The Club Tavern & Grill
The Club Tavern & Grill is located inside the Best Western Plus Grantree Inn. It’s well known as a local favorite restaurant and long-time family friendly upscale sports bar destination in Bozeman and is as dependable as a place of service can get with breakfast, lunch and dinner served every day of the year and a variety of food and beverage options for all! And for the weary travelers, the Best Western has always been conveniently a part of the establishment. It’s officially Christmas time in the city of Bozeman, and we’d like to shine the light on The Club for its service provided so generously on Christmas. That’s right. They’re open and ready for you on Christmas Day. There’s nothing like the warm, cozy, and fun atmosphere with substantial amounts of specialty made food they provide. It’s truly like coming home on Christmas.
We got to catch up with the food and beverage manager, Arkinda Mickelson. Arkinda has been living in Bozeman since 2001, and she’s been in the restaurant industry in the Bozeman area ever since. She’s been enjoying her management position at The Club for over six years running strong with her genuine support and drive for success of the restaurant. She says there’s a fine balance between the love for working and love for living in the outdoor scene that Bozeman has to offer.
Elizabeth Anderson: How was The Club conceptualized?
Arkinda Mickelson: We were the GranTree first, and The Club was conceptualized because of the lounge part of the restaurant. The lounge was always busier than the restaurant part. The owners and management saw that there was a need for the restaurant to go in the direction of the bar and lounge together, so in 2008, reconstruction for The Club was designed for a more upscale sports bar style with a contemporary atmosphere.
EA: What makes The Club unique in the Bozeman food scene?
AM: It’s never just one thing that makes a restaurant great and successful. For me, what makes The Club unique is the substantial food portions. We don’t let people leave hungry. We are priced to match other places in town. Our portions are substantial, so people know when they come here, their money spent is worth the meal they’re going to be fed. We’re also a place where people can sit and talk to each other and hear each other. We purposely have the architectural design like the dropped ceiling, carpeted floors, wood and leather chairs and booths that won’t reverberate the noise throughout the restaurant. So we get a lot of business based on people coming here because they feel like they could sit in a big booth and they can hear each other and talk to each other at a normal volume, even with the surround-sound speakers playing music and the TVs on. So that’s another niche. We have parking.
And we are a scratch kitchen.We hand cut our steaks; it’s all Certified Angus Beef. We cut and fry tortillas for our tortilla chips, and we make all our own sauces, soups and salad dressings as well. I think that’s something unique for a sports bar, we don’t cut corners, which I think is different for the Bozeman area still.
I try to make sure that my staff is well informed of who we are and what we are and what we’re doing here. Some of my staff calls us “The GranTree family.” I run the front of the house. We have thirty people working in the back in the kitchen, and then I have about fifty out front to do the serving, bussing, hosting, bar back and bartending. And so with that team of about fifty people, about a third of them have been working here ten plus years. Many have started here when they were in college. With the year-round business we have a consistency of management and regular customers and locals; that’s what keeps the staff going. We’re here for the locals and the locals come in because we’re here. I think that’s a nice circle that goes around. And we have the hotel, as we feed the hotel guests and the hotel guests provide business for us.
EA: What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Bozeman community?
AM: Well for me, since I have been in Bozeman for so long, and that it was smaller just like it was for everybody else living here seventeen years ago, throughout the time I’ve met so many locals in the community. This is a place where people can come and see people they know. I go out to eat at some places, and I don’t see anybody I know, and it feels so weird because I can see the growth in that and you don’t even know if the new crowds live here or if they’re visiting. I think that’s what a lot of people get out of here, that they can feel like they are really going into a real community-local restaurant. We’re partnered with Gallatin Ice Foundation, so we sponsor everything that happens in that hockey rink including ice curling, hockey tournaments, youth and adult skaters, and so on. We are a Montana State University Bobcat sponsor in the athletics. Every Wednesday night, the football coach does his radio broadcast out of here. And a lot of University alumni come in. For Cat-Griz, we have 80 rooms out of 120 taken by those we call “football regulars,” so on those football weekends, we see the same folks six to seven weeks out of the year. I’ve met their entire families, they’ve met my daughter, and it’s really that feeling of strong connections to the regulars and to the community that is the best.
EA: What do you want people to experience when they walk through your doors?
AM: I want everyone, whether they are tourists or locals, who comes in to have a great experience. Having a great customer experience is important, and I think customer service in the industry is sort of fleeting. People tell me about their past restaurant customer experience going into a restaurant and nobody working seems to care how they’re treated. Generally, you are going to see a manager when you are in this restaurant. Every customer’s experience here is important and that is something along with good consistent food service that’s strived for. Year after year, I’ve worked towards the great customer experience.
EA: What is your most popular dish? Or what do regulars keep coming back for?
AM: Well, at breakfast and dinner, scotch eggs! Scotch eggs are more of an appetizer, but it’s a house special. We have people come from out of town for the Scotch eggs. Our gravy is also really good, made from scratch with the chicken fried steak. On the weekends, the California egg benedict. At lunch, I’d say the french dip is among the most popular dishes. For dinner, the Jameson tenderloin steak. Obviously burgers sell better than anything else. For appetizers, our nachos are a great one loved by many. We have some gentlemen come in three or four days a week and order a salad at the bar every time. Every Friday and Saturday night, they’re the fall-off-the-bone ribs. I know there are other places with great ribs, but I think our ribs are among the best here in the valley.
EA: How did being open on Christmas Day come about and how long has this tradition been going?
AM: We’ve been serving Christmas dinner for over 32 years. The reason we are open on Christmas Day is because we are in a hotel. Because we are with Best Western, we have to be open, not just because the Best Western is here, but because we are a hotel restaurant, we have to be open 365 days a year, seven days a week. We do shorten our hours on Christmas Day, (which is one of the very few days we do have shortened hours), so we open at 7 a.m. and we close at 8 p.m. Christmas is crazy here. Skiers are coming off the hill at 4 in the afternoon from a day of skiing and say “Where are we going now?” and there’s nowhere open to eat and grocery stores are closed. During the day, a lot of retirement homes have the elderly who are open to go eat, so volunteers will bring them out, or their family members will drive in from out of town will come in for lunch or late-afternoon or early dinner. It also gives people who are alone on Christmas the option to come have a beverage, have a meal, and sit at the bar and talk to the bartender. I do feel like we’re here as a service to the community and a place for people to come and have a meal on Christmas Day.
EA: Anything coming up that you want readers to know about?
AM: We did just get a few new menu additions. One thing I’m really excited about is a new completely gluten free dish. It’s a bison pomodoro served over shredded, baked butternut squash. Pomodoro is a thick, spicy tomato sauce and the squash is kind of like zucchini noodles that have a similar liking to pasta noodles. This is special for those who want to come to a sports bar and can also have a gluten free dish. We try to keep the menu fresh and have a variety of dishes with gluten free options. We accept reservations on major holidays. Although there are at times people coming in expecting a buffet on occasion, but we haven’t had a buffet in ten years. We’re continually competing with other restaurants for as old and long-standing as we are in Bozeman.
Whether it’s a holiday or not, our customers will get a great breakfast, lunch, and dinner service experience every time. Those are some things that are always on my mind. We had some Bozeman Choice Awards given to us last year, and so we’re excited to see the results of Bozeman’s Choice in 2020 and hopefully continue to shine in Bozeman.