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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Fried chicken comes home to Roost

Photo from The Roost in Bozeman

I'll admit I was skeptical when first I saw the bustle of renovation in the old white house on West Main that so long hosted Cafe Zydeco. It amazed me that even Zydeco could hold its own in such a nondescript location without the turnover of downtown foot traffic—a testament to the power of quality and the wordy-mouthiness of our locals. Anyone aiming to fill those Cajun shoes would have a high bar to clear, above and beyond the hardscrabble experience of restauranteering in Bozeman.

It may also be that the space has some ole Dixie mojo.

The Roost—the property’s latest occupant and an establishment specializing in fried chicken—have made the space lighter and airier with their renovations and color palette, though a good portion of that feeling is owed to the open doors and spring sunshine lighting up the renovated back deck.

Even though the ordering process has something of a fast-food feel, with orders placed at the counter and delivered to your table with the aid of numbered cards, the staff’s attentiveness has the blush of a new business eager to build upon care and passion. Don't expect your chicken at drive-through speed, though; an indirect cost of each bird being cooked-to-order is a 20-minute wait. On my first visit, Sweetie and I sipped on sweet tea and soaked up the late afternoon sun with a little impatience.

“Maybe I should've gotten the sandwich,” I commented as an apron-clad gal carried a fried chicken sandwich to a nearby customer. The slaw and buttery-looking toasted bun were taunting my rumbling stomach, but my indecision was cut short by our own orders being brought to the table: half a fried chicken each with biscuits, Photo from The Roost in Bozemanslaw, cheese grits, mashed potatoes, and mac n' cheese. The healthy—well, let's be honest, perhaps that's the wrong word for the staple of Southern cuisine—the generous portions had me envisioning tomorrow's lunch and hoping the leftovers would reheat well. The two-meal, one-price serving has long been coveted by the thrifty.

The Roost's fried chicken was nothing short of what a flagship dish should be: white-meat-defyingly juicy, with a breading that was crisp, salty-sweet, and with just enough spice to zing the tastebuds without actually being what the faint-of-tongue might call spicy. The biscuits were every bit as buttery and fluffy as you'd expect, but disappointingly small. My sweetie promptly cleared his in two bites and nearly got a fork to the hand trying to swipe mine. The mashed potatoes were delightfully laden with garlic, chunky and with the peels left on. Big pieces of bacon topped the otherwise run-of-the-mill mac n' cheese, and the grits were creamy without being too cheesy. I'm a firm believer that the experienced souls among us judge grits and cole slaw by what they were raised eating, and the Roost's slaw couldn't get closer to Mom's if it tried. I prefer mine with a strong bite of black pepper, and almost reached for the shaker out of habit, before realizing it was already just right.

Photo from The Roost in Bozeman

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Roost's proprietors eschewed the usual local ice cream offerings for Big Dipper Ice Cream out of Missoula. Drivers on West Main will likely see the proud signage, bragging up the frozen goodness inside. Anyone familiar with the creamery knows their reputation for top quality and unique flavors, so it's a blessing to the informed Bozeman sweet tooth to have several of their offerings available for dessert without having to drive three and a half hours to get it. A scoop of salted caramel and a scoop of chocolate mingles well with the last of the setting sun, but make sure you've saved the room for it.

Starting a restaurant in Bozeman is no easy affair, and we've seen plenty of places with promise come and crash. Stylish digs and the great patio are a good start. Better are the delectable food and low prices—sandwiches with fries cost under $8, and I heartily recommend the white-sauce Alabama ("Roll Tide!"). So if the Roost can maintain their Southern hospitality and dedication to quality in the coming months, it could swing for years and years among the other regional-cuisine fixtures that are loved by locals and recommended to visitors by those in the know. I think it’s so good, I ate that chicken three meals in a row. 

Photo from The Roost in Bozeman



The Magpie's long-time food critic, Beverly Ridge has made it a personal mission is “to protect Montana diners from the fleecing imposters, the lazy sourpusses, and the just plain rotten.”  Like her style?  A complete listing of Beverly's area restaurant reviews can be found by linking here.

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