Getting its name from a British colloquialism for ordinary and cheap wine, Plonk is one of Bozeman’s most popular downtown wining and dining destinations. Anyone who has been to Plonk knows the irony behind its name - being that its focus is fine wines. Plonk fits right in with the Bozeman food culture, providing high-class food and drink in a warm, comfortable environment. You’ll want to take a good look around - over the bar is the restored mural of local cattle brands that came from the original Stockman’s Bar along with the glass windows and the meticulously revived, century-old tin ceiling. Original commissioned artwork adorns the walls, featuring artists such as Will Hunter, who created the iconic piece of Audrey Hepburn, and Timothy Meyers, the mind behind the piece A Million Dots.
A restaurant designed to please all the senses, Plonk’s curvy red couches and trendy decor makes it classy, chic and cozy all at once. Plonk further enhances its atmosphere with background music to fit the mood and service that is the perfect balance of relaxed and attentive. The restaurant also provides a menu that evolves with the seasons and features many local products - presenting creations that are sure to tickle the taste buds. Plonk is an ideal spot to stop by for a quick after-work cocktail, an intimate meal for two, or a decadent seven-course dinner in the private cellar. Plonk is the perfect choice for every occasion and allows you to congregate among friends, family or business associates.
Jessica Lewis: Tell me a little about yourself; what made you want to get into the restaurant business?
Michael Wilson: I started in the service industry very young, and I grew up in a small town in Colorado. There was a small family-owned restaurant there called Austin’s, and a friend of mine got hired to cook on the line there and got me hired as a dishwasher. The owner took a liking to me and reared me through all of the positions in the back of the house and then moved me to the front of the house. It was a lifestyle that I enjoyed because it was fun and fast paced and it allowed me to utilize my days and do different things. I went to college and worked in restaurants all through college, and I had intentions of using my degree after college in a different way but I ended up in Whitefish, MT. I was in a really unique position for how young I was and inexperienced I was to be part of a franchise restaurant up there, and it progressed from there and became a career.
JL: How was Plonk conceptualized? How did this place come about?
MW: Plonk was already in existence when we purchased it in 2009. When we purchased it, it was our goal to really bring back that foundational focus on food and wine. Obviously, there was this foundation built by the original owners. Then we came in and put our spin on it, and it’s really just organically developed over the years since then. I love this place because regardless of who it is that walks in the front door, you can define your own experience. There’s no host, you can sit down in lounge seating for a cocktail, or you can sit down in the dining section and have a four course meal, or meet some business associates up front over a bottle of wine. It’s whatever you want it to be. We really search out allocated things that are rare in the market and try and put those on the menu. We have 600 different wine bottle offerings down in the cellar and a seasonal menu that changes four times a year. I’m going way beyond this question but one thing has led another.
JL: What makes Plonk unique in Bozeman? What do you offer that other places don’t?
MW: What makes Plonk unique in Bozeman is that a lot of places get sort of pigeon holed into you go to this place for this and you go to this place for this. Not a lot of places provide the spectrum of experiences that you can have here. I like Plonk’s approach to consumables, not having a host up front sort of lends itself to people coming in and kind of scoping out where they’d like to sit and making themselves at home and feeling comfortable about moving about the restaurant. It creates more of a community atmosphere where maybe you are looking for a table but you see some friends you haven’t seen for a while. It’s a very casual environment; we focus on our servers showing their personality and we also focus on getting good service with that casual approach.
JL: What do you want people to experience here when they step through your doors?
MW: I want people to feel comfortable and I want people to be able to use this as as a venue. Everybody has to eat and everybody has to drink, not necessarily alcohol, but it’s a commonality that we all have as humans. When you are paying money to go out to do that, you’re generally sharing that with other people as well. We are providing a venue and structure that you can escape the worries of your job or other things going on in your life. You’ll notice there are no screens in here, we really want people to come in and be able to spend their time trying these consumables and use that to have a great bonding experience with people.
JL: What do you enjoy most about being part of Bozeman?
MW: I think that Montana in general, but Bozeman in particular, has such a sense of community and pride. If you are walking down Main Street and you see a piece of trash, often times someone will stop and pick it up. There is an incredible amount of talented and super driven people and this place draws that kind of people. There’s just good people in Bozeman.
JL: What’s your most popular cocktail and dish?
MW: Most popular cocktail is the G.F.C. hands down and always has been. We are definitely known for our cheeseboards; we source twenty to thirty different cheeses from around the world. Right now it might be our pork chop with popcorn polenta that’s the most popular; it’s freaking awesome.
Since opening in 2003, Plonk has entertained Bozeman’s oenophiles and foodies alike - and the hip charm and edgy vibe is just a bonus. Plonk is eternally brimming with incredible energy, brought about by the brilliant combination of its food, libations, atmosphere and amazing service. While few in the city can match Plonk’s outstanding wine list, this upscale bar’s small plates, entrees and cocktail menu are also equally remarkable.
Plonk is open daily from 3 p.m.-Close and food is served until midnight. They have a happy hour that runs 3-5 p.m. and 10:30-midnight. Plonk also offers wine cellar dinners, by reservation, that are designed with the client, along with handpicked wines from around the world to either accompany the meal or please individual palettes.