Billings was a great place to eat and hang out. But there wasn’t much to do there. I met some interesting people and had some good conversations over drinks. But if it wasn’t for the history and the food, I wouldn’t spend much more time in Billings.
Custer’s Last Stand
There are a lot of strange ideas about General George Armstrong Custer’s Last Stand (Battle of Little Big Horn). The one consistent fact is that it was a massacre. The picture you see here is the final place where Custer and the last 40 or so men breastworked the horses and tried to survive (Custer’s Last Stand). Breastworking is another way of saying creating a defensive position. In other words, Custer and his men killed the horses and set them up in front of themselves in a last ditch (failed) effort for survival. The belief is that Custer had heard of this tactic working in Colorado at a battle a few years prior and thought it a potential for surviving. Custer was warned numerous times prior to the battle by his scouts and native scouts that best case, it would be a massacre of American soldiers. He summarily ignored this fact which led to the death of many people on both sides. While many of the details of the battle are up for debate (since no American’s survived and very few Native American’s knew the inner workings of the American military at that time), you still get a feel for the devastation even without all the facts. Interestingly, in 1859, General Custer said to a Cheyenne chief, “I will never kill another Cheyenne.” The Battle of Little Big Horn took place in 1876.
Surrounding Billings, Montana are the Rimrocks. They are sandstone formations that line the outside of the Western Interior Seaway (an 80 million year old sea stretching from Mexico to the Artic Circle). The ebb and flow of the sea compressed the sandstone in to the current formations. But it was only roughly one million years ago that a river cut through the sandstone to form the Rimrocks (really young by geological terms). You can see the Rimrocks from basically anywhere in the city of Billings and it makes for a nice landscape from nearly all restaurants with outside seating. There are also multiple beautiful parks that over look the city that you can trek though.
Hitchhikers and the Beartooth Highway
One of the coolest things about the Beartooth Highway, the road connecting Red Lodge, Montana to the northwest entrance of Yellowstone, was running in to some girls that were hitchhiking to get back to the top of the pass. They drove to the top, hiked to an entry point, and skied down the pass until they ran out of snow, then hiked back to the road. At that point, they were just hanging out, drinking, and admiring the view waiting for a ride back up to their car. Besides being badass professional skiers, they did pick a point with an awesome view. And while I didn’t actually get to drive the whole pass because there was a snowstorm the night before that caused it to be closed, every spot along the highway was gorgeous. The highway officially opened in 1936, but it still remains closed most of the year due to snow.
The food in Billings, Montana was excellent. Every place I went had great food up and down the menu.
At the FieldHouse, I had two of my favorite things on the same plate, Mac and Cheese and truffles. Thankfully I happened to show up on a night where this was a special. I spent most of the meal sitting and chatting with a guy that I would randomly run in to in Bozeman, Montana a few days later. It’s worth noting that Bozeman is a few hours drive away and he ended up going there on a whim. We ultimately ran in to each other in a restaurant that I went in to as a recommendation from a server at a restaurant Billings and his girlfriend chose as they were just walking past.
Harper and Madison was a cute little breakfast place that was in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Apparently grandfathered zoning laws allowed for that and it’s been a staple of the neighborhood for quite some time. The breakfast tacos were corn torilla, pulled pork, scrambled egg, onion, red pepper, cheese, pulled pork, cilantro, cheese, and adobo sauce. It’s obvious why this is their most popular dish. While eating, I met some folks in their 70s who had lived in Billings for most of their lives. It’s always interesting to hear about how towns grow around people and the types of people who inhabit the towns change over time. This particular group was in the process of checking things off their bucket list and we exchanged stories about living those dreams. It was a great breakfast with interesting people.
The entire menu of Local Kitchen and Bar was basically what I wanted to order. Since I had a limited amount of room in my stomach, I had to stick to 3 dishes. For an appetizer, I had the Cauliflower. This was a beer battered cauliflower in buffalo style hot sauce with blue cheese mousse. I almost ordered a second one to take with me. Next up was the Lobster Taco. These had lobster claw meat in celery seed aioli with fruit salsa and lime cream inside Trevino’s corn tortillas. There was a bit too much celery for my liking, but it was still excellent. For the entree, I had the Bison Hash. This had bison sausage with potatoes, greens, and garden onion in Havarti cream with candied red peppers. I was planning to take some of it back to the hotel with me, but none of it made it out of the restaurant. This is where the recommendation for the restaurant in Bozeman came from.
I had breakfast at Grains of Montana. They had a breakfast pizza which wasn’t on the menu but you could order if you knew about it. Locals like to share the best that’s around so I asked for it. The breakfast pizza consisted of eggs, bacon, cheese, and sausage gravy on a pizza dough crust. It was so filling and heavy and tasty all at the same time. This is something to keep on the list if you are in Billings and looking for a tasty and hearty breakfast.
The gallery of pictures from Eastern Montana is available on Google Photos.