Todd and Becky Horning are adventurous in spirit. That’s what landed them in a Bangkok train station on a five week trip to Thailand where the smell of crepes led them to their future. They watched as the crepes were poured and spun on crepe burners and wondered to themselves why they’d never seen this done in the United States.
The couple met in a restaurant in Missoula during college and worked in catering, fine dining, restaurant equipment sales, and as innkeepers at a lodge. With this background, owning their own restaurant was the dream. Concept discovered, they returned to Montana and began hosting crepe making parties at their home. Friends brought various ingredients and experimenting ensued.
Newly married in 2005 and without the funds to open a restaurant, they bought a bus instead. Today, gourmet food trucks are the rage in cities like New York and Los Angeles, but Becky and Todd pioneered the “gourmet bus” concept here in the Flathead Valley and brought a needed change to the usual food vendor fare at summer farmer’s markets and art festivals.
In 2009, they opened their current location on Central in Whitefish. Todd can be seen through the front window, pouring and spreading their crepe batter (containing eighty eggs to every four gallons) onto their French crepe burners. Fresh, healthy ingredients—turkey, brie, Farm-to-Market ham, spinach, salmon, pear, Gorgonzola, toasted almonds, roasted root veggies, and many more— are placed in the crepe and wrapped up in an easy take and go package.
Crepes can be made gluten and dairy free with their popular buckwheat batter. Sweet crepes are also offered and may be paired with a scoop of ice cream made by Sweet Peaks.
Locals and tourists will often stop by to pick up a dozen unfilled crepes to freeze and use when needed. They sell for $9 a dozen for their regular batter and $12 a dozen for the buckwheat. Becky suggests using them for a unique dessert at a party.
Todd and Becky are still full of adventure and have big plans for their future.
A new little member was added to their family just prior to opening their restaurant. He was born premature and when he started eating solid foods, Becky took advantage of their restaurant kitchen and began creating recipes for organic baby food using fresh, health packed ingredients.
That’s how their second business—Wee Chef— was born. They now have a separate facility on Highway 2 where they make the baby food and package it. This way there is no cross contamination and it can be sold wholesale as certified organic. Because the food is made from vegetables and fruit from local organic farmers, they applied for a growth through agriculture grant from the Department of Agriculture and received half. This money will be used to purchase a walk in freezer and five merchandising freezers to be placed in baby boutiques.
Wee Chef is currently carried in The Good Earth Store in Billings and the Real Food Market in Helena. Todd and Becky are planning a ten day road trip to do taste tests around the state to get more stores on board.
Something tells us this isn’t the last of their ideas. Or adventures.
For more information about their restaurant, catering services, classy red bus, or organic baby food, visit their websites for Amazing Crepes and Wee Chef. Or their Facebook Pages- Amazing Crepes and Wee Chef.
Stop by McGarry’s Roadhouse and you are sure to be welcomed by either Sandy or Steve Nogal, or both. Their restaurant is an extension of their belief that family and friends are of quintessential importance and breaking bread together is where substance lies. Steve took the time to talk to Whitefish Life about their restaurant, their partnership, food and a small story about Bill Gates.
WL- McGarry is not your last name so where does the name of the restaurant come from?
Steve- The restaurant is named for my maternal grandfather, James T. McGarry. His picture hangs on the wall along with other relatives going back three generations.
WL – You and Sandy work as partners in business and in marriage. How do you break up the roles in both?
Steve- Sandy is the pretty one who works out front. I’m the nasty one, and I work in the kitchen. I like knives and fire. Sandy likes smiles. She says that I’m the boss at work, and she’s the boss at home. That, and separate bathrooms seems to be our secret.
WL- There’s a large wooden knife with names carved on it that hangs above the kitchen. Can you explain the story behind it?
Steve- It was made by friends saying goodbye to us from Whidbey Island.
Note- Between 1989 and 2003, Steve and Sandy were the innkeepers and chef for the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island.
WL- What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened during your years working together?
Steve- Almost having to pack up the belongings of Bill and Melinda Gates when they were running late to check-out of the Inn at Langley during the sold-out summer season.
WL- How are your wines selected?
Steve- We are “Northwest centric” in our tastes, and we support our friends from that area. We love the flavors, and they match well with our food.
WL- Family and friends are clearly very important to you. How do you incorporate this into your restaurant philosophy?
Steve- They are one and the same. Family recipes as well as the integrity to which they lived has been our model.
WL- If you could design a meal for a guest, what would you choose for each course?
Steve- Penn Cove Mussels with Thai curry sauce, wild greens salad with a cherry vinaigrette, roasted free-range chicken, red skinned potatoes, asparagus and strawberry shortcake.
WL- Now for something to let our readers have some insight about you outside of the restaurant. What are your three favorite movies or TV shows?
Steve- The Sopranos, Deadwood and Lawrence of Arabia.
WL- And your favorite books?
Steve- Musashi, Perfectly French by Patricia Wells and Joel Rubuchon, Kitchen Confidential.
WL- Finally, what do you like best about life in Whitefish?
Steve- The people we meet who truly love to “break bread” and the dogs who adopted us.
Steve and Sandy’s slogan is “eat good food, drink good wine, celebrate good friends.” You can find them and often the dogs who have adopted them at 510 Wisconsin Avenue in Whitefish. Please visit the McGarry’s Roadhouse website for more information.
The Green Tea House
The Green Tea House is the most unique restaurant in Whitefish. Not because the food is gluten free, dairy free and organic and not because they don’t serve alcohol or coffee, but because their motivation behind the restaurant concept is not financial. Rather, it is grounded in a philosophy of health and well-being and was opened by the Center for Inspired Wisdom to provide a place where those who adhere to alternative diets can easily access delicious food.
Vickie Kelson is the Executive Director and brains behind the menu. She is also the kind face behind the counter, in the kitchen or sitting at a table in conversation. Vickie, a mother of four sons, was faced with a turning point in her life when her youngest son began exhibiting signs of autism shortly after his MMR shots. She realizes this is a hot button issue, but it was her experience and when she speaks about it, there is no hint of anger, but rather a note of sadness.
This discovery sent her on a difficult path that involved trying to handle everything on her own as a single mom of four. She opened her own health food store in Idaho so she could keep her autistic son with her during the day and provide him with the best nutrition possible, which she discovered significantly improved a large number of his symptoms. During this time, she met the founder of the Center for Inspired Wisdom’s parent school and eventually made the move to Whitefish where she became the “meal creator” for the school. When the school decided to open The Green Tea House, Vickie was the obvious choice to oversee the concept and create the menu.
Their menu states that “everything is made with the intention of providing a nutrient-dense meal that nourishes your body at all levels.” This is done by combining organic, vitamin and mineral-rich ingredients with healthy oils and flavoring dishes with herbs, spices and liquid aminos. The Green Tea House is also committed to supporting local organic farmers. The ingredients are combined to make salads, bowls, pockets, burgers, wraps, sandwiches, children’s menu items, organic smoothies, fresh-made juices, and baked goods.
The food is not the bland or tasteless food you might imagine when you think of eating in a health food-based restaurant. Rather, it is full of flavor and variety. The Monk Bowl is a favorite. This tasty dish of carrots, zucchini, peas, green onions, bok choy and kale stir fried together with jasmine rice and topped with dal (a mild yellow split pea curry) is filling and satisfying. Some customers pick up the Monk Bowl for lunch daily.
The “Good Earth” Raw Wrap, Green Tea cookies and Liquid Gold Smoothie are also local favorites. The Liquid Gold Smoothie is a meal in itself with ingredients including raw almond butter, maca, banana, golden flax, bee pollen, chai hemp protein, and hemp milk.
Over sixty different kinds of tea are available — including Green Tea House signature house blends of tonic teas, as well as green teas, white teas, blooming teas and herbal infusions from around the world.
TGTH is also bringing some new flavors to Whitefish by creating unique “themed” nights. Join them for Greek, Mexican, Raw, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Puerto Rican, African, and Thai inspired nights. You can take a look at their calendar for scheduled themes. And if you are on the go, they offer a deli case stocked with “Grab-n-Go” items ready to keep you eating healthy even when you’re in a hurry.
But, if you have the time, take a moment to linger and relax for a meal with friends because the thoughtfully prepared food and serene atmosphere at The Green Tea House will not disappoint.
Heavy portions of rich savory sauces, pizza tossers belting out lyrics to “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head,” lovely ladies serving wine in rock glasses, music turned up, energy buzzing in the air. That was Mambo Italiano ten years ago. Not much has changed from this classic Mambos experience locals and tourists have come to love in the little old house just off the main drag where restaurant dreams became a reality in May, 2001.
Putting forth every dime in their pockets and scrounging up used equipment and borrowed pans, the founders of Mambo Italiano did everything they could to get the doors open and start slinging pasta. Even today, under that red tablecloth you might find an old acquired trailhead deli table from down the street. Their hope was that a small resort town in Montana would embrace immigrant style Southern Italian cuisine.
They didn’t need to worry. The nightly line out the door proved that Whitefish had heartily embraced both the atmosphere and the cuisine. The fact that there were only 42 seats in the whole restaurant could have had something to do with the line too. But, even with no air conditioning, they waited. Brad Townsend, one of the founders and still the brains behind the Mambos concept, says they thought, “Let’s get these people fed. We have to sacrifice the tree in front of the building. It’s the only way to create more room.” That decision created both a ton of friends and a ton of enemies, but it had to be done and the enclosed patio was built.
There have been many necessary upgrades and expansions over the last ten years, but the crew at the original Whitefish Mambos still hold tight to that mom and pop feel. Especially the lovely Rodlynn Chun, whose dedication and strong personality have been a part of the heart and soul of Mambos since its inception. “I enjoy coming to work,” she says. “Every time it’s a chance for me to be part of someone’s enjoyable evening, and I get to work with great people at a cool spot.”
Part of the classic Mambos experience is coloring on the paper table covers and hoping it lands a prime spot on the ceiling. The first drawing was tacked over a booth in the main dining area when it was just too good to throw away. It caught on and soon kids and adults alike were requesting their “artwork” be hung.
One thing is for sure, it’s always lively at Mambos. Next week is no different. To celebrate their ten year anniversary, Mambos is using a “Throwback Menu” with prices from ten years ago.
Go on in, enjoy the reduced prices, the spirited atmosphere, and wish them a “Happy Ten Year Anniversary.” The Throwback Menu will be available from May 2nd – 7th.
In early summer, 2007, Mambos opened its second location in Missoula, MT followed by Hayden, ID in spring of 2008, Billings, MT in winter, 2010 and most recently Spokane, WA in March of this year. Visit the Ciao Mambo website or follow their Facebook Page for more information.
The Naked Noodle
Husband and wife, Rob Hagler and Sonja Burgard originally started out in the restaurant business in 2003 in Bozeman. Friends asked if they wanted to invest in a “noodle” idea— The Naked Noodle idea— and they agreed. After backing the business and designing the space, they were able to step away and let their friends run the restaurant. It sold in 2009.
Sonja, a native of the Flathead Valley (she graduated from Flathead High School) and Rob, who was raised in Georgia, met during college and have been married for 12 years. With the Bozeman restaurant experience in their pocket, they were on the lookout for an ideal location for another business. Their current location on Baker, just before the viaduct, caught Sonja’s eye early on. She even made a call about it before a move that took them to Kansas City for two years.
When they returned, Sonja was still interested in the location and made the call when it became available.The timing worked out and the second Naked Noodle was born. This time, they would be doing it on their own.
Rob is a civil engineer and is currently working on the Whitefish River cleanup project. Sonja has had a successful career as a photographer. Her work has been in magazines and catalogs and now serves as decor in their restaurant.
Sonja will tell you that her favorite part of owning a restaurant is “serving food people love.” They offer Asian, Greek, Italian and American noodle dishes as well as salads. The concept is to take a naked noodle and dress it up how you like.
All the sauces are made from scratch. A few of the favorites are their Authentic Thai Green Curry and Pad Thai dishes.
Based on your order, the sauce and ingredients are sauteed by chef Joe.
They come out hot and delicious. But, the dish isn’t finished there.
Customers then have the option to choose from a variety of toppings at their toppings bar, ranging from black beans, fresh tomatoes, edamame, cheeses, onion and many more.
This is a comfortable, informal, family friendly restaurant. In fact, every Sunday kids eat free (limit 2 with 2 adult meals) and a basket of toys is tucked in a corner for their young customers.
The Naked Noodle will be hosting a fundraiser on April 5th where a portion of their proceeds go to The Spay and Neuter Task Force and hope to give back to the community by hosting similar events on Tuesday nights in the Spring and Fall.
The best part about The Naked Noodle is that it’s quick service, but not fast food. Customers have the option of coming in for a quick meal, ordering ahead by dialing 862-Naked or picking up food at their drive up window. And if you need food delivered to an office meeting or party, they have a catering menu too. Check out The Naked Noodle’s website and Facebook Page for more information.
The Red Caboose Yogurt + Coffee
The Red Caboose may still look like a caboose on the outside, but walk inside and it’s a new revelation. Reed Trontel, a native of the Flathead Valley, and his wife Kelli moved from Nashville to Whitefish last August with the purpose of opening Red Caboose Frozen Yogurt + Coffee.
In Nashville, he would head for a coffee across the street when she would choose frozen yogurt. This is where the inspiration to blend the two was birthed. Reed grew up in Kalispell and previously owned several coffee stands in Missoula. When he heard the Red Caboose was going up for sale last April, he and Kelli thought they’d found their spot.
Kelli shared that when dad passed away in early summer, it was a wake up call. She said she had “a heart change” and decided to take chances and pursue dreams. There was no better person to do that with than her husband Reed.
The transformation of the interior space is a delightful surprise when stepping through that familiar door. Using reclaimed wood, corrugated metal and natural stone in the design, they’ve created an environment both cozy and hip. Sitting on the couch by the fireplace is like sitting in a friend’s living room.
Kelli’s artistic eye is evident in the small details of decor like the whimsical paper chains draped from the ceiling. (She is also a professional photographer.You can find her in that role at Kelli Trontel Photography)
The yogurt is self-serve style. Just as the sign says, you simply “grab a cup (there’s only one size),
fill it up (with however much you like),
turn the wheel (of the topping dispensers) and seal the deal (pay up front after it’s weighed and price is calculated).”
There are eight flavors available each day, with a sugar free option always included. The topping choices are endless, including everything from cereal to candy to fresh fruit to a cherry on top.
Both Kelli and Reed would say that the yogurt and coffee are the product, but not the point. The centerpiece of their business is to provide a cozy meeting space in the heart of Whitefish where people of all ages can be comfortable, hang out, and enjoy good conversation. This is why they’re open until 9pm Monday-Thursday and until 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
Go for coffee or yogurt. Go to spend time with a friend. Go to study or use their free wi-fi. Red Caboose Frozen Yogurt + Coffee is not to be missed and Whitefish Life predicts long lines this summer. Visit their popular Facebook Page for more information.