By Sarah Peruzzi
The dining scene in Big Sky is subdued this year, but with planning you can still experience the best the region has to offer.
When it comes to dining in Big Sky, these restaurants embrace a “what’s best for everybody” mentality. From carrying on decades old traditions, to exploring ways to help employees find housing, there’s an effort to nurture the community not just nutritionally, but as a whole. This winter, Big Sky eateries will continue to nourish while keeping safety a top priority by adhering to strict safety protocols, amping up take-out menus, and providing continuity of service until the game rooms, dance floors, and elbow-to-elbow après can return. Be sure to plan your meal early, and call ahead for the latest updates.
Copper Big Sky
Overview: Last February, Copper, a whiskey-centric eatery, opened to rave reviews at the newly minted Wilson Hotel in Town Center. Since reopening in June after the spring shutdown, Copper is offering a more limited menu, while at the same time ramping up its offerings with locally sourced ingredients and chicken, pork, and salmon entrees. Look for desserts by new Executive Pastry Chef Kristen Young. Two favorites, according to Nicole Morgan of The Okay Cool Group, the locally owned hospitality company at the helm: a killer carrot cake and a warm spiced bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce.
Menu: Copper serves up curated whiskey flights from its 200 top-shelf bourbons, but this winter, staying true to its motto, “Come for the food, stay for the Whiskey,” Copper invites the public to attend whiskey tastings from 5:00–7:00 p.m. every Friday to learn the craft from invited Industry reps and knowledgeable Copper staff.
Buck’s T-4 Steakhouse
Overview: Buck’s T-4 Steakhouse is no theme park roadhouse: In 1946, on the original Stillman Ranch, Buck and Helen Knight built cabins from timber harvested and milled on-site to house hunters. For $12 a day, guests received lodging; Helen’s home cooked meals, and guided pack trips. Over the years different owners have added a dancehall, pizza saloon, and hotel rooms to make Buck’s an iconic Big Sky destination. In June, Lone Mountain Land Company became the new stewards of Buck’s T-4 Steakhouse, which now has a full restaurant with four main dining halls, five private event spaces, and a well-loved game room. For locals and visitors alike, Buck’s is a home away from home, where families have been building memories for generations. “We love being that tradition for so many families,” says General Manager Haley Rowland.
Menu: This winter, Buck’s T-4 Steakhouse will open nightly with après from 4:00–5:00 p.m., and serve a full dinner from 5:00–10:00 p.m. Look for house specialties that highlight wild game and fowl like red deer and pheasant, as well as locally sourced bison tenderloin, ground beef, and lamb chops. Order a Stillman Heater—Buck’s take on hot buttered rum—and sit outside on the patio by the river rock fireplace. Don’t leave without trying their famous chocolate chip skillet cookie served in a cast iron pan. Also new: Buck’s adds an expanded take-out menu with family style offerings.
Overview: In September, the folks behind Tips Up—slated to open this December—posted a Facebook post calling on locals to clear out their garages and bring retired skis and snowboards to a “beer for gear” swap. Expect to see those shredding artifacts transformed into signed décor and building materials inside the new ’80s themed eatery. With 6,000 square feet of space, Tips Up will house retro arcade games, shuffleboard, pool tables, and a casino. The goal, in normal times, is to create a casual space where locals and guests can play games, watch live music on the stage, and enjoy a low-key, casual vibe.
Menu: Every great ski town has a fried chicken eatery—The Slogar in Crested Butte, Double Front Chicken in Missoula, Montana, now Tips Up brings the bird to Big Sky. Look for killer fried chicken and fried chicken sandwiches served for lunch, dinner, and late night. Order on your way down the mountain and it will be ready to pick up by the time you arrive. They’ll also feature a robust hot beverage program with specials like French vanilla and whiskey coffee, and of course, a quiver of shot skis.
Snowcat Dinner at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club
Overview: In typical years, the Snowcat Dinner at Spanish Peaks is open to the public. With Covid restrictions in place this year, it’s a Spanish Peak members’ only experience that takes guests by snowcat to the yurt-style Sacajawea Camp for a four-course meal. According to Carrie Chapin, director of food and beverage for SPMC, the Snowcat Dinner is not to be missed. “It’s a very intimate evening, nice and cozy in the yurt with acoustic music. It feels like a one-of-a-kind experience,” she says.
Menu: Spanish Peaks brings back Chef Ennion Williams this winter to prepare an elevated, Montana-focused menu that includes: celery root and apple bisque with chive emulsion; herb-roasted pheasant breast with port wine reduction and cranberry goat cheese polenta; and pan seared elk medallions with huckleberry jus and Yukon potato puree. After dinner, the kids can enjoy Baked Alaska served with vanilla ice cream and Flathead Lake cherry sauce, while the adults savor a bottle of Renato Ratti Barolo by the fire.
Acre Café & Cocktails
Overview: While hiking last summer, Adam Harman, James Murphy, Campbell Schnelby, Jeff Morz, and Katherine Moos discovered two things they all shared in common: a deep love of Big Sky, and a desire for a town center restaurant that offered organic food-to-table fare. A few weeks later, the seasoned group of natural-product entrepreneurs hired Adam, a veteran restauranteur, as general manager, and discovered that the owner of Toast was leaving. They knew the location could serve as the home for their new restaurant. At press time the direction was still gelling, but the focus will be on listening to the needs and desires of the community and offering clean eating and consistent customer service. “The pink wall will go away, replaced with a more organic decorating style,” says Harman.
Menu: Acres offers diners affordable healthy menu options with a commitment to provide hearty, organic, locally sourced food. Start the day with the Acre Benny served with raspberry hollandaise, avocado, applewood smoked seared ham, and basted eggs, or grab a breakfast sandwich with garlic aioli on your way to the hill. Grab-and-go options include a Hummus Bowl made with local organic black bean hummus, carrots, cauliflower, beets, and Grist Bakery German Sourdough. This winter Acre will continue to expand its hours from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and will eventually be open until 8:00 p.m. Stop by for an après cocktail—they have three outside tables in front, and a large picnic table out back under an awning if you’re happier in the open air—or order online and pick up a roasted garlic burger made with organic grass-fed beef, caramelized onion, and Montana natural pork bacon. Avocado toast is still on the menu.