Few announcements around Billings generate a bigger buzz than news about a new restaurant.
That’s why Billings Depot director Jennifer Mercer is so excited to welcome 1,500 guests to the plaza outside the depot on Saturday, July 30, for the annual Taste of Billings Summer. During the evening event, three new restaurants will make their debut.
The idea behind Taste of Billings Summer is to introduce patrons to Billings’ booming culinary scene and equally busy microbrew culture. Seventeen local restaurants and 15 area craft breweries will be serving samples of their finest offerings.
The new restaurants include three not-yet-open places, Taqueria Zapotlan, 406 Kitchen and Taproom, and Last Chance Cider Mill and Pub.
Taqueria Zapotlan, named for the owners' hometown in Mexico, is a new restaurant opening in August at 2240 Grand Ave. It will serve authentic Mexican food made from the Torres family recipes.
Last Chance Cider Mill and Pub 406 Kitchen and Taproom open in September. The 406 Kitchen and Taproom is opening in the former Rock Pile at 1207 N. 27th St.m, featuring a wide variety of beer and pub fare.
Last Chance is opening in the former United Glass shop at 2203 Montana Ave. Sam Hoffman, owner and founder of Red Lodge Ales, is putting together Billings first cider mill, which will also offer a full kitchen featuring popular Billings chef, Jason Corbridge.
Corbridge said he has enjoyed being part of the construction phase on the new place, helping build the walls on the new walk-in cooler.
“This whole building has been asleep and its now waking up. This couldn’t be a cooler space,” Corbridge said.
Corbridge plans to focus on local foods and continue his tradition of making foods from scratch.
“I am fine-tuning a menu to fit the setting, heavy on apples. Sam has heavy German ancestry and that will also be reflected,” Corbridge said.
There will be staples at the new place, but other menu items will change seasonally because Corbridge said he likes to play in the kitchen.
Corbridge is planning an apple-themed dessert item for Taste of Billings Summer, but because there is a celebrity judge blind taste test, he did not say what it would be.
Taste of Billings Summer begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday for VIP ticket holders and 5 p.m. for general admission patrons. Tickets are $35 for nondrinkers, $39 for those who want to drink craft beer, and $59 for VIP tickets, which include unlimited beer and wine and the earlier start time. All ticket holders can taste food from 16 restaurants, served as samples. Bozeman rock band The Clintons and Billings singer-songwriter Austin Martin will perform.
“We want people to come and try all of the foods and then vote for their favorite,” Mercer said. “The focus is really on the food to showcase that Billings is the culinary capital of this region.”
Other participating Billings restaurants include TEN at the Northern, Lilac, Stacked, The Rex, Commons 1882, The Burger Dive, Wild Ginger, Don Luis, Cafe Zydeco, Oktoberfest, Dickey’s BBQ, Uberbrew, Café Italia and Cajun Phatties.
All eight of Billings craft breweries will be part of the Taste of Summer and other area breweries, including Red Lodge Ales, Meadowlark Brewing of Sidney, and Beaver Creek of Wibaux, in addition to several Wyoming breweries will also be there.
Iced coffees and Pepsi products will be available. Proceeds benefit the Billings Depot, a nonprofit special events center in the historic Union Depot Passenger Station. It was built in 1909 by the Northern Pacific Railway.