8 Billings restaurants you'll never eat at again

2014-07-06T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:36:08Z 8 Billings restaurants you'll never eat at againGazette Staff The Billings Gazette
July 06, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Burgers and steaks. Asian and Italian. Fast and fine.

Billings has been home to all sorts of restaurants throughout the years, and some of those fine establishments and local oddities have served their last meals.

The Gazette asked its readers to help us remember these restaurants by commenting on these photos on Facebook. We heard from regular patrons, long-distance travelers and former restaurant employees. Here you can read those memories.

Here are eight restaurants you won’t eat at again for this very reason. You can find 22 more in the galleries linked to in this story. You can join in the conversation online by posting on Facebook.com/billingsgazette and tweeting @BillingsGazette using #BillingsRestaurants.

The Great Wall

Darren Zent: My wife and I were married in 1988 and the Great Wall was our favorite place to eat for many years. The owner called me “Mr. Broccoli Beef” because that is what I had every time we went there. On another note, one of the fortunes cookies contained a fortune that said, “Your car will have 60,000 trouble free miles.” When we left the restaurant and started the car, a headlight burnt out and that was the beginning of lot’s of car trouble. I lost my faith in fortune cookies because of that!

Cindi Holman Williamson: My friend and I ate there all the time for lunch while in beauty school or on Saturdays. They had amazing food! I have never found another place that can make broccoli beef or won ton soup the way they did!

Jesse Rose: When I was a young girl, my mom would take me out for what she called a “fancy lady lunch.” Nine times out of ten, we’d end up there sipping wonton soup and learning to use chopsticks on sweet and sour chicken.

Bob Vannattan: My wife and I were having dinner one day, and I asked the owner how they made their hot mustard. He gave me a list of ingredients and a paper bag of the most important ingredient. I have been using the same ingredients ever since.

Ashley O’Neal: My parents always let me choose a restaurant to eat at for my birthday growing up and I chose this place every single year! I love and miss it a ton!

Carrie Schara: My mom took my sister and me there as little girls and we fell in love with shrimp and lobster sauce, crystal shrimp and egg drop soup. Mom always got the Moo Goo Gai Pan and we would giggle when she ordered it because it sounded so funny when she told the waitress what she wanted. We always felt so elegant and sophisticated eating there with her. I miss that place!

Casey’s Golden Pheasant

Debra Anne Upham: My sometimes boyfriend took me to dinner and I felt like I was forcing him to take me out. I was 5 months pregnant and felt terrible about the whole thing. Then there was a guitar player named Dave Schildt and he knew me from our hometown. Unexpectedly he said, I wanna dedicate this song to a beautiful young lady, and he said my name. I remember it was some romantic ballad. Needless to say the ambiance of the place seemed to change and the lights were beautiful and I had tears in my eyes and for once I felt special. He turned an awkward evening into something special, afterward he came over and gave me a hug, and I needed that so much.

Cellar 301

Lynda Mendenhall Wilson: The black and white floor and the bright green accents were beautiful. My favorite on the menu was their crab omelet. Loved the crowd, the decor, and the ambiance. Cellar 301 was THE place to lunch!

Christy Davidson: Loved it. Worked there for Greg and Bob for years. As a matter of fact, that is me waiting that table. Miss it. Wonderful food and atmosphere. Best sandwiches, omelets, baked beans, everything.

Michelle Jauss Clayton: My grandparents would take my sister and me there for breakfast when we were young; we thought it was SO fancy ... .

Carole Hicks Wilondek: We loved that place! Made it a point to have the crab omelet with hollandaise sauce every Sunday morning we were in town! The decor was over-the-top gorgeous ... and, oh my, the mud pie was fabulous! How we wish it were still there!

Debbie Schenk: It was a great place to dine. I think about the remarkable mashed potatoes. Wasn't that an old family recipe? My kids loved them. It was a special treat to eat at Cellar 301.

Jandy Jorgensen: I believe our Westby, Mont., women’s choir sang there while staying in Billings for state music festival back in the early '80s! The one and only time I was ever in the uniqueness of it all!

Steve Nelson: Some great memories from there. Took my grandmother to lunch one day, the next my mother, the next my girlfriend, the next my sister, the next an out-of-town friend. Made it five in a row, just for fun. It was classy, and the food was great, as was the staff!

Bonanza Steakhouse

Tami Steinbrink Kelling: I actually worked there taking orders and on weekends, I made the salads and desserts ... was my first job at age 15.

Jennifer Keller: We used to go there with my grandparents when I was little. One time my grandmother scolded me for wearing my “Boogie til ya puke” T-shirt lol.

Betsey Guhin-Hedrick: My grandmother and Sunday lunch outings. She enjoyed talking us out to Bonanza when she visited. It was always a treat! Salad bar with everything imaginable. We couldn't order pop, but always enjoyed the self-serve ice cream! Bonanza was the place to go! (We lived in Bozeman.) ... So many years ago.

Ann Christiaens: I have fond memories of going there with my dad after church. The chocolate pudding was my fav for dessert.

Li’l Peetzas

Karen Howell: My all-time favorite fast food. They were to die for. Wish they would bring them back or sell the recipe to a new entrepreneur to bring back their legacy.

Terri Wagner Fuson: I loved all of the autographed bricks.

Nancy Erfle: They were a big part of getting us through school at Rocky ... loved them – and Rich and Bev, who were often at the window no matter how late it was!

Aimee Mereness: We would make a special trip into Billings just to have them! My mother worked with Bev. Wonderful people! I really wish I could duplicate the recipe. I have tried and it is never as good!

Hal Cross: I can’t replicate it, either! Even the tortilla was special somehow!

Lori Bolenske Bremer: Best quick lunch ever! For $3 or so you could have a great lunch. When my kids were little, we could still enjoy them at DQ on Grand in the old location. Rich and Bev, please bring them back! PLEASE!

Devin Hanley: My mom STILL laughs about the day that I ate 4 Pizzaritos for (3rd) lunch, and had a 3-mile race right after school. Literally thought I was gonna die.

Cheree Richter Brodrick: We use to load the car on our half-hour lunch break and drive like mad from Billings West 83-85 mph to have these for lunch ... totally worth the risk of being late.

Cheri Abraham: I used to go there every day after school to eat before going to work. Had a different combo of flavors every day. Pepperoni and sausage was my favorite. Never been able to find anything close to it since they closed down. Would be awesome to have one open up. I would drive all the way to Billings to get them.

The Cattle Company

Robert Liggett: I ordered my first beer there. The thing I remember the most, and still mention on occasion, is the drink napkins! You had to look closely to see it …

Bob Dalrymple: Great steaks — partial to the teriyaki sirloin. Beer cheese soup was outstanding and only recently has anything been close to as good. Probably one of the last of the old-style lounges in town. Used to leave school and drink until dinner, sometimes returning in the evening. Happily, I grew up, though I still miss the place!

Bobbi Schneider: Our first date June 13, 1980. We are still together 34 years later — married for 30 years. Peanuts thrown on the floor, fantastic salad bar, had my first tequila sunrise there.

Debbie Havin-Wilson: Omg!!! After Jim and I were married, after the reception, we were starving so we went to the Cattle Company and they were CLOSED for the night. When we told them why we were there and that we had just left our wedding reception, they told us to come in sit down and they cooked us a fabulous dinner. The only two in the restaurant. Delicious and romantic!! 23 years ago last month!! Great memories!!!!!!!

Kathleen Wilkowski Handley: Nitrates in salad bar made hubby pass out every time until we figured it out. Loved everything else about this place.


Douglas Smith: “New China” at Grand and 24th. Had the best Sweet & Sour Sauce. Its aroma was almost caustic. Novasio's was the best. I remember coming to Billings and Dad buying a whole “bag of burgers” for us kids ... but watch out for the toothpicks ... lol.

Jeannie Critelli Jamison: They were a nickel when I started eating them — 20 for a dollar. You can't beat that. I can shut my eyes and taste them right now. It was when John Novasio was Chef Extraordinaire YUM!

Juney Cole: I loved the grease brown bag filled with burgers and fries. Dad would surprise us with three or four bags at a time. Wish they came back. I would eat there a lot!

Diane Musgrove Hubbard: I remember when the burgers were 10 cents! Loved them! My friend and I would walk up town and have lunch before shopping at Woolworths! Great memories! ... We were about 10 or 11 years old!

Lee Vodden: Our family stopped by to pick up some burgers to take home to eat on Saturday evening after a twilight Sunday drive. When arriving home my dad received a phone call informing him that he had driven off and left our younger brother David at the eatery and would he come back and claim him! 

RoAnne VanNice McVay: My family had six kids. Novasio's was our go-to diner. Mr. N knew my dad so well, he put burgers on the grill as we walked in the door! And those greasy fries, still smell them! Fresh onion, ketchup and mustard, pickles on request!

Heidi Esterholt: Awesome place. When my grandpa had cancer his first time he always wanted baby hamburgers after chemo. I miss it.

Happy Diner

Becky Ostermiller-Meidinger: I miss The Happy Diner! Gone are the days of Cheese Crunchies and calling in our order on the phones provided at the tables ... bummer!

Patti Dillon: I loved being able to give everyone's order on the phone when I was a kid. So Cool!

Adrianna Brown: Loved the cheese crunchies! I always went with my mom, Kim Redding, and Grandma Ruth when I was a kid. We always had to play "hide the sugar" to keep me entertained until our food came. Good memories!

Anna Clayton: Very fond memories eating there with my grandma; she always let me do the phone order. Years later I'd get the chocolate nut cream pie to go and sneak it in her nursing home room. We'd share it with super big smiles.

Christina Michelotti Crandall: I loved the Happy Diner! Best chicken noodle soup and French fries! Amazing place and loved going there as a kid with my family and arguing about who gets to order with the phone!

Heidi Esterholt: My grandma and grandpa used to take us there on the night we went Christmas shopping. Their banana cream pie was the best, and to order it with a phone was the greatest.

Jenn Ascheman Keehn: My favorite memory is going there after I won fifth place in the county spelling bee. My parents and I celebrated there with cheese crunchies.

Georgia Lukkes: Loved the Happy Diner. Always felt like a king with the crown they gave you.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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