Nestled in downtown Missoula, Montana, Tamarack Brewing Company offers flavor both inside and out. Pull up to the restaurant and you’ll find yourself eye-to-eye with a beautiful brick building accented by custom metal work. The bottom level of the building is a bar and wood-framed glass doors beckon customers to exchange the snowy atmosphere for a festive one. Walk past those doors and to the main floor of the restaurant that opens up to Front Street, and you’ll be greeted by a chalkboard featuring the specials of the day and a cheerful hostess. Once greeted, you’ll find yourself faced with the option to either pull up a stool at a nicely finished bar, or walk down a gleaming, wood-floor path to a seating area complemented by large glass windows.
Although outside was grey with fog and flurries, inside was accented with green. Why? We dined at the Tamarack on St. Paddy’s day and we couldn’t have picked a better way to celebrate our Irish heritage. In addition to their normal fare of fresh salads, heaping sandwiches, local (as in made-by-the-restaurant-local) beers, grilled fish, and variety of burgers, the Tamarack offered traditional specials to honor St. Patrick’s day. Corned beef and cabbage, anyone? My brother chose to order this classic meal and to him, the food couldn’t have been any better. As soon as the waitress came out with a generous pile of broth-soaked carrots and cabbage, two huge cuts of corned beef, and an extremely dense piece of traditional Irish bread, my brother started talking about how good the food looked. And then he took a few bites and the compliments kept coming. In fact, it was so good that he felt the need to verbally appreciate the meal after each bite.
And those bites of the corned beef and cabbage weren’t the first bites he complimented at the restaurant, either. Rewind twenty minutes and you would have found our family sharing flash-fried calamari, served with a fiery side of aioli. Perfectly crisp and packed with flavor, the calamari was a fantastic way to start out the meal. Soon after, each of our plates came out. My brother obviously went with the corned beef and cabbage. My mom selected the spinach salad which featured bleu cheese crumbles, candied walnuts, apples, red onions and blackened chicken. My dad chose the fish and chips which were battered and fried in a house beer. I dined on Alaskan Salmon which was complemented by a Thai peanut sauce and served alongside a chilled salad of cucumbers, carrots, and onions. All of us were extremely satisfied with our meals. Most exceptional about the Tamarack is the level of accommodation available to diners in terms of substitutions and special requests. I subbed rice for steamed vegetables, was able to have the Thai sauce served on the side, and the chicken on my mom’s salad was very well blackened, just as she asked. In addition, the waitress forgot to put my dad’s meal in the system but quickly realized her mistake and had his plate to him within five minutes of recognizing the error.
While surrounded by a rowdy crowd enjoying Irish Car Bombs, a random performance of a bagpipe band, and a man behind us spilling beer on his lap, we still received impeccable and personal service. Our waitress was attentive to our needs despite the fact that the restaurant was fairly crowded. Our waters were constantly topped off, food orders written down and repeated, service timely, and a friendly face was available to us at all times should we have needed anything else.
The atmosphere was slightly louder than I would typically enjoy (so much so that I felt I had to raise my voice at some points during the meal) but I attribute that to the fact that we went to an alehouse on St. Patrick’s day. Overall, the group of people dining alongside us were respectful and were at the restaurant to enjoy a night of lighthearted fun, local brews, and hearty portions of great eats. To top off the food and drinks, the restaurant itself is beautiful. Wood floors, elegantly placed pieces of art, sturdy wood tables, funky corrugated metal doors, and subtle stonework throughout the space make it unique and cozy at the same time.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at the Tamarack Brewing Company. The prices were reasonable, the food fare offered classic pub food in addition to a wide selection of natural and fresh foods for the health-conscious, the atmosphere welcoming, and the staff extremely attentive and helpful. I would recommend the Tamarack for special holidays such as St. Patrick’s day because of the brews available, as well as the specials that wowed us in terms of their homemade taste. For a fun night out with family, a date before a show at the Wilma, or a large gathering with friends, I highly recommend the Tamarack.