Longhorn Saloon- Dillon, Montana
If you are not a fisherman or a hunter, you may never have heard of this town in the southwestern part of the state; it's a small place with excellent opportunities for outdoors activities of all kinds- rafting, snowmobiling, skiing, fishing, etc.
On a recent trip through the area, I needed a part for my motorcycle. There was a Honda dealer in town who would have the part in a couple hours when the truck came in. Since I had just ridden two hundred miles of (mostly) dirt roads and trails to get there, I was tired and ready for lunch. I asked the owner of the bike shop if he could recommend a lunch spot, and he replied, " The Longhorn. Two blocks up and two blocks over."
So, I walked over to the place, which looks like what it is: a restaurant/tavern that has been there for a hundred years. I think.
Anyway, inside there is a long bar and two or three tables. I belly up and since I still have to ride a ways to get where I'm going for tonight, I order an iced tea. A quick sip confirms it: they actually brewed this stuff here, and today. Excellent. I dump in a good load of sugar and gulp down half the glass immediately. AAaaahhhh.
Since I am on a continual quest for really great burgers, I order a bacon cheeseburger with fries. Then I walk back to the men's room to wash some of the trail dust off me in an effort to make myself halfway presentable. I notice that the place is old for sure, and decently kept up but not overly clean. By that, I mean that it does not smell of bleach and air freshener, but at the same time you're not afraid to touch the fixtures with bare hands. OK, that's fine with me. I think they drag a mop through here a couple times a day, and make an effort to keep it clean.
I sit at the bar sipping iced tea and listening to the conversations around me. I have the feeling that if I lived in Dillon, this place would get a fair bit of my money.
The burger arrives on a plate, open style: bun and patty here, lettuce, tomato and onion there. This is not my favorite way to have a burger delivered; I like the cook to build 'em. This way does have the advantage of keeping the thing from getting prematurely soggy.
I notice that the bun is grilled and that is a good sign. Grilled buns have a way of elevating all kinds of sandwiches at least one level. I'm offered ketchup, mayo and mustard in squirt bottles on the side.
So, I pile it all on there and while I'm doing this I note that the patty (1/2 pound) is irregularly shaped which I take as a sign that the patty was made right there. I also notice that there is quite a bit of crispyness on the edges and in fact all over the thing....this just keeps getting better. The cheese looks like real cheddar, not American. Hmmm....three whole strips of bacon? And look at those fries! Hand cut for sure....but are they done right? Crispy-like, and not soggy? One bite confirms it: perfectly done. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. 3/8 inch (small) cut. Whoa. A few more fries, just to make sure. They are hot, almost too hot to eat. There is no salt on 'em though, so I dose 'em up good with the shaker on the bar.
My burger meter is in the red now, and I haven't even bit into the sandwich yet. Whoa.
I guess I don't have to tell you how the thing tasted, but I will anyway: the burger was really really good. Enough fat but not too much, the patty tastes excellent. Chewy but not tough at all, and flavorful beef.
The thick slices of tomato and chunk of iceberg lettuce were the perfect foil to the hot burger and melted cheese. The bun was nice and soft but the fact that it was grilled kept most of the juices contained....most of the way through. Perfect.
The last two or three bites, the burger was starting to unravel. It didn't come with benefit of a wrapper to contain it, so it was eaten freehand, and by the end things were getting pretty juicy and starting to fall apart......perfect.
I finished the thing up, wiped my hands on the napkin, and paid the bill, which came to $7.00; a square deal in my mind. I then sought out the cook, who was a young woman about 25 years old. I had to tell her what I thought of this burger.
I made it clear to her that I eat burgers all over the nation, from the Carolinas to Alaska, and that hers was one of the best I have ever eaten, bar none. She smiled and thanked me, and went on about her work, like all good cooks do.
If you are ever in this country and would like to have a great hamburger, go to the Longhorn. I recommend it.