So Close You Can Taste It

Without a doubt, offering local and organic food is definitely a trend in Bozeman's restaurants these days. Norris Hot Springs, Wild Joe’s Coffee House, the Emerson Grill, Weebee’s Café, Nova Café, and John Bozeman’s Bistro are just a few examples. For some proprietors, it's simply a way to get better ingredients on the menu; for others, it's an homage to Mother Earth and the local community. Regardless of the motivation, more area restaurateurs are joining the movement and it seems to be paying off.

If you ever eat at Norris Hot Springs, for example, you know the menu is full of organic, local food. The 50-Mile Grill cooks up meats (and locally made veggie burgers) sourced from within a 50-mile radius, including beef from Harrison, organic pork brats from the Bozeman Co-op, and bison from the Broken Willow Ranch in White Sulphur Springs. Owner Holly Heinzmann strives to provide local food not because it's a locavore or green-movement thing, but because to her, it's the logical choice.

“When people are having a natural experience with a nice soak and a beer," she explains, "I want them to also eat something that is good!” Holly has also started planting her own fruit trees to enhance the menu appropriately. Most of the fare comes straight from her garden and greenhouse.

The labeling, stickers, and packaging within packaging that comes with the food people buy all leads to tremendous waste and “dumbing down,” she adds. “I don’t want to take a sticker off every goddamned apple I use,” she moans. “We need a lot less warning and much more nutrition in our food.”

Peter Smuts, owner of Wild Joe's, is also pursuing local and organic fare. Menu items consist of sweets from Elle’s Belles Bakery, breakfast sandwiches using Montana’s Best Meats, and BagelWorks bagels. But his big obsession is waste. He says he's constantly looking for ways to reduce it, and he trains the staff accordingly. And like many Bozeman businesses and residents, he's pained by the difficulty to recycle in this town. “Being ‘green’ is much more fashion-driven than analysis-driven,” Smuts professes.

Wild Joe’s has been roasting beans for the past six months and is one of just a handful of roasters in the community. The company just started a Coffee Growler program that refills mason jars with roasted beans in an effort to reduce packaging. Similar to Norris Hot Springs, Smuts implements these efforts more because it seems like the logical thing to do rather than because it attracts customers.

“Coffee is the dirtiest crop in the world," he explains. "To spend $0.20 more for a clean crop—of course I am glad for the customer appeal—but I would do it anyway.”