Wanderlust, in all its restorative goodness has its limits. Sometimes, the good stuff is right there in front of you. Maybe...just maybe...right where you are is better than just about any place else. At least today, and at least at a couple of Bozeman institutions, downtown's Western Cafe and the south side's Colombo's pizza, this is the case for me.
While downtown continues to heal after the recent destruction, life continues. At noon today, I walked four blocks to my bank, five blocks to the Western Cafe and afterwords, next door to the barber shop (two stools and one dog).
The Western Cafe is a trip to another era with Formica tables and lunch counter, vinyl counter-stools and chairs, and menu standards like patty melts, calf liver and onions, BLT, and chicken fried steak. Today I go for a cheeseburger and fries. Funny how seemingly difficult it is to crank out a burger and fries these days that doesn't suck. I am happy to say that my burger today - hand made, fries and all - definitely didn't suck.
Hand made fries....why don't more places do this? Aren't potatoes cheap? Doesn't this just add one, maybe two steps (if you bother blanching) to the whole french-fry process? Regardless, the fries at the Western started their day as a whole potato ended it in my belly. Crispy, crunchy, tender, brown. Good. The burger had the slightest hint of pink in the middle and was juicy and good. The bun was not a huge focaccia or ciabatta, it was a white bread bun - the perfect spongy delivery vehicle for the cheesy-beefyness within. I was shut down and kind of freaked out when I didn't get the piece of home-made pie I wanted: a towering slice of lemon meringue. If you want ample pie selection, its best to go early.
Keeping with the home-town-old-school theme and needing some mid-week comfort food for dinner, we headed to Colombo's pizza near the university. Colombo's pizza is thin, cracker-crusted pizza that isn't going to challenge anyone. It's fresh, it's salty and it's good. You won't find some food writer (irony alert) waxing about their innovative toppings, but you will find house-made Italian sausage, fresh basil and all the usual suspects present on the menu. Green olives, a favorite of mine for old-school pizza which can be hard to find these days, also available.
The thin and salty macro-brew-lite-beer pairs perfectly with the Pizza and the Billy-Joel-red-brick-and-paneling-1978-pizza-joint decor. Not just a pizza place...Colombo's can be a trip back to my childhood. A little Aerosmith with your pepperoni? Yes please.
Back to the whole wanderlust thing.... In recent posts I talk about noteworthy burgers (here and here and here) that I traveled great distances to savor; I also gushed about some next-level pizza in San Antonio. Here I am today however, just steps from my office, just minutes off some conference call savoring the same goodness...in my own backyard.