‘Cead mile failte’ at Celtic Cowboy pub and restaurant

DONNIE SEXTON The Latest Best Dishes

It was one of those windy, almost spring days, when the sun was shining, doing its best to melt the grimy snow and ice. My destination was the Celtic Cowboy Pub and Restaurant in the Arvon Block in downtown Great Falls. I was met at the door by the owner Peter Jennings whose greeting was warm and welcoming. I was curious how Peter, a retired vet, had become involved in setting up an Irish pub and the adjacent boutique hotel.

Peter Jennings, owner of the Arvon Hotel and the Celtic Cowboy Pub and Restaurant, says his love of historic buildings led him to invest in the Arvon Block in downtown Great Falls.

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A photo of Robert Vaughn, the man responsible for creating the Arvon Block, is the centerpiece of the Celtic Cowboy logo. Vaughn, a Welsh immigrant who settled into the ranching life of Sun River Valley in the 1860s, would make his fortune from the land. Vaughn moved to Great Falls with his daughter, Arvonia, after his wife’s death in 1888.

Vaughn went on to develop Arvon Block, named after his daughter. The facility opened in 1890 and was a unique combination of hotel and horse stables. The hotel was a convenient option for train passengers disembarking from the nearby Montana Central Railroad. Next door was a horse-shoe shop on the ground floor, with quarters for grooms and drivers on the second floor. A ramp led the horses to the stables in the basement of the building. Over the past century, the Arvon Block had fallen into disrepair and was destined for demolition, save for the vision of some investors led by Peter Jennings.

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Meticulous renovations led to the creation of the Celtic Cowboy Pub and Restaurant, which opened in 2013, followed by Darkhorse Hall and Wine Snug in 2014 (formerly in basement stalls), and finally the historic Arvon Hotel in 2015, a Boutique hotel. filled to the brim with original art.

Peter grew up in Great Falls, graduated from college with a degree in anthropology, and then went to veterinary school in Oregon State. After graduation, he and his wife, Elizabeth, also a veterinarian, moved to Vermont to practice, eventually relocating in 2005 to Great Falls. His lifelong interest in historic buildings led him to become involved in the development of the Arvon Block. In 2020 Peter became the sole owner of the hotel and pub.

I wonder if the idea for an Irish pub came from Peter’s ancestry?

“I think we’re all a bit Irish,” laughed Peter during my recent visit. “Some might say that an Irish pub is a place with Guinness on tap and a shamrock or two on the wall. For me, the bar is a little higher than that, no pun intended, but I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder.”


The Celtic Cowboy has a distinctive Irish pub vibe, thanks to its dark, homey, old-world vibe.

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The interior of the Celtic Cowboy is reminiscent of the Irish pubs I explored in Ireland several years ago. There is ample seating with dark chocolate colored tables, chairs and stools and amber colored walls. Historical photos, along with beer and whiskey signs, adorn the walls.

Lunch is served from 11:30am to 2:00pm, with traditional Irish dishes such as fish and chips, Irish stew and an Irish reuben on the menu. There are a few surprises, including the bahn mi, featuring ponzu-glazed smoked pork served in a hoagie and topped with cilantro, pickled carrots, onions, cucumber, smoked jalapeno, and wasabi aioli. Crab cakes, a meatloaf sandwich, Irish cobb salad and Irish grilled cheese, with Dubliner cheese and Guinness mustard, provide an excellent selection for the midday meal. I was planning to order a Reuben, but the Irish nachos were calling my name. The half order was very generous, with a base of golden fries topped with corned beef, cheese, smoked jalapenos, and pico de gallo.

The pub menu is served from 4pm to 8pm, with additional offerings of Scotch Eggs, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Meatloaf, Whiskey Salmon and a New York Strip. To accompany meals, Celtic Cowboy offers 31 beers and eight wines on tap and an assortment of 100 whiskeys, sure to please the connoisseur of that liquor. Tuesdays are pub quiz nights, with live music on Friday nights.


The Darkhorse Hall & Wine Snug in the basement of the Celtic Cowboy is ideal for private parties, elegant dinners and corporate meetings.

Photo courtesy of Inkfish Creative

Celtic Cowboy’s popular weekend brunch is back from 10am to 2pm Beignets, boxty (Irish potato pancakes), toast pudding, corned beef hash, scotch eggs and goat meatballs (goat cheese creamy rolled in Panko and fried until golden brown). ) are options in addition to your standard breakfast of meat and eggs. The pub sources some of its ingredients locally. Eggs and vegetables, including potatoes, come from a nearby Hutterite colony, while ground beef and some specialty cuts come from Treasure State Meats in Ledger.

Peter introduced me to Chef Gregory Rogers, who started his path in life at a young age. When he was 12 years old, he started working at a small cafe in Great Falls, washing dishes and then cooking. At 16, Gregory moved to Vancouver to attend the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, graduating at 18. He then moved to Paris, studied at Le Cordon Bleu, traveled the world, and ended up as a sous chef at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He eventually returned to Great Falls to help his family and is now an integral part of the Celtic Cowboy team.

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“I brought all the culture that I had experienced with me,” he said with great passion. “There is a lot of value in knowing and living the culture of your community. Take Great Falls. You have everything from the air force base to Charlie Russell.”

Gregory made me stop and think about his words. It’s easy to pair Charlie Russell with cowboy culture, but in hindsight, Malmstrom also brings a unique culture to the city.

Gregory said he is influenced by the concepts of molecular gastronomy with special events, such as wine pairing and high-end catering. This is a new subject for me, and I ask you to explain it to me.


Celtic Cowboy’s signature starter is Irish nachos, with a base of golden-brown potato chips topped with corned beef, cheese, smoked jalapenos, and pico de gallo.

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“I like to push the boundaries of classic cooking by being inspired by the molecular gastronomy movement,” he said. “Focusing on the specific characteristics of food or ingredient components allows for micro or molecular manipulation and blurs the boundaries. This broadens a chef’s palette of creative options and adds the element of surprise.”

After hearing this, I have to make an appointment for one of the wine pairing events at the pub.

The Historic Hotel Arvon is a delightful place to spend the night accompanied by sumptuous meals at the Celtic Cowboy thanks to the diligence and creativity of Peter, Gregory and their staff. As Peter says: “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.”

Donnie Sexton, who retired in 2016 after a long career with the Montana Office of Tourism, works as a freelance travel writer and photographer covering destinations around the world.

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