Restaurant: Staggering Ox, 2829 King Ave. W.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Background: I went to Missoula to visit a niece who worked at the Staggering Ox. I’m not a sandwich man, so I wasn’t thrilled about eating there. But we had a very nice sandwich, a Nuke. That’s the one that was mentioned on Food Network. It has ham, roast beef, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese and provolone. I like mine with wasabi ranch sauce. In late September, I was still thinking about that sandwich that I had eaten in July. I started looking for a banker and property. It took almost two years from the day I had my sandwich to finalize the deal. We opened in January 2008.
What is your background in cooking? I remember being at a babysitter’s house, sitting on the counter and helping bake cookies, which pretty much meant I got to lick the bowl.
When I was 8 or 10, I got into baking birthday cakes. It was really out of high school, when I brought home a Paul Prudhomme cookbook that was a gift, that I got interested in cooking. I started with fairly complex recipes for Cajun and Creole food, so it was spicy. I also watched the Food Network back when they actually cooked on the shows. I have always been a big fan of Julia Childs and Paul Prudhomme. After we opened the restaurant, I won a trip to a restaurant trade show in Chicago, and I got to meet Paul.
Favorite items on the menu: My favorites generally have to do with our specials. There is a reason they’re special — a lot more work goes into them. We do bi-monthly specials. Once you get them rolling, we run them a couple of months. Our current special is the barbecued beef brisket, which is slow-roasted brisket, homemade barbecue sauce, plenty of Monterrey jack cheese and lettuce. In October and November, our special will be the Jamaican Jerk, which is a chicken breast with habanero peppers, barbecue sauce and a mango salsa.
What makes Staggering Ox special? Our trademark club foot sandwich. It looks like a beer koozie and the beautiful thing is, it will fit right next to your beer in a golf cart. It’s also a fun atmosphere. We are a franchise, but all of the restaurants don’t look alike. The other thing is we make everything from scratch. We actually have bags of flour that we mix to make our bread. Staggering Ox was founded by a Helena man 29 years ago. Right now, all of its restaurants are located in Montana, but expansion is planned.
What about the poems? (Craig is noted for his goofy poems pairing the Staggering Ox menu items with events in and around Billings). I try not to get too political. I am working on one now and it will probably come out next week. It will air on The Planet and The Zone.