Storm Castle Café
Serving a Piece of Montana - One Breakfast at a Time
On any given day (except Tuesday and Wednesday), the Storm Castle Café is open from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., riddled with the smell of coffee, the sound of laughter and music, and perhaps most importantly, a satisfying breakfast. Located right off campus on 5 Tai Lane, the Storm Castle Café is conveniently accessible for families and college students alike, offering delicious breakfast options, such as the country fried steak, grandmas enchiladas, and the SCC monte cristo.
Founded by Scott Peterson and Nicole Warner, the couple have been no strangers to the restaurant service industry, having been in the food service for a combined 40+ years. Following the sale of their family run restaurant, Peterson’s Spirits & Eatery (previously the historic Winchester Café and Murray Bar), the two opened their own catering business, leasing out of the Castle Rock Café in the Gallatin Canyon. After two years of running their successful catering business, the family moved on to greener pastures, moving their efforts to Bozeman. Thus, the Storm Castle Café was born.
As I entered the backdoor into Storm Castle Café after work hours, for the tremendous opportunity of interviewing Nicole Warner, the proprietor of the Storm Castle Café, I got to experience the calm of the café, knowing the next storm of customers was only a night away. Menus were displayed, the lights were dimmed, and Nicole and I were the only people in the café. She greeted me with a luminescent smile and graciously poured me a cup of coffee, and as we settled in to our booth, the interview that would help expand my knowledge of one of my favorite eateries, was under way.
PG: How did you guys start in the food business?
NW: My husband was born and raised here, graduating from Bozeman High School and Montana State University. He then went on to culinary school [New England Culinary Institute], and got a culinary internship in France. Shortly after, we met in Big Sky working at Bucks T4, and his family bought and opened their restaurant, Peterson Spirits & Eatery in 2001. After we sold the Peterson Spirits and Eatery, we began catering and leasing out of the Castle Rock Café, eventually opening the Storm Castle Café. For Scott, food is an art form, and he has dedicated so much effort in perfecting his craft. Food service is something he has done his whole life, and has always been passionate about.
PG: When was the Storm Castle Café founded?
NW: We started leasing the building in 2010. Prior to that, old timers remember the Storm Castle Café as the Hinkie Dinkie, which was a local grocery shop. Eventually, Reds on the Road, the owner of Santa Fe Red’s purchased the lease, and began renovating the inside of the property with proper restaurant features, such as adding booths and a kitchen. At first, we were reluctant to own another restaurant, but we saw the promise in running a café with a small town feel. All we wanted to do was serve quality breakfast and create an atmosphere of home, with a little piece of Bozeman.
PG: How important are the customers for you?
NW: They make it all worthwhile. We have had loyal customers coming for our food for 10 years, and Scott has had his own following of customers for as long as 20 years. To give the customers a place that feels comfortable, and providing good food is one of the reasons we had gotten in the business in the first place. Through the years, our customers have gotten to watch us grow, our children grow, and we have met so many wonderful people, so I am super thankful that people trust us. I think people know we may not have the hippest bar, but we have character, and the customers play a huge role in defining what we want our café to be.
PG: How important is the music playing for you?
NW: *laughs* It is really important to me! I am in charge of what is playing, and I like to create an atmosphere for the customers and workers. I want it to be a fun, happy place, so I like to turn the music up loud. It is a running joke with the staff that I call the shots about music. Every now and then I’ll let the staff play their music, but at the end of the day, I always have a playlist ready to put on shuffle. I know some people may not be so fond of loud music in the background, but you can’t please everyone, and I like creating an environment for customers that feels interactive and at home, so the music plays a very important role to the personality of the café.
PG: Is there a personal favorite dish of yours?
NW: There are so many options to choose from. The monte cristo, empanadas, and “Po Campo” are all good. Grandma’s enchiladas are near and dear to my heart because they are a family recipe. Almost all the names of the dishes are like that, carrying a special meaning. The “Po Kampo” for example is name after the chef from Lonesome Dove, my husband’s (Scott) favorite television show. In fact, there are multiple Lonesome Dove references on the menu. Another menu item, the Big John, is named after a customer we had at Castle Rock. The menu has a wide variety of deeper meanings behind the names.
PG: What advice would you give someone interested in getting into the food industry?
NW: You have to love it, or you will not survive! The show must go on no matter what happens, you have to keep going. In other professions, you may be able to push back a deadline or close down shop for an hour, but during business hours, it is non-stop. On average, we serve roughly 1,200 customers a week. There is a lot of work that goes with it. That is one of the reasons we have the open window of the chef and the open kitchen, it is exciting and fun to be a part of. That’s why people watch the Food Network! *laughs* Overall though, you have to love what you are doing, and if you do not want to be a part of a fast-paced environment, constantly on your feet, it might not be for you. That said, if you truly love food and aspire to be in the food business, there is nothing like it.
PG: Is there anything you would like to promote for the future?
NW: We plan on having a pig roast in the future. In the past, we have done pig roasts, but this one will be special because it will be our first pig roast with our own pig. We recently started breeding our own pigs and have about 30 heads of cattle on the farm, so we plan on using one of our pigs for the roast. As of now, the dates have not yet been decided, but it will be in the near future, hosted either at the farm or the café.
In between the formal questions lies an enticing, easy-going personality. On paper, it may appear as all business, but the interview consisted of jokes and honest dialogue, serving as a metaphor of the Storm Castle Café’s vibe for famished patrons. For some, a café or restaurant may just be a means to an end, a location to satisfy one’s appetite and carry on with the day. However, the Storm Castle Café offers more than just a scrumptious meal, because owners Scott and Nicole have dedicated their livelihood to providing an inviting, entertaining environment, ranging from the music in the background, to the names given to certain meals, and the open window and kitchen intended to encourage customers to feel a part of the experience.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Storm Castle Café is located at 5 Tai Lane, and will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every day, excluding Tuesday and Wednesday. For those seeking a family-friendly food going experience, Storm Castle Café is a guaranteed delicious meal, all while getting a sense of home and small-town Montana.