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Cafe Zydeco on Montana Avenue in Billings closes

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Cafe Zydeco

Cafe Zydeco on Montana Avenue has closed. A closing letter from owner Melissa Homer is taped to the front window. 

Cajun restaurant Cafe Zydeco’s Billings location closed for the final time last Thursday. The move came after years of economic squeezing due to COVID-19 and ongoing inflation.

Cafe Zydeco had been in downtown Billings at 2503 Montana Avenue for seven years. They were known for a menu that contained a variety of Cajun staples like jambalaya, beignets and an array of po’ boys.

The closure won’t affect Cafe Zydeco locations in Helena and Bozeman. The Montana chain was opened by Louisiana-native Kevin Carloss, who sold the Billings location to Melissa and Scott Homer in 2017.

Melissa Homer, who had been the general manager at the restaurant for several years before purchasing it, wrote a heartfelt closing letter that appeared on Cafe Zydeco’s Facebook page, and was taped to the front window of their storefront.

The letter emphasized that the decision was made with a “heavy heart,” and goes on to thank the staff who helped keep the business running for as long as it did. Homer’s most poignant words were about Cafe Zydeco’s customers.

“You are the direct reason for our success,” the letter reads. “We’ve built countless friendships with our regulars and our conversations will be missed.”

Inside Cafe Zydeco

The interior of Cafe Zydeco 2503 Montana Ave. in 2017. The Cajun eatery in downtown Billings recently closed. 

It’s clear that the feeling was mutual. When the closure was announced on Wednesday, March 30, the letter projected a closing date of Saturday, April 9. However, the community response was so overwhelming that Cafe Zydeco had to close early on Thursday, April 7 after running out of food.

Homer declined to be interviewed for this article. 

Margins can be very tight for restaurants to find success, and the COVID pandemic just exacerbated that problem. A survey from the National Restaurant Association said that approximately 80,000 restaurants have closed since the pandemic began. Staffing shortages have increased, and combined with supply chain delays and historically high inflation, it’s hard for small restaurants like Cafe Zydeco to stay afloat.

Another Billings eatery was shuttered recently. Downtown restaurant Perch announced it would be closing with a Thursday Facebook post on their now deactivated page. They cited staffing shortages and unspecified “employee theft” as driving factors.

For Billings folks still looking for a Cajun food fix who don’t want to drive all the way to the bayou, Cajun Phatty’s at 2564 King Ave W. remains an option.

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