Montana is a popular vacation destination for many Chattanoogans who visit Big Sky Country to hunt wild game, snow ski, or hike and see in the Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. If you’re planning a trip, the state has introduced a 600-mile Burger Trail in southeast Montana, with 27 stops promising mouthwatering burgers.
“The team at Visit Southeast Montana wanted to create a trail that would transport visitors from Montana’s main highways to the region’s smaller communities, highlight quaint little towns in Southeast Montana, and showcase some of Montana’s best burgers,” says Nicole Gonzalez. with the Montana Tourism Office.
Allegiant Air says its tourism pipeline from Tennessee has accelerated since it began offering nonstop flights from Nashville to Bozeman, Montana.
“Tennessee is a large, developing state,” says Gonzalez.
Burger Trail is a natural fit in a state known for its grass-fed cattle. The beef industry generates about $2 million in cash income annually.
“The beef is top-notch and local,” says Chattanooga native Melissa Davis Gehrig, who visited Montana frequently when her daughter was a student at Montana State University. “We held a graduation party for all the kids who came in and made grilled hamburgers. You know the tenderness of beef comes from the care of the cattle at local farms.”
Former Chattanoogan John Martin, once a familiar face as a morning newscaster on WRCB-TV Local 3, got a job as an evening announcer at NBC affiliate KULR 8 News in Billings, Montana. He made several stops along the Burger Trail, starting with The Burger Dive, the most popular burger joint in Billings.
“I ate the best of the bash burger,” he says. “It’s one of the award winners and I can absolutely understand why. Juicy to perfection with all the bold flavors that complement each other.”
Big Sky Burger Road
There’s more to Burger Trail than just burgers. Each town has its own personality, offering walks in the Badlands, dinosaur digs, museums full of regional art, or bits of Western history. Here are five to give you an example.
> Head straight to The Burger Dive in Billings. This place has won numerous awards, including a win at the World Food Championship for their I’m Your Huckleberry Burger, made with goat cheese and huckleberry/Hatch chili barbecue sauce. It won the “Best of the Bash” award at the Food Network’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash and was featured in the television series “Man vs. Food”. theburgerdive.com
> In tiny Forsythe, you’ll find enormous flavors and portions at The Joseph Cafe. Owners Alecia and Richard Smith have honored the town’s railroad history by using railroad lingo to their burgers, such as the Broken Knuckle Burger, an enormous creation with a jalapeno pepper stuffed with paprika cheese, bacon, and cream cheese. “The Burger Trail has been pretty popular,” says Alecia. “People love to travel – you really need to take a road trip when you’re in Southeast Montana.” facebook.com/thejosephcafe
> Head to Miles City, where a visit to the Waterworks Museum and impressive collection of art by regional artists can be capped off with a burger at Tubb’s Pub. The pub is sandwiched between two popular bars, making it a busy block any night or afternoon. Your choice of burgers is not very wide, but enough to satisfy. The Stuffed Burger wraps two 1/4-pound patties with a variety of cheese and fillings, including onions, mushrooms, and banana peppers. If you can finish this, pat your back. themontanabar.com
> The Burger Trail continues in Terry, a small community that has one of the most popular burgers along the way, and with it the best fries. The burger at Roy Rogers Bar, Grill & Casino is best described as West meets South with the Montana beef burger topped with fried green tomatoes and bacon. The restaurant’s cowboy decor makes it a favorite hangout for the local crowd. facebook.com/royrogersbargrillcasino
> After a full day exploring the trails of Makoshika State Park in Glendive, cool off with a cocktail at Gunners Ridge Bar & Grill and quench your hunger with a burger. Sit on the covered patio on a beautiful evening and admire the view of the Yellowstone River as it lazily flows. The standout trail burger is a large Kobe beef on a toasted bun with havarti and blue cheese crumbs, lettuce and tomato, hence the name Red, White and Blue Burger. Facebook.com/GunnersRidge
For the full list, visit southeastmontana.com.
Contact Anne Braly at [email protected] or annebraly.com.