It’s a winter paradise, a summer oasis, a railroad town, a chic mountain getaway and a homey place to relax all at once.
Located in the northwestern part of the state they call The Last Best Place, the town of Whitefish is an idyllic community straight out of a storybook. Despite its small-town status, its walkable area somehow boasts a top-quality food and beverage culture fit for a big city.
Even better, its progressive nature (including a recent environmentally friendly-push dubbed Be a Friend of the Fish, complete with a handy checklist) has made it a welcome place for locals and tourists alike. From the diviest of dive bars to the craftiest of craft cocktails, here’s your guide to where to imbibe in wonderful Whitefish.
Spotted Bear Spirits
A premier spot for craft cocktails, Spotted Bear Spirits concocts their own boozey creations right on premises and serves them up in the most inventive drinks in town. From their house-made classics like vodka and gin, to a delectable coffee liqueur, the spirit of Montana thrives in each one whether the gin’s piney juniper or local Montana Coffee Traders coffee in their liqueur. Spotted Bear then brings it all together behind the bar with stunning cocktails, including the Snowghost which employs their vodka and coffee liquor along with half and half, as well as cold brew.
Bonsai Brewing Project
From community-made spirits to suds Whitefish can call all their own, Bonsai Brewing Project is an outstanding microbrewery in which every detail has been deliciously perfected. Aside from its comfy digs (including ample outdoor seating) and a menu of food that doesn’t have to be so good yet somehow is (see: massive hotdogs boasting a variety of unique fixin’s), it’s their beer which is the star of the show. Much like Spotted Bear, Bonsai employs a litany of local flavors in their palate-pleasing brews, including local honey in their Lil’ Blond Honey. Other highlights include the wheat ale Rise Up and an India Red Ale dubbed Due North.
It’s a saloon in the best sense of the word. Make like John Wayne and put your belly to the bar at the Bulldog, housed in a century-old building which during past iterations sold bait and tackle during prohibition and boasted a soda fountain during the 40s. These days you’ll find cheap drinks and quality eats at the Bulldog, which borrows its name from the mascot for the Whitefish school district. Get a pint from their seen-it-all friendly bartenders and pair it with their famous Huckleberry Wings, which combines the town’s popular berry with their perfectly-cooked chicken wings.
Doubling as the expansive lobby for its namesake downtown hotel, The Firebrand is outfitted with a variety of comfy couches and roaring fires along with your regular bar and tables. What they serve however is uniquely local libations, whether you want to warm up (a Hot Buttered Rum made with Whitefish Spiced Rum and a house mix) or cool down (their Orchard Margarita which boasts a spice apple syrup). Wind down the night at the Firebrand, or just wake up there thanks to a top-notch breakfast… and maybe even an Irish Coffee.
Although Glacier Distilling is technically located in Coram, Montana (about a 40 minute drive away from Whitefish), it’s worth a visit if you’re already in town. Located at the steps of its eponymous Glacier National Park (a stunning bastion of mountains, lakes and wildlife), Glacier Distilling is a highly respected spirits-maker which concocts everything from whiskey to apple brandy, along with more unique offerings including a Cherrycello (cherry limoncello), Huckleberry Gin (using that aforementioned fruit), and pear brandy. The passion for Glacier Distilling, from its owners, locals and tourists alike, make it one of the most exciting distilleries in the west.