There are many reasons to visit Bozeman, Montana. It’s just a couple hours’ drive north of Yellowstone National Park, for one thing, making it a reasonable jumping-off point for exploring America’s first (and, arguably, best) national park. It’s half an hour from Lewis and Clark Caverns, an impressive series of caves with an excellent guided tour program. It’s where you’ll find Montana State University, Montana’s land-grant institution and home of the Bobcats.
As Montana’s fourth-largest city, it has a vibrant arts community and a well-developed tourism infrastructure, as well as being both historical and beautiful. But there’s another reason to visit Bozeman. Or, more accurately, to visit the tiny town of Manhattan, Mont., just 20 miles down Interstate 90. That reason is a restaurant: Sir Scott’s Oasis.
Fine Dining in a Town of 1,500
“Sir Scott’s.” “Scott’s.” Or just “The Oasis.” This iconic eatery is known by many nicknames by the locals as well as by those who come from all over the country to experience its combination of retro charm, unpretentiousness, and flat-out fabulous beef!
But let’s be clear—when I say “fine dining,” I am referring to the food, not the atmosphere. The Oasis ain’t fancy. Its décor is stripped down and low-key, with worn wood paneling, indoor-outdoor carpeting, and vinyl tablecloths. It’s like the mom and pop diners that families would go to in the 1960s before Denny’s and Howard Johnson’s and the other budget chains took over the landscape.
The Sir Scott’s Experience
It starts with a blast from the past: A plate of carrot and celery sticks with Ranch dipping sauce and a big basket of individually wrapped crackers. Endearingly “old school.”
But old school can be wonderful. The cocktails are old school, too—honest and well-crafted. Have a Manhattan in Manhattan (I did), or a Gimlet or a Tom Collins. Peruse the wine list, too—you’ll be surprised, given the atmosphere, that there’s nothing 1960s about that. A good selection and very reasonable prices. Order a big Pacific Northwest Cabernet Sauvignon and let it breathe while you peruse the menu. You might as well order red, because you’re going to eat steak.
Where’s the Beef? Right Here, Cowboy
It’s not hard to find good beef in Montana, but Sir Scott’s Oasis raises the steak house to a new level of YUM! To be fair, they do have a wide variety of seafood (crab legs, lobster, prawns, oysters, halibut, and more), but if you don’t at least pair that with some of their beef, I believe you’re missing out.
You can go small and flavorful with the Petite Sirloin at $20.50, choose a fork-tender Tenderloin from $24.50 to $31.50 (depending on size), or go with the classic Rib Steak at $24.50 to $29.50. I’ve gone with the Rib Steak every time, and have never been sorry. But those who favor Prime Rib, New York, or T-bone will find their cut on the menu as well. Even the King of Steaks, the true Porterhouse, is here, all glorious 30 ounces for a mere $38.50. Prices are, of course, subject to change, but the quality never shifts.
What else comes with your steak? A small iceberg lettuce salad (you are NOT here for the salad), your choice of a perfect (and loaded, if you like) baked potato or fries or JoJos, a slab o’ Texas toast, and your choice of a chocolate sundae or sherbet for dessert.
And if someone in your party absolutely doesn’t do beef, chicken and pork chops are also on the menu. There is a kid’s menu, too, so bring the family. And show those kiddies what dining out was like in the 1960s—only better.
What’s your favorite small-town (or big town) steak house and why?