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  28 June 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Beverly Ridge: a 2-top at 14 North
 

Photo from 14 North in Bozeman

After Boodles was lost in the 2009 Main Street explosion, the late owner Jackson Kent poured quite a bit of money into the old location of the Spanish Peaks Brewing Company. Much of the space is bedecked in mahogany and has lush, old-world textures that were the vision of Boodles' rebirth. But the insurance money dried up when the space was a hairsbreadth from being finished, and the optimism in the months following the explosion begot steady questioning as to the restaurant's reopening.  As days turned into months, months into years, the project and the space were all but forgotten.

14 North—so named for its location at 14 North Church Avenue—hopes to breathe new life into the venue's old dream. Bozeman isn't exactly flush with restaurants that warrant a change of attire from your M trail hiking skirt, so I was happy for an excuse to pull out a dress and take a stroll downtown to the east end of Main Street with my sweetie. Behind an unassuming exterior mostly dominated by the conjoined American Bank and its drab beige columns, 14 North advertises its presence at the moment with only a vinyl sign and the buzz of patrons. (The Boodles sign is, at the moment, hanging outside Ole Nelson’s shop on the northside.)

It was early in the evening when we arrived, and a weekday, meaning we were seated immediately, without reservations. Even so, the place was bustling with that new-venue vibrancy that every restaurant owner hopes will carry past those first few weeks.

Photo from 14 NorthDespite the emphasis owner Josh Palmer has placed on the bar offerings (stating in an interview with another publication that “we’re trying to be kind of a bar with really well done food”), our waiter was at a loss for suggestions when I asked for arecommendation on a cocktail. Sweetie opted for a local brew and I ordered a drink that was a mixture of wheat beer and peach liqueur that could only have been tastier if it was being enjoyed on an outdoor patio.

The span of time between ordering drinks, appetizers, and dinner was awkwardly long, and after we placed our dinner order, the waiter neglected to remove the menus from the table. Ever the pragmatist, Sweetie placed them on the empty table behind him with a shrug. Appetizers came quickly, the “Stix” - vinegared green beans, very lightly breaded and fried. They were one of the more unique starter options (neither of us were brave enough to attempt the Rocky Mountain Oysters) and were surprisingly delicious, especially with the chipotle aioli dipping sauce.

For the main course, I had one of the evening specials—braised bison over hand-made pasta with roasted tomatoes. The pasta was superb in texture and flavor, but probably twice as wide as was necessary and made for some awkward bites. Braising is an excellent technique to combat bland flavor and toughness in less-than-ideal cuts of meat, but the bison treated so was rendered rather like Grandma's pot roast, a bit of a disservice to the quality of the cut. Sweetie's “Downtown Filet” tenderloin steak, however, was cooked to medium-rare perfection and embodied everything a good restaurant tenderloin should be.

With just enough room for coffee and a nibble of something decadent, we decided that cheesecake would be a good finish to this robust meal. The dessert had a lovely presentation and was a classic cheesecake; nothing stellar or groundbreaking here, but certainly satisfying. Between bites, we discussed the wonderful oil paintings hung here and there, wondered at where a person could shop for such quaint, patterned carpet, and marveled at the big stained-glass chandeliers.

“Fancy, sure, but not terribly intimate,” he said, to which I added, “Probably a better venue for a masquerade ball or a wedding.” The scattered, amateurish nature of the service simply reiterated the lack of intimacy in the setting – personable service can certainly influence the atmosphere of a place. (Photo taken near the end of the remodel, shown below.)

Photo from 14 North in Bozeman

With as may service-industry skilled workers as Bozeman has to offer (after all, this is a college/ski bum town), it surprises me that a restaurant would open its doors without a well-trained staff. The shortcomings were not just with our single server: another brought dessert without utensils, and the staffer at the point-of-sale station was frantic and disorganized. I don't mean to be overly critical of the staff—the enterprise is brand new, after all—but when your tab for two is in the triple digits, you are paying not for a meal, but for an experience. It's up to management to both hire good people and train them to represent the establishment accordingly.

Will 14 North find its place amongst Bozeman's fancier favorites like the Emerson Grill or John Bozeman's Bistro? Like anything, only time will tell, but some serious refinement needs to occur before the food and service match the trappings and the tab.  -TBM

Beverly Ridge is Bozeman's premier restaurant and food critic, and all 30 of her restaurant reviews are available HERE.

 
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