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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Bev Heads West to the Sacajawea Hotel and Pompey's Grill

Stock image of the Sacajawea Hotel.

Originally built as a luxurious stopover for travelers of the Milwaukee Railroad en route to Yellowstone National Park, the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks is a destination steeped in history. Built in 1910 by John Q. Adams (no relation to the presidential Adams) and designed by renowned Bozeman architect Fred Willson, the two back wings of the “Sac,” as it’s locally known, were salvaged from the Madison House in old town Three Forks. Proudly displayed on the entryway wall to the dining room are black-and-white photographs depicting the transportation of the buildings—draft horses, log rollers, and all. For 17 years the Sacajawea was a bustling hotel, until 1927 when the Milwaukee Railroad completed its line to Gallatin Gateway, and the Sacajawea found itself in the dire position of being a railroad hotel lacking a relevant railroad.

Since then, the once magnificent hotel has struggled. The building has been shuttered several times, and the structure itself fallen into disrepair. Ownership had also changed hands a number of times, most recently in the fall of 2009, when a local family purchased the hotel. The Folkvords (owners of the renowned Wheat Montana) instantly began a massive renovation to bring back the grandeur from the rough West. After a recent visit for dinner on a weekend night, I’m delighted to report that the Folkvords have outdone themselves and the Sac is back.

If visiting for the first time, I strongly encourage patrons to eschew the side door to the dining room in favor of the striking primary entrance to the hotel. Climbing the steps toward a stately front door while passing the teak chairs on the expansive front deck brings about the desire for an A. B. Guthrie book, a warm cup of tea, and a Montana sunset. The hotel lobby opens a portal to a bygone era, clad in dark wainscoting, local artwork, and resplendent with classic western elegance. Once in Pompey’s Grill, as the restaurant is dubbed, diners will feel free in the ample space - no tables jammed on top of each other in this establishment. There are also high-backed leather booths for cozy dinners shared with friends, perfect for special occasions or simply an evening out on the town.  (The bar at Pompey's Grill, shown below.)

Stock image of the Pompey's Grill Bar

Our server, Joe, was polite and courteous, well versed in the menu and wine list, offering suggestions to pair with our meal. Joe, like the entire staff, was also dressed in a casual uniform, a feature I feel boosts a restaurant to a loftier level of class and polish. The ratio of servers-to-tables appears to be quite high, paving the way for exceptional service, something one finds rarely in our area. Joe also proffered his opinion about a few of his favorite dishes and was quite convincing (especially when it came to dessert). It must also be noted that the staff at the Sac is quite friendly; when making reservations, the person at the other end of the line was incredibly warm and forthcoming as to what a lovely experience awaited me.

For dinner I partook of the evening’s special: Alaskan halibut cheeks with a mustard caper cream sauce. The cheeks, a delicacy hard to get even when "in season," are very much like lobster in texture and flavor. In this preparation, they were lightly breaded in panko crumbs and then flash-fried to a tender and moist golden brown—overcooking would have rendered them rubbery and inedible. The cheeks rested on a bed of fluffy potatoes mixed with a lovely wilted green. Everything came presented on a long rectangular white plate dressed in green chive oil for maximum presentation impact.

The Pompey's Grill 14oz New York Strip Steak

Since I had ordered the surf, my dining companion chose the turf - a 14 oz. New York Strip glazed with Worcestershire Sauce and topped with a compound butter (shown above). The starch alongside the steak was a mashed potato, but not just plain white spuds; no, these were a colorful and flavorful mix of Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes. Al dente green beans rounded out what my partner dubbed, “a steak that could really hold its own.” Of course our meal came with fresh-from-the-oven Wheat Montana rolls served with butter and an artichoke dip. And for dessert we had warm, cinnamon and sugar dusted raspberry empanadas. A refreshing departure from cobblers and crème brulees, empanadas aren’t a traditional dessert, but made quite a flavorful impression.

If you’re looking for a treat outside of the Bozeman norm, the Sacajawea Hotel is the spot. It’s a mere 30 miles to Three Forks and the food alone is worth the drive. Set in a turn-of-the-century palace on the prairie, the Sac beckons regular visits – it’d make a fine impression on out-of-state guests and visiting relatives. The prices are also fairly reasonable, around $20 per plate, and we both took home a little something to satiate the midnight cravings. Speaking of midnight, legend tells that the ghost of Mr. Adams still haunts the halls of the Sac, unwilling to depart from his beautiful hotel. -BM

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