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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Beverly Ridge: The 2nd Street Bistro Bust

The 2nd Street Bistro is located in the historic Murray Hotel in downtown Livingston, Montana.  The Bistro has been a staple on the Livingston dining circuit for a number of years now and was even featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations last summer.  According to their website, the Bistro strives to provide “locally sourced cuisine and wonderful wines at great prices.”  They’re also quick to advertise the restaurant’s numerous accolades – from “Best Fine Dining” to “Best Chef” - but after my dinner there on a recent weekend, I’m a bit dubious of the qualifications of the people doling out those awards.

I made a reservation for 6:30 pm on a Friday night.  My guest and I were not seated until 6:50, nor were we offered anything to drink while we waited.  The explanation the hostess gave for the twenty-minute delay:  “I’m sorry, we’re out of menus.”  No menus may preclude diners from ordering a meal, but it certainly didn’t explain why we were relegated to the chilly lobby instead of being seated at one of the many empty tables in the restaurant to wait out the menu shortage with a cocktail or glass of wine.  When more menus finally surfaced, we were placed in the bar area, next to a rather noisy crowd bunched up against the tiny six seat bar that was precipitously close to joining (or falling into) our table.

Our server was polite, erring on the side of curt, but she lacked the overall polish and finesse one expects of a dining establishment where most entrees exceed $20.  We were rushed to order drinks (I prefer to pair a glass of wine with what I intend to eat, but that may be going out of style) and her recitation of the daily specials was haltingly read (not memorized) and did nothing to entice the palette.   

The server was redeemed temporarily, however, when I ordered the “seared bistro steak with fries,” as my entrée; she was careful to ask if I had ever had grass fed beef and cautioned me that if I had not, the taste might not be what I was expecting.  See, at the Bistro, many of the ingredients are locally grown and sourced.  This means seasonal vegetables, local cheeses, and grass fed beef from Harlowton. The latter does indeed have a slightly different character than traditional corn-finished beef, but will eat just as nicely if prepared properly.  It’s also far kinder to the heart.

Sadly, this steak’s preparation didn’t warrant its $24 price tag.  The meat had almost a musty quality – as though the “herb crust” was not incredibly fresh – that impinged on the excellent flavor of the beef.  It was also not nearly as tender as I’ve found grass fed beef to be – especially after going through half a cow’s worth of it in the past year. I attribute this more to overcooking (I requested medium) than the quality of the beef.  As for the side, serving fries with a $24 steak is almost as bad as not seating someone because there’s a menu shortage.  And dare I also mention the look of utter disdain from the server at my request for ketchup to go with the fries?

My guest chose to go a bit lighter, opting for a walnut, apple, and goat cheese salad with a marion-blackberry vinaigrette.  The walnuts were nakedno caramelizing, no toasting, nothing to enhance the exceptional nutty quality and compliment the creamy tang of the goat cheese.  It was also under-dressed and something in it left my guest with an upset stomach for the remainder of the night and part of the next day.  The portion size too, was rather scant for $8 and left her wanting a more robust and composed salad.

The total bill, for two including wine, was $45.  Not outlandish, but when the quality of service, the fries, and the fact that we ordered a salad as an entrée are taken into account, this does begin to seem a bit reaching. So does the Bistro’s claim of a fine-dining experience at reasonable prices.  There’s nothing reasonable about an overcooked and musty sirloin with fries for $24.  Despite the marginal service and over-priced food, the bistro continues to bring people in the door, including none other than Batman himself, Mr. Michael Keaton.  But if you’re truly looking for anything other than a glimpse of a celebrity, Livingston has a host of other more reasonably priced restaurantsa few even serve a very fine steak for under $20.      



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