If anyone in Montana has ever lived the American dream, it was the entrepreneurial Josephine Doody.
As the legend goes, Doody pulled herself out of opium addiction and a brothel in the so-called Canyon between Columbia Falls and West Glacier, only to establish a wildly successful bootleg operation in the confines of what would become Glacier National Park.
Though she died many decades ago, Doody’s legacy is only growing. Glacier Distilling has had her story in mind since its inception, said owner Nic Lee, and a new restaurant they have opened behind their distillery in Coram is the latest and most evident example of that.
The new restaurant, named Josephine’s Bar and Kitchen, features a dinner menu, indoor and outdoor seating, and a specially curated cocktail list using the house liquors as well as options from other local distilleries.
“Josephine’s is an extension of her hospitality,” Lee said. “It’s someone’s home, that’s the feeling we want to give.”
Erin Grimes is the head chef at Josephine’s. She’s been working as a chef for around 20 years, including stints at the Belton Chalet. She described the fare as comfort food, “kind of upscale in the spirit of Josephine Doody.” She said local businesses stick together to thrive in places like The Canyon, and they did everything they could to use products made and grown locally.
The menu, true to the way Doody would have foraged and gathered her food, features seasonally honest dishes like fried green tomatoes and a smoked trout cake po’ boy. Other dishes that allude to Montana roots include the bison gyro and buttermilk fried chicken in a fireweed cherry bourbon barbeque sauce.
The cocktail list yields to the same loyalties to geographic proximity, full of hooch from down the hill and local herbs and liqueurs. The prices are slightly higher at the restaurant bar than they are down at the tasting room, but they also get more generous pours, Lee said.
The restaurant operates with a full liquor license and isn’t constrained by the same 2-ounce daily limit per customer at the distillery. Full bottles of Glacier Distilling liquor can be purchased at the restaurant or the distillery for off-site consumption, Lee said.
The restaurant sits on a campus surrounded by old log buildings in a clearing on a hill. The original part of the cabin was quite old, but it had been added on to over the decades.
Lee said they preserved much of the floor plan, with the bar occupying what was the old kitchen and the seating area spread out over multiple small rooms.
They did knock down some walls in the remodel, however, and Lee said they found a time capsule a family had enclosed in one of them. It added fuel to the fire to preserve the heritage of the unique property.
The decorations inside are largely natural objects, art depicting local flora and fauna mixed in with some historical photographs lend a homestead-esque feeling. The bar was pulled from historic Stockman’s Hotel in Eureka.
Lee said they founded the distillery as an homage to Doody’s sprawling bootleg empire, which she would sell to railway workers when they stopped the train right on the tracks near her cabin or to visitors to Glacier National Park.
It’s not that much different than the way the distillery operates today, with the winter months carrying a focus on distilling and the summer months seeing expanded tasting room hours and an emphasis on retail sales.
This season, Josephine’s will only be open for the busy tourist season and will close Oct. 15.
“We’ve always been interested in having a place where people could take a little more time,” Lee said.
Josephine’s is open from 4 to 10 p.m. seven days a week. It can be reached via a gravel path up the hill from the distillery parking lot, or by driving up the driveway around the distillery to park directly in front. More information can be found at www.josephinesbar.com.
Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or email@example.com.