bacon was thick and smoky, an ideal accompaniment to a hall of fame breakfast.

I left Buffalo Café and Montana feeling like I had discovered something special.

You should too.

But hurry. It indeed just might be the last best place.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!

Buffalo Cafe on Urbanspoon

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