Two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon might seem like a slow time for a restaurant, but not for Hillside Pub and Grub. The new restaurant opened the end of May in Bigfork and has been bustling ever since.
“It’s going just how we wanted it to go,” owner Joe Curtis said as he hurried around the restaurant, checking on customers and busing tables. He said the restaurant had fed 165 people that day before dinner.
Hillside Pub and Grub has clearly gained popularity in its first month of operation. But the restaurant might not fit the image of your typical pub. The interior is bright and airy with plenty of windows, clean white walls and glossy wood finishes. But the shiny new taps behind the bar have yet to start flowing.
“Our liquor license is coming soon,” Curtis promised. People have been eager for the pub to live up to the first half of its name, but the grub seems to be attracting enough business for the restaurant’s first weeks.
Curtis’ wife Ronda works as the cook while Curtis manages the operation. “She’s been in the restaurant business a long time,” Curtis said. “And most of the food here is homemade.”
So far, two items stand out as the most popular orders. The Rat Rod Randy seems to have already become a local favorite with its two bratwurst burgers, fried egg and slew of toppings. The other top seller, known as the Taylor Mac ‘N’ Cheese Scramble, is a collection of chopped hot dogs, chopped brats, a fried egg, a brat burger and various tasty add-ins. Customers have been interested in these creative offerings, but Curtis said many people also appreciate the freedom of the build-it-your-own menu.
Some repeat customers said it isn’t just the food that brings them back, but the people as well. Curtis moved to Bigfork in February, and he has already generated an enthusiastic following. He said all the initial interest in the restaurant was simply spread by word of mouth. “I’m a country boy and I know how to take care of people,” he said.
Curtis gained the experience to operate Hillside Pub and Grub in his home state of Michigan, where he has been part-owner of a winery and cidery for many years. He said the original goal for the Bigfork establishment was to focus on hard cider, but he was legally required to sell food alongside the beverages. He thinks the balance seems to be working out, since he said, “Everybody loves it.”
His main goal for the restaurant going forward is simply to “get more business.” He has a lot of plans to continue to grow the space.
He is on track to open an outdoor “Fun Bar” that will include a partially covered deck, an outdoor bar, a fire pit, cornhole and ax-throwing. Curtis said he has plans to reveal many other fun developments in the restaurant’s future.
Hillside Pub and Grub is located at 7950 Montana 35 in Bigfork and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. “We’ll be open all winter,” Curtis promised. “We’re not going anywhere.”
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at email@example.com or 758-4459.