Sip & Savor the Season at these Local Hot Spots
article & photos by marya pennington
The holiday season is in full swing, and along with it, many joyous activities; from shopping with friends and touring Christmas lights, to festive parties and family get-togethers. Everyone knows adding delicious food and delightful drinks makes every occasion merrier, so while out and about finding the perfect gift or viewing colorful decorations, stop in at some Billings hot spots that will lift your holiday spirits and keep you oh-so jolly!
The Granary | 1500 Poly Drive
Granary signature pastas, clam chowder, and cocktails | https://thegranary.com/
A landmark restaurant in Billings for nearly 50 years, the Granary has boasted high-quality food at a place where people feel like regulars. “We’ve always been the neighborhood hub. People stop in for a quick bite or drink and stay all evening with other locals,” says restaurant manager Kelsey Daer. And it isn’t just the friendly vibe that keeps folks returning – the food is stunningly good, and the staff has a comfortable charm.
Oysters on the half shell at the Granary
Most recently they’ve become known best for oysters on the half shell. East and West Coast oysters are flown in twice a week, with Seafood of the World providing the rest. For someone who’s never tried oysters before, they know how to treat a Montana native to this delicacy! From oyster-eating etiquette and all the accouterments to the slurping technique and the different flavors of brine, I now understand the appeal of this mollusk.
Kelsey quickly adds that fresh seafood isn’t the whole story for the Granary. One signature dish – Granary Pasta - (pappardelle noodles, andouille sausage, shrimp, artichoke, mushrooms, red pepper, and parmesan cheese) was both savory and sweet, made with fresh pasta delivered from Yellowstone Pasta Company. The clam chowder (a personal favorite) was filled with perfect clams in a chewy, warm bread bowl baked in-house, just like the brioche, house rolls, and baguettes they serve. “We really try to bring a taste of the big city – to offer something that is unexpectedly good and rare,” shares Chef.
Levity Bar and Casino | 1027 Shiloh Crossing Boulevard
Smoked Salmon Platter at Levity | https://www.facebook.com/levitybar
It’s where “everybody knows your name, and are always glad you came.” With an inviting bar, incredible regulars, and spectacular food, “We have the perfect vibe,” says Tess Roods, general manager at Levity Bar and Casino. And while the food is fantastic and the atmosphere cheerful, the main attraction is the reserve-label spirits and stellar wines.
The list of high-end labels of whiskey and tequila was a little intimidating, but Tess was happy to chat about the varying flavors and brands and offer samples to showcase the unique collection. They also pride themselves on their wine emotion machine. The specialty apparatus allows costly wines to be served by the glass, keeping it fresh for up to 40 days. There is no need to purchase an entire bottle of lavish wine to enjoy its bouquet; happy hour is every night of the week.
Let’s not forget the beautiful food! The seafood of the day and smoked salmon platter (with a lemon dill base, capers, and smoked salmon on crostini), initiate a true taste bud frenzy! Levity offers three specials a night: either pasta, fish (sourced from Seafoods of the World), or steak (procured from Miller Ranch Beef in Absarokee). The atmosphere is complete with jazz on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and live bands on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. When asked about his favorite thing about cooking, Chef Nathan Southwick said, “Levity has the best owners. They let me cook entirely on my own terms.” And we are so glad they do.
Maple Moose Coffee & Pop Shop | 1605 Annafeld Parkway East #101
Hot Chocolate Float & Thunder Cloud at Maple Moose | https://www.maplemoosecoffee.com/
Besides teaching, Carla Brownson has spent much of her adult life making coffee. This history instilled a love for the “coffee shop community,” as Carla puts it. Her dream for Maple Moose Coffee was to be “a safe place of belonging where families can build memories.” With 14 sodas on tap and an espresso bar featuring Treeline Coffee Roasters out of Bozeman, they aim to keep things local while creating a unique experience.
The hand-crafted kid favorite is the “Thunder Cloud” – a soda flavored with blue raspberry and vanilla and topped with a mass of cotton candy. The coffee concoctions are dreamy delights, with the “Hot Chocolate Float” made with Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream or their signature “Maple Moose” latte made with oat milk, brown sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon. They also offer donuts and pastries from Proof, Miss GiGi’s, Harper & Madison, bagels from Great American Bagel, and cake pops from LSJ Creations.
With a mission to foster a “warm and inviting atmosphere for their customers,” they offer live music on Friday nights and stay open later than most coffee shops in town – 9 p.m. during the week, and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They have the Meeting Garage, a smaller rentable space, and rent the whole shop on Sundays for parties and celebrations. “We want everyone who comes in to feel like they belong – that Maple Moose is their place,” says Carla.
Marya Pennington is a Billings native who loves great films, fly fishing, backpacking, weight lifting, and good conversation about anything but the weather. She is passionate about telling a good story and helping local businesses tell theirs. Above all, she loves to go on adventures with her husband Randy, their three daughters and their families.