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Readers' Choice: Eating & Drinking winners and finalists

Readers' Choice: Eating & Drinking winners and finalists

From the Readers' Choice: 2021 winners & finalists series

Winners and finalists in the Eating & Drinking categories in The Billings Gazette's 2021 Readers' Choice.

ALL-AROUND RESTAURANT

The High Horse Saloon and Eatery

5 years in business

3953 Montana Ave.

(406) 259-0111

highhorsesaloonandeatery.com

There’s nothing pretentious about the food at The High Horse Saloon and Eatery.

“We don't do fancy food, we do good food,” said the restaurant’s Reid Pyburn. “Our menu is full of items easy to pronounce.”

And, they have a pretty good Fancy F’n Steak Dinner Special.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We truly are an all-around restaurant, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. Fancy F'n Steak Dinner Specials every night. And a full bar with 16 beers on tap. There is live music almost every weekend, a large patio and rocking casino. Add in our catering services and we manage to fill the hours pretty easily.

What brings customers back to your business?

We have so many things happening at The High Horse, that it can be pretty crazy sometimes. However, our homemade food is familiar to so many patrons. And we try to do it as consistently as possible. The food at The High Horse is the glue for our business model.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

We have two amazing chefs. Andy Glynn and Nate Southwick work together to create our recipe for success. Serving three meals every single day out of such a small kitchen takes a lot of planning and communication. Our kitchen is a very competitive environment. Everyone creates their own specials, and each staff member is always trying to out "chef" each other.

What makes your business a good place to work?

Because it is familiar to them. We provide a comfortable environment. Also it is pretty exciting, as we are usually busy and often have live music or an upcoming event.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

Billings businesses support locals. Hard work is respected and admired in Billings.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

Customers should feel comfortable and be greeted and seated promptly. Sometimes the kitchen is overrun, but we usually can find you a spot.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It is great to have a community that appreciates our hard work and determination.

What are you most proud of?

Our staff is our most valuable asset. We all share any measure of success equally. A team of people, where some work at day and some at night, they sell different types of food, and often don't frequently cross paths, can be difficult to keep focused.

What's your secret to good customer service?

Take time to know your customers. Make efforts to be available to your customers, and enable your staff to make decisions to better suit your customers’ needs.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We often donate gift cards and gift baskets. Also we like to participate in fundraising events, where our catering services can be of assistance.

How do you build trust with customers?

Customers need to be comfortable, having an amazing staff that consistently provides a good product, helps create the trust necessary for success.

FINALISTS

  • Montana Brewing Company, 113 N. Broadway
  • Montana’s Rib & Chop House, 1849 Majestic Ln.

BAKERY

Stella's Kitchen and Bakery

41 years in business

Clocktower Inn

2525 1st Ave. North

(406) 248-3060

stellaskitchenandbakery.com

There’s that famous scene in the old TV show M*A*S*H where Hawkeye misses his Chicago home so much, he orders barbecue spare ribs to be delivered by his favorite restaurant Adam’s Ribs.

Preposterous right? Television fiction. Who would do that?

Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery in Billings is so famous for its enormous and delicious cinnamon rolls, they once had them overnighted to some fans of Stella’s baking more than halfway around the world, says Stephen Wahrlich, owner of the Clocktower Inn, home to Stella’s.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

Great homemade comfort food, great employees and of course our world famous cinnamon rolls.

What brings customers back to your business?

Consistently great comfort food and a caring staff.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

That the bakery (downstairs) was once the most popular bar in town - The Bonanza.

What makes your business a good place to work?

Owners and managers who work side by side with our employees and understand their value. We need them a lot more than they need us!

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

The opportunity to make a positive difference, in our customer’s day, employees lives and community.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A friendly smile and the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

The community recognizes us for being consistent in the service we provide and the food and products we deliver.

What are you most proud of?

That our staff believed in us and stayed working with us during the past 18 months.

What's your secret to good customer service?

Treat customers and staff like you want to be treated and work as hard if not harder than they do.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We support local charities including, MRM, Family Services, CLDI, St. Vincent de Paul and many local fundraisers. In conjunction with the hotel, ClockTower Inn, we have established and given over $40,000 to the Homes for Homeless Pets.

How do you build trust with customers?

Consistently good food and service

What makes your business popular?

Freshly baked giant cinnamon rolls

FINALIST

  • Tea City and Cupcake, 1001 Shiloh Crossing Blvd. #7

BARBECUE

Blue’s BBQ

26 years in business

523 Hilltop Rd.

(406) 245-2583 (beef)

bluesbbqbillings.com

FINALISTS

  • CJ’s Bar & Grill, 2455 Central Ave.
  • Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, 2519 Montana Ave.

BREAKFAST

Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

41 years in business

Clocktower Inn

2511 1st Ave. North

(406) 259-5511

stellaskitchenandbakery.com

Some of the best food in the world comes from grandma’s house.

Stella Ziegler is everyone’s grandmother. Her cooking and baking has elevated Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery into a downtown Billings dining institution.

Her pies, her cinnamon rolls, her hamburgers, her bread, her everything.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

Consistency, home-style breakfast and great service.

What brings customers back to your business?

Cinnamon rolls, great service and great comfort food

What makes your business a good place to work?

Owners and managers who really care about their employees and who work side-by-side with them.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

We have the opportunity to make a difference in our community, customers and our employees’ lives.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A big smile and the fresh smell of cinnamon rolls.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

We are grateful to be recognized by the community for our amazing bakery, comfort food and great staff.

What are you most proud of?

Several Items: 1. Our employees, they have stayed with us through the best of times and worst of times. 2. While not the fanciest, just trying to be a place where customers get consistently great food.

What's your secret to good customer service?

Treat people like you would want to be treated.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

1. Created a foundation Home for Homeless Pets and have given over $40,000 over the years to this foundation from the restaurant and hotel. 2. Support many local charities through fund-raising events. 3. We support these missions: MRM, Family Services, CLDI, St. Vincent DePaul and others

How do you build trust with customers?

Good food and good service.

What makes your business popular?

Cinnamon rolls.

FINALISTS

  • High Horse Saloon & Eatery, 3953 Montana Ave.
  • The Sassy Biscuit Co., 115 N. 29th St.

CATERER

TopZ Sandwich Company

6 years in business

900 S 24th St West Suite 6

320 Main St.

4007 Ave. B

(406) 969-1043

topzsandwich.com

How’s this for an origin story?

In 2015, Tucker Veltkamp, a grown man, found himself moving back into his parent’s house after several painful and costly business failures.

It was in that guest room he dreamed up the TopZ Sandwich Company. Now, he has three locations and he’s planning to franchise the business and go nationwide.

“Failure is an opportunity to gain the wisdom needed to be successful,” he said. “Always look at life's setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow into what you are meant to be.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We serve the highest quality deli meats available in the region, paired with fresh baked bread daily. Our meats leave out the binders, fillers, and heavy processing that comes with your average deli meat to create a wholesome and high-end sandwich experience. TopZ is also the only sandwich shop around that serves signature seasoned tortilla chips that should ALWAYS be paired with our white cheddar queso! Yes, we serve queso in a sandwich shop.

What brings customers back to your business?

A high quality and consistent product served with a smile. Plus our catering business is affordable, punctual, and customizable with an emphasis on presentation to impress our client’s guests for any occasion.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

We are in the process of setting the company up for multi-state expansion through franchising. We are planning to go to market with our turnkey business model by the end of 2022 to bring TopZ to cities around the country while keeping an emphasis on our family-run business principles that have gotten us to where we are.

What makes your business a good place to work?

We have a positive and growth-minded culture always looking to improve and advance the career paths for people within the company.

What's your secret to good customer service?

The fundamental understanding that customers are the oxygen that allows businesses to thrive. You can be successful in business with an average product, but great customer service. You cannot make it with a great product and poor customer service. People first and product second, but if you can operate at a high level with people and product, you will not only make it, but thrive.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

Billings is an amazing place to create and grow a brand. We have amazing organizations and people in our community that make it a great place to operate a business. The amount of support we have received since our inception has been our biggest competitive advantage and a driving force for our growth plans. We want to become an emerging national brand.

FINALISTS

  • Blues BBQ, 523 Hilltop Rd
  • Tiny’s Tavern, 323 N. 24th St.

CHEESEBURGER/HAMBURGER

The Burger Dive

11 years in business

114 N. 27th St.

(406) 281-8292

theburgerdive.com

The Burger Dive in downtown Billings isn’t just the best burger place in town. It’s the best in the state, according to LoveFood, a London-based food website.

And, in 2016 it was the best in the world. The Burger Dive’s Brad Halsten won the World Burger Championship in Alabama. His burgers were also featured on the popular TV show “Man v. Food.”

What brings customers back to your business?

I think one of our strong suits is our consistency. If someone has a good experience they can be sure that if they return the next day or a year later the experience will be the same and the flavors will be consistent.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

We are a family-owned business that is run by a couple who, before 11 years ago, had no experience in the industry. We had a dream and went after it and it worked.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

Billings is a great community and is very supportive to us as a business. We've really enjoyed getting to know our customers and greatly appreciated their support during normal business times and during difficult times such as the pandemic and we are very thankful to our customers for continuing to order, whether we were in a time of takeout only or various percentages of occupancy allowed. Our city did a great job of continuing to support local businesses during the pandemic and we are very appreciative.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A busy place committed to giving them a high-quality lunch or dinner experience. They can expect to enjoy award-winning burgers, fries, onion rings and milkshakes as well.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It's a very nice feeling. It's one thing to win awards based on voting from judges or other third-party organizations, but to win based on voting from our customers is the best possible feedback we can get.

What are you most proud of?

Winning the world championship really stands out.

What's your secret to good customer service?

We think it's important to have enough staff on at all times to where the customers are given the attention they deserve. We make it a priority to try to greet people as they walk in the door. We do our very best to accommodate people based on their needs including any allergies, and want everyone to feel welcome in our establishment.

How do you build trust with customers?

We always strive to make sure our customers have a great experience. If we make a mistake, we try to do whatever we can to make it right.

What makes your business popular?

We provide a high quality and consistent dining experience. I think this is the most important thing allowing us to maintain consistent local business. We've been fortunate to have a lot of national media exposure from the world food championships, to Man v. Food and this has really helped to attract a lot of customers locally and it has made us a destination for travelers.

FINALISTS

  • MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes, 2695 King Ave. West, Suite D
  • The Divide Bar & Grill, 4020 Montana Sapphire Dr.

CHINESE FOOD

Grand Garden Chinese Cuisine

14 years in business

3839 Grand Ave.

(406) 698-8689

grandgarden.us

The trick to surviving in the restaurant business, and thriving, seems simple enough, even if most start-up restaurants fail.

Take care of your employees, take care of your customers, and consistently serve good food, says Alice Parker of Grand Garden Chinese Cuisine.

It’s worked for them, for 14 years and counting.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We strive to provide the best quality food and service to our community.

What brings customers back to your business?

We work hard to ensure that our food is consistently good quality and our regular customers appreciate that we work hard to ensure the best possible dining experience.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

We have been in business for 14 years.

What makes your business a good place to work?

We are a small family-owned local business. Owners and managers are very attentive and caring for our employees.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

We feel that Billings is one of the best places to do business and raise a family.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A relaxed casual atmosphere with friendly staff.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

The support we have received from the community is truly an honor. We work hard to provide the best possible dining experience and it is very rewarding to be recognized as the best Chinese cuisine for so many years in a row.

What makes your business popular?

It is simply great food and great service.

FINALISTS

  • Asian Sea Grill, 1911 King Ave. West, Suites 3 & 4
  • Wild Ginger, 2713 Montana Ave.

COFFEE SHOP

City Brew

23 years in business

Various locations

(406) 294-4620

citybrew.com

Coffee is about more than waking up in the morning.

At City Brew, it is about community.

“We care about how your day is going, how your family is doing, or the vacation you just went on. Coffee is about community, and community is about real relationships,” says Brittanny J. Reule of City Brew Coffee.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

What makes us stand out from the competition is our outstanding service and our excellent coffee.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

We roast all of our own coffee out of our facility on 24th Street and King Avenue right here in Billings. We roast only the top 2% of beans from around the world to ensure only the best for our customers.

What do you love most about having your business in this community?

We are Montana born and roasted – and we are proud of our roots. We started in Billings in 1998 and have been supported and welcomed in Billings ever since.

We enjoy being able to give back to our community. Since we are a local company, we have had the opportunity to partner with many local organizations and have been able to contribute both financially and through volunteer efforts.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

Customers can expect a smiling face, a friendly greeting and great coffee.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

City Brew has been serving Billings for 23 years – and to have been voted Best of the Best for more than 20 years in a row, the first thing that comes to mind is gratitude. We live in a great city and we have the best customers. Each day, we arrive at work knowing that we get to service and delight our customers.

What are you most proud of?

City Brew has a great team – our people make us who we are, and we are proud of our team members.

What's your secret to good customer service?

A positive mental attitude goes a long way, but so does being genuine. We strive to be authentic in our interactions with our guests.

FINALISTS

  • Classy N’ Sassy Coffee, 1508 Main St., 1313 Broadwater Ave., 1221 6th Ave. North, 750 Johnson Ln.

Rail//Line Coffee

1 year in business

104 South 29th St.

(406) 702-1816

raillinecoffee.com

What’s better than a great cup of coffee? How about one that comes with a mission, and helps an old neighborhood grow and thrive.

Rail//Line Coffee offers apprenticeships to help workers gain permanent long-term employment. And, the shop on Billings’ South Side is in a neighborhood that has struggled to attract food service businesses.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

It is clearly connected to a larger mission that resonates with everyone. As a customer, you feel like you are a part of something that is bigger than just an organization and that is bigger than just getting a cup of coffee. Our mission to provide a pathway toward sustainable employment and greater relationships for our apprentices allows us to foster a culture that is people-oriented vs. results-oriented. It results in an engaging and inviting atmosphere that draws everyone in as themselves and hopefully leaves them with a new or deeper relationship! - Anastasia Hayes, Kaylee Thompson, and Kallie Linse

What brings customers back to your business?

Our staff works well together and works hard to create the best customer experience possible. The environment, service, and product are all thoughtfully presented to make sure that the customer is comfortable and enjoys their time at Rail//Line. Customers return because of the connections that we as a staff are able to make with them. Plus we make really good coffee. - Taylor Noble, Mychal Voigt, and Kaitlyn Wildman

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

Customers might not know about our apprenticeship program or realize how important it actually is to us as apprentices. It has helped us grow as individuals in meeting some of our bigger goals. They also might not know the heart and passion for the South Side that we have at Rail//Line. - Anastasia Hayes, Kaylee Thompson, Aleiah Ramirez-Staudinger, and Kaitlyn Wildman

What makes your business a good place to work?

We feel safe working here; supported in all our goals. The team complements each other very well. People are generous, available, and positive. It is fun and the small group makes it so that we are like a family. - Anastasia Hayes, Aleiah Ramirez-Staudinger, and Mikayla Korf

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

We really enjoy the vast diversity of customers that come into Rail//Line. No matter what their story is, we have the chance to support, extend love, and enjoy some coffee with them. It serves a unique purpose with CLDI driving it. - Taylor Noble, Levi Youde, and Mychal Voigt

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A happy environment, friendly and well-trained staff, clean space, and a shop that is driven relationally. - Mikayla Korf & Kaitlyn Wildman


DOUGHNUTS

Miss GiGi’s Sweets

3 years in business

2401 2nd Ave. North

(406) 647-9363

Few things are better than home-baked desserts. But, you can’t exactly barge into someone’s house every morning and order a pastry.

That’s the secret at Miss GiGi’s Sweets. Her bakery’s pastries are essentially homemade.

“We are a small, family-owned establishment that brings a little of our home to the community,” said the bakery’s Angela Allen.

What brings customers back to your business?

The customer service, and great fresh food and pastries.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A warm welcome, and great food.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It’s a tremendous honor. It shows us that we are doing it right, and making the community happy.

What are you most proud of?

The growth we have had in such a short time, and being able to keep our standards high through it all.

What's your secret to good customer service?

We treat everyone the way we like to be treated. So we treat them like family.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We do multiple donations of products or money throughout the year to different organizations and schools. We also donate leftover product (when we have any) to the women’s shelter, etc. We’ve also taken product to the different first responders around town to say thank you for everything they do for our community.

How do you build trust with customers?

By talking to them, getting to know them. And giving them the same great service over and over. We take the time to learn their name.

What makes your business popular?

The great food and atmosphere.

FINALISTS

  • Krispy Kreme, 2520 Central Ave.
  • The Annex Coffeehouse & Bakery, 2601 Minnesota Ave., Suite 4

FAMILY RESTAURANT

Texas Roadhouse

28 years in business

1824 King Ave. West

(406) 651-5885

texasroadhouse.com

FINALISTS

  • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, 5620 S. Frontage Rd.
  • The Montana Club Restaurant, 1791 Majestic Ln.

FOOD TRUCK

Coast to Coast Cuisine and Catering

2 years in business

4620 Murphy Ave.

(406) 670-6077

It’s usually told as a kind of cheeky joke, that a meal you’re enjoying was made with the most important ingredient – love.

Kevin Gontarek, the chef behind Coast to Coast Cuisine and Catering, isn’t joking.

“Love people and love what you do and share it! We are given gifts to share with others and make this a better world,” he said. “Just doing our part to make this life just a little bit better for others with good food, a smile and joy to others.”

What makes you stand out from the competition?

The variety of options. Our menu is always changing, bringing flavors from all over the country.

What brings customers back to your business?

The quality and unique menus.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

Kevin is a trained chef with a degree from Johnson and Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. Most of his original training was on the wharf in Newport. Susan is from Laurel and we met, married and have lived on both coasts a few different times and both traveled to all 50 states. Kevin loves being creative and changing things up to allow us in Montana to try different flavors we have experienced from the many different states we have been to.

Also, Kevin has run many military clubs and food installations in the U.S. and overseas for the Navy, Air Force and Marines serving every branch and rank over the past 30 years. So while he may not have served "in" the military he has certainly "served" our military.

What makes your business a good place to work?

We are our own boss, and we love our customers.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

We absolutely love the people in Montana. Growing up here and moving back feels like home. There are so many amazing opportunities here to serve the people of Montana

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It is a huge blessing and an honor to be recognized by those Kevin has shared his gifts with throughout the years. We are humbled and amazed at the support we have received.

What are you most proud of?

The response and support for the quality of our food along with being able to share it with others. Food is the language of love and this is Kevin's way of sharing the love.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We have a heart for our military and those struggling with cancer, as Kevin is living with a rare blood cancer called Polycythemia Vera. The sacrifices made for us by our military men and women to be able to do this in a free country is a privilege. The cost not only rests in our active duty and reserves, but their spouses, children and extended families and friends. It is an honor to be a part of any support of our veterans' and their families.

What makes your business popular?

I think just the simplicity of good food and good service.

FINALISTS

  • Sandee’s, (406) 969-1900
  • The Corndog Company, (406) 401-5555

FRESH MEAT/SEAFOOD (GROCER)

Ranch House Meat Co.

14 years in business

3203 Henesta Dr.

6608 U.S. Highway 312

55 Wyttenhove Lane, Miles City

(406) 656-0777

ranchhousemeat.com

Locally-sourced food is all the rage now, but it’s been Ranch House Meat Co.’s specialty from the beginning.

“We are the only start-to-finish fresh meat shop that has beef and hogs locally grown,” said the company’s Tanya Flowers. “All of our products are choice or higher rated and are tasty and tender.”

Bonus: “We have an all-women facility.”

What brings customers back to your business?

Customer service and fantastic products.

What makes your business a good place to work?

We are a family-owned and operated business. We try to keep our employees at the top of our list.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

Our customers, and staff.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A warm greeting and knowledgeable staff. We are here and eager to help you with your meat needs. Full shelves in a clean organized space.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

Grateful! This is such an honor for us to be recognized as Billings Best of the Best. That means we must be doing something right.

What are you most proud of?

Our story. Started a small plant, 14 years later we have three locations.

What's your secret to good customer service?

We LOVE our customers.

FINALISTS

  • Poly Food Basket, 2648 Poly Dr.
  • Seafoods of the World, 5800 Interstate Ave.

FRIED CHICKEN

Tiny’s Tavern

37 years in business

323 N. 24th St.

(406) 259-1625

tinystavern.com

The folks running Tiny’s Tavern on the north side of Billings don’t take their fried chicken lightly, although they don’t really see it as a competition either.

“We just try to do a good job for the wonderful folks that frequent us,” said Tiny’s Curt Grimm.

What brings customers back to your business?

Hopefully the atmosphere of a neighborhood restaurant.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

How much we appreciate the support Billings has shown us.

What makes your business a good place to work?

Family are friends. Friends are family.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

The community.

FINALISTS

  • Albertsons, Various locations
  • Pizza Ranch, 2505 King Ave. West, 1327 Main St., Suite 6

FROZEN YOGURT

Billings Best Yogurt

10 years in business

1001 Shiloh Crossing Blvd. #5

(406) 652-6000

Sometimes customers just want to be left alone while they make a decision, especially when faced with a variety of equally appealing choices.

At Billings Best Yogurt, customers are greeted warmly, introduced to the shop, “and then left free to explore the numerous yogurt flavors and toppings offered by the shop,” says Christena Midgley.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

BBY is a family-owned and -operated business that offers a warm and personal experience. Customers are greeted at the door, oriented to the shop, and free to explore our goods at their own leisure.

What brings customers back?

Customers are impressed by our high-quality yogurts, the frequent rotation of flavors, and the friendly service.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

Billings Best Yogurt came under new management earlier this year. Since this transition, BBY has expanded its selection of refreshing treats including: Italian soda, milk shakes, banana splits, energy drinks, and fro-yo cookie sandwiches.

What makes your business a good place to work?

BBY offers flexible work hours, a fun and relaxed work environment, and offers employment opportunities for youth and students.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

Billings and the surrounding area is home to diverse communities who make our business experiences rich, fun, and unique.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

BBY is a clean and accessible environment that accommodates people of all ages and abilities.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

For a business under new management to win Best of the Best is appreciated immensely and shows how much the community values our business.

What are you most proud of?

BBY is proud to be a locally-owned, woman-owned business and all that we have accomplished in such a brief time.

What's your secret to good customer service?

Professional, knowledgeable, and empathetic staff is the key.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

BBY partners with other local businesses and provides gift cards for local fundraisers for causes we believe in.

How do you build trust with customers?

We build trust with our customers by striving for personable and genuine interactions, and providing consistent high-quality service to everyone who comes through the door.

What makes your business popular?

BBY is conveniently in Shiloh Crossing, near several shopping centers. Our quality yogurt and variety of flavors and toppings makes BBY a place where anyone can find something they enjoy.

Fun fact about your business?

BBY is the longest-operating frozen yogurt shop in Billings.

FINALISTS

  • Spinners, 3031 Grand Ave.
  • U-Do Yogurt, 27 Shiloh Rd. #5

ICE CREAM

Candy Town USA

5 years in business

820 Shiloh Crossing Blvd.

(406) 651-9196

candytownusa.com

You’re an adult now. You can have all the ice cream and candy you want.

That’s half the fun of Candy Town USA. There’s no one telling you, “that’s enough.”

The other half of the fun is the variety, especially the nostalgic treats, the candies that were popular when you were a kid. Adding to the charm is the store’s authentic soda fountain. And, yes, you can still get a phosphate, and milkshakes made with Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

Our old-fashioned soda fountain with hand-stirred milkshakes and malts, soda's and phosphates, our ice cream sodas, and made in Montana Wilcoxson's Ice Cream.

What brings customers back to your business?

The atmosphere - it is so fun!

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

Within this past year, we have incorporated See's Candy in our building and a 7-foot gumball machine that holds 40,000 gumballs.

What makes your business a good place to work?

The awesome customers, the fun environment, and our candy and ice cream.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

That we are able to give back to our loyal customers and community.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

The delicious smell of our homemade confections, gourmet popcorn, waffle cones, cotton candy, fudge, caramel apples, and being greeted with a smile.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

That means that our customers love us as much as we love them. Thank you for your votes!

What are you most proud of?

The opportunity to serve our community in ways that are sweet!

What's your secret to good customer service?

Being genuinely nice to our customers and making sure that they are satisfied.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We do fundraisers, sponsorships, and we also donate gift cards and gift baskets.

How do you build trust with customers?

We listen to our customers and help them with their sweet tooth.

What makes your business popular?

Being able to come in and play board games or cards with your family or friends at our tables while you enjoy eating our ice cream.

FINALISTS

  • Big Dipper Ice Cream, 100 N. Broadway
  • Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream Co. Inc., 114 N. 19th St.

INTERNATIONAL FOOD

UMI Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar

7 years in business

1603 Grand Ave., Suite 105

(406) 702-7600

umibillings.com

FINALISTS

  • NaRa Restaurant, 3 Custer Ave.
  • Siam Thai Restaurant, 3210 Henesta Dr., Suite G

ITALIAN FOOD

Bistecca at the Granary

7 years in business

1500 Poly Drive

(406) 259-3488

bisteccagranary.com

Bistecca, tucked in a leafy stretch of Poly Drive across from Rocky Mountain College could be considered a neighborhood restaurant. Lots of diners walk there.

But, it’s also a destination restaurant because of the imagination and commitment of its chef, Keith Neuman.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

They can expect a great fine dining experience, or if that isn't what they are in the mood for they can enjoy a great bar/lounge area or one of the best patios in Billings. The casual and dinner menus are offered in all three settings.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It is a validation of our staff's hard work and great efforts to get us to this pinnacle. None of this would be possible without their help and support.

What's your secret to good customer service?

A smile and upbeat attitude. We encourage staff to do this and it is amazing how this gets everyone in a better mood and makes everyone including guests feel better.

What makes your business popular?

One of the comments we hear most often is how great and comfortable our patio is for visiting, dining and drinking.

Fun fact about your business?

Our biggest seller every year has been our Poly Drive Pasta.

FINALISTS

  • Bistro Enzo & Wine Bar, 1502 Rehberg Ln.
  • Ciao Mambo, 2301 Montana Ave.

JAPANESE FOOD

Hokkaido Sushi and Ramen House

1 year in business

1001 Shiloh Crossing Blvd.

315 Main St.

(406) 437-4929

hokkaidoramenlife.com

Ramen is on the rise, and we’re not talking about the cheap grocery staple of every college student. Real ramen is made with fresh ingredients and a stock that can take more than a day to make.

One of the best places in town to get great ramen is Hokkaido Sushi and Ramen House.

“We’re lucky to get ahead of it,” said the restaurant’s Gabrielle Mozer. “The owner traveled to China to work on the recipes with his family for years before opening the first Hokkaido.”

What makes you stand out from the competition?

Ramen is on the rise and becoming the new cool thing, we were lucky to get ahead of it.

What brings customers back to your business?

The consistency and authentic flavors we are able to achieve with our broths and fresh ingredients.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

We have only been open in Billings since mid- March, being voted best Japanese food is a huge honor and shows us we are doing things right.

What are you most proud of?

Especially being short-staffed since we have opened, I am more proud of my team than anything else. They have all pulled together, helped each other out, and have the same passion for Hokkaido as I do.

What's your secret to good customer service?

We always go above and beyond for the customers. If there is anything we can do to improve service or make their meal with us more enjoyable, we ask for the feedback so we can fix any problems. The entire team is amazing about making sure customers have a good experience.

How do you build trust with customers?

I think one of the most important things in building trust with customers is making them feel important and heard. Whether they enjoyed their experience with us or not, we will always do right by the customer.

What makes your business popular?

We are still fairly new as a business, the first Hokkaido opened a few years ago. I really think people hear "authentic ramen" and want to give it a try, but the flavors we create is what brings customers back.

Fun fact about your business?

If you want to work in a place where you can grow and learn kitchen or even sushi skills, Hokkaido is the best. Being privately owned, there is endless possibility for growth. We are opening up stores all over Montana, and even Idaho. That opens up a lot of opportunities.

FINALISTS

  • UMI Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar, 1603 Grand Ave., Suite 105
  • Wild Ginger, 2713 Montana Ave.

MEXICAN

Guadalajara

26 years in business

1213 Grand Ave.

17 North 29th St.

1403 Main St.

335 1st St., Havre

(406) 652-5156

guadalajararestaurantmt.com

Sometimes famous people come to town, and sometimes they eat at a local restaurant.

When President George W. Bush, a longtime Texan, visited Billings he asked for Mexican food and wound up at Guadalajara.

It turned out to be a good pick. The president enjoyed lunch there so much, he returned for dinner, said the restaurant’s Veronica Nuño.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We are traditional and trendy and cater to our now home of Montana. We know our neighbors and love what our state has to offer, from traditional skinny margaritas made from fresh-squeezed lime, lemon, and orange, to our Flathead cherry and huckleberry margaritas, we love using our in-state fresh ingredients to share with our amazing locals and visitors.

What brings customers back to your business?

Definitely the quality of our ingredients, and trying to be as consistent as possible. We are lucky to live in a region with some of the best beef in the world, in our opinion it makes our dishes mixed with our spices from Mexico that much better.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

We have just opened up a fast casual location by the Red Door, Guad’s Grill & Go, where we serve our very old family recipe birria to make our quesabirria tacos. They are made of Brisket and paired with our consumé (bone broth) for dipping.

What makes your business a good place to work?

It consists of our wonderful family and locals. Montana made and raised, having people from our community allows us to be aware of what is going on and how we can help those in need. It’s very special to feel like you work with family for family.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

That they have supported and helped us evolve for over 20-plus years. We couldn’t do it without them and our neighbors are our biggest motivation!

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A hardworking friendly face from their community!

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It means everything! What an act of support and validation from the people we love serving. Such an honor!

What are you most proud of?

To still be in business after COVID! After seeing so many businesses suffer, the support that we have been given is something we are beyond grateful for!

What's your secret to good customer service?

Trying to teach the staff that if it wasn’t for our customers, we wouldn’t be here, they have so many places they could choose yet, they chose us!

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We do our best to help in every way, anytime someone needs anything, I love that they are comfortable enough to come and ask us for help.

How do you build trust with customers?

Like every business you will have your times where something may go wrong and it is especially important to not just listen but, try to resolve it by listening and taking initiative to improve and fix the issue to the best of our ability.

What makes your business popular?

That we have been here for so long enjoying and evolving WITH our community.

FINALISTS

  • Fiesta Mexicana, 980 S. 24th St. West
  • Sarah’s Mexican Food, 310 N. 29th St.

MICROBREWERY

Canyon Creek Brewing

8 years in business

3060 Gabel Rd

(406) 656-2528

canyoncreekbrewing.com

What more do you want from a microbrewery?

Canyon Creek Brewing offers “good service and good beer,” says the brewery’s Ron Kalvig.

What makes your business a good place to work?

The customers are great people – they like the service that we give them.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

Clean and plenty of seating and good service.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

That people of Billings like our beer and service they get. Thanks to all of you.

What are you most proud of?

The employees and their hard work at making the customers happy.

What's your secret to good customer service?

Keeping the employees happy.

What makes your business popular?

Good drinkable beers.

Fun fact about your business?

Beer and friends having a good time.

FINALISTS

  • By All Means Brewing, 1400 S. 24th St. West #3
  • Uberbrew, 2305 Montana Ave.

PIZZA

Carbone's Pizzeria & Pub

9 years in business

3925 Grand Ave.

(406) 281-8431

carbones406.pizza

Employees at Carbone’s Pizzeria & Pub tend to stick around because it’s a fun place to work, says Troy Ask.

“The mood and tempo among our staff complement each other,” he said. “On our good nights we roll, and on our best nights we rock.”

And, that translates into good pizza.

“Great staff makes great food and happy customers,” he said.

What brings customers back to your business?

Our atmosphere and hometown welcoming makes Carbone's a family favorite and an individual’s safe place to relax and unwind after a long day. Our menu offers family friendly options for everyone. Our customers feel at home with our front and back of the house staff because they are the most dedicated and loyal bunch around.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

We are always innovating, continually assessing our customers’ wants and needs. We don't settle for what we already have but rather what we can offer. Input from staff and customers helps us stay on top of what a restaurant should be.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

Our customers for sure are what's best about our community. The people we serve are some of the most down to earth, friendly, generous and loyal. They know we will take care of them and they keep coming back because they know we do. We feel privileged to have them come through our doors.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A familiar face with a smile and a willingness to make this night better than their last.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It’s what every restaurant strives for and it tells us we are doing things right. But don't think we will rest on that distinction. We continually strive to be better and know that this award only means the bar has been raised and we must meet and exceed it year after year.

What are you most proud of?

That's easy; our staff. We know and they know that our success rests on their shoulders and it's not taken lightly by them or Carbone's. They all know that behind the Carbone's marquee are their faces.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

Carbone's feels that to be part of a great community such as Billings, one must give as it receives. We get so much from this community and feel it is our obligation to reach out and help in a way that really touches those in need. When tragedies occur we want those experiencing the unfortunate event to know we stand with them and alongside them. There are many causes we support that resonate in the community and try our best to serve them in fellowship to the best of our ability, we always do and always will.

What makes your business popular?

Great pizza! Although everything else we serve is pretty great too.

FINALISTS

  • Redneck Pizza & Chicken, 3911 Central Ave., Suite 2
  • Village Inn Pizza Parlor, 2048 Grand Ave.

PLACE FOR A ROMANTIC DINNER

Buffalo Block Prime Steakhouse

2 years in business

2401 Montana Ave.

(406) 245-7477

buffaloblock.com

FINALISTS

  • Billings Petroleum Club, 27 N. 27th St. #2200
  • Bistro Enzo & Wine Bar, 1502 Rehberg Ln.

PLACE FOR LUNCH

The High Horse Saloon and Eatery

5 years in business

3953 Montana Ave.

(406) 259-0111

highhorsesaloonandeatery.com

The High Horse Saloon has the best kind of problem when it comes to staff, especially now with restaurant staff in high demand.

“We have an over-qualified staff that is focused on the same goals: quality customer service is the result of teamwork and communication,” said the saloon’s Reid Pyburn.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We post a picture of our lunch special Monday through Friday mornings as early as possible.

What brings customers back to your business?

Service and consistent food quality.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

The High Horse Saloon does catering, large or small, private or open to all.

What makes your business a good place to work?

The staff at the High Horse is second to none. We create a safe and supportive environment, where staff feel comfortable enough to be themselves and share it with their friends and families. Friends and family become customers and sometimes customers become friends and family.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

The Billings business community has always respected hard work above all else. Businesses here support each other. Billings is an extremely competitive environment, but support for each other, stimulates the economic growth necessary for all to succeed.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

Hello. How are you today? Followed shortly by large portions of delicious homemade food.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

It’s great to know that people in our community appreciate our efforts. However, when reflecting, it is very easy to make a list of things that you want to do, still need to do, and most often, have forgotten to do.

What are you most proud of?

Being able to work with my friends and family.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We try to donate as much as possible to all who ask. Usually at least a gift card goes out the door as an auction item somewhere. Helping raise money by doing events with nonprofits is also often done.

How do you build trust with customers?

Being accessible to your customers lets them put a face and name together. It also allows you or your managers to do the same.

What makes your business popular?

Dinner, drinks and dancing. There is a lot to do at The High Horse. Obviously we have a bar and restaurant, but there are video games, there is a patio, we have a casino, and a package liquor store, for all your at-home bar needs. Free dance lessons on Tuesday nights will get you ready for the live bands on the weekends.

Fun fact about your business?

The High Horse Saloon has two extraordinary chefs. Nate Southwick and Andrew Glynn work together to produce and execute breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. This all happens in a kitchen the size of a one car garage. Teamwork.

FINALISTS

  • Montana Brewing Company, 113 N. Broadway
  • TopZ Sandwich Company, 900 S 24th St West Suite 6; 320 Main Street; 4007 Ave. B

RIBS

Blue’s BBQ

26 years in business

523 Hilltop Road

(406) 245-2583 (beef)

bluesbbqbillings.com

FINALISTS

  • CJ’s Bar & Grill, 2455 Central Ave., Suite 2
  • Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que, 2583 King Ave. West

SEAFOOD

Enzo

23 years in business

1502 Rehberg Lane

(406) 671-8257

bistroenzobillings.com

When you’re a West End dining fixture for decades like Enzo, the trick is staying fresh while maintaining the long tradition that made you a fixture.

Enzo has managed that with its recent updating.

“The goal was to enhance what was already there for 22 years and bring new energy and ideas to the established business,” said the restaurant’s Tyler Samson. “We've made some great changes without changing too much.”

What brings customers back to your business?

Great food, excellent hospitality, and consistency. By focusing on hospitality, it helps gain and keep loyal guests. A lot of our guests dine with us multiple times a week and we focus on creating long term relationships. We believe the way you make people feel is what they will remember the most, and pairing that with the best food is a winning combination.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

Our beautifully designed open kitchen is the first thing you will see when you walk through the front doors. You can't miss the amazing artwork by Kira Fercho, the fire from our wood fired pizza oven from Italy, and the very welcoming hosts and culinary staff greeting our guests.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

Being someone's favorite anything is the highest honor we can receive. That is something that can never be argued. We are honored to win a different award this year, and are so thankful for all of the votes.

What are you most proud of?

Our staff and their commitment to providing the best hospitality, the best quality of food, and working hard every night to make sure our guests have the best experience possible. Our chefs (led by Alex Bean and Jeremy Cooke) do an amazing job sourcing the best fresh seafood from all over the world, the best local beef, and overall the highest quality food that we could possibly find in a challenging time where suppliers have limited supply and prices are fluctuating each week.

What's your secret to good customer service?

Our goal is to provide the best experience to make each visit a memorable one for all of our guests. We try to customize the experience for each guest; that is what allows for those moments of satisfaction. We have a lot of birthday and anniversary celebrations each night, and multiple marriage proposals take place throughout the year. We love that these special moments are celebrated at Enzo regularly.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We try to donate to every charity event that we can throughout the year from gift baskets, cash donations, and gift cards for auctions. Last year we celebrated a very successful year and it was because of all of the support and love from the community. We are very thankful, blessed, and eager to give back as much as we can in return.

What makes your business popular?

We love throwing events like extravagant wine dinners, catering small weddings, live music, and hosting dinners for large companies or organizations like the Alberta Bair Theater.

Fun fact about your business?

We have special events every month including wine dinners with different winemakers from all over the world, and we also have live music every Monday. Follow us on social media for special event announcements. We will also start construction for a new patio this coming spring!

FINALISTS

  • Edgar Bar, 105 Elwell Dr., Edgar
  • Jake’s Bar & Grill, 2701 1st Ave. North; 2425 Gabel Rd.

STEAK

Bistecca at the Granary

7 years in business

1500 Poly Drive

(406) 259-3488

bisteccagranary.com

In a farm and ranch state like Montana it matters that local restaurants get their food locally.

“A few years ago we made a decision to go with a local provider (Ranch House Meats) for all of our steaks and the customer response has been great,” said Bistecca’s James Bos.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

Being located in an iconic building on an easily accessible site. Also offering a unique Italian menu that also focuses on great steaks.

What brings customers back to your business?

Consistency, both in menu choices and seeing the familiar faces of many staff members who have been with us since we took over the operation.

What makes your business a good place to work?

We are a family-owned business that treats our staff members as family. Sometimes tough love has to be involved but many more times a pat on the back and a sincere thank you is how we operate.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

Although Billings is the largest city in Montana it doesn't feel that way. It is a close-knit community and over the years we have made many friends that return time and time again.

FINALISTS

  • Buffalo Block Prime Steakhouse, 2401 Montana Ave.
  • Jake’s Downtown, 2701 1st Ave. North

SUB SANDWICH

TopZ Sandwich Company

6 years in business

900 S. 24th St. West, Suite 6

320 Main St.

4007 Ave. B

(406) 969-1043

topzsandwich.com

TopZ Sandwich Company has a good problem -- keeping up with growth and continuing to thrive. And, they’re not taking it lightly.

The company has “an ongoing focus on training as we grow,” said the company’s Tucker Veltkamp. “Our goal is to never let a customer down and to rectify any experience that is less than amazing.”

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

An amazing sandwich served by a company that keeps our customers at the core of the business plan.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

Momentum and gratitude.

What are you most proud of?

The people in our company and all of the work that they have put in to get us where we are and to lead us to where we are going.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We support a large variety of charities and nonprofits.

How do you build trust with customers?

We build trust by always responding to issues that come up with a customer-first and solution oriented mindset.

What makes your business popular?

We are very in touch with the community and remain focused on being at the forefront of maintaining the positive culture that makes Billings one of the best cities to live in.

FINALISTS

  • Jersey Mike’s Subs, 1020 Shiloh Crossing Blvd., Suite 2
  • Pickle Barrel, 3225 Rosebud Dr.

SUSHI

NaRa Restaurant

25 years in business

3 Custer Ave.

(406) 245-8866

narabillings.com

FINALISTS

  • Fancy Sushi Asian Fusion, 1313 Grand Ave., Suite 3
  • Okinawa Sushi & Asian Bistro LLC, 1414 Main St.

THAI FOOD

Siam Thai Restaurant

20 years in business

3210 Henesta Dr., Suite G

(406) 698-2470

Don’t be surprised if you take a seat at the Siam Thai Restaurant and are greeted by the restaurant’s owner Thawee Williams.

“I enjoy talking to my customers and greeting them like family,” she said.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We have the best Thai food in Billings.

What brings customers back to your business?

Good food and friendly service.

What's something your customers may not know about your business?

My son is the head chef.

What do you enjoy most about having your business in this community?

I enjoy meeting and talking with my customers.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

A warm welcome.

What are you most proud of?

Managing to stay in business for the last twenty years.

What makes your business popular?

We have good Thai food and fast warm service.

FINALISTS

  • Imperial Thai Cuisine, 216 N. 28th St.
  • LemonGrass Thai Restaurant, 695 King Ave. West

WAIT STAFF

Jake’s Downtown

42 years in business

2701 1st Ave. North

(406) 259-9375

jakesdowntown.com

A few restaurants last long enough to become institutions, and that doesn’t happen by accident.

Jake’s Downtown is an institution.

“Being a staple downtown for 42 years, we feel that we are very much a part of the community and the community here in Billings is our family,” said the restaurant’s Kathy Bolin.

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We strive to make our relationship with our guests feel like they are family with us.

What brings customers back to your business?

The consistency of our food along with the feeling of being right at home when dining with us.

What makes your business a good place to work?

The great employees that we have in our Jake’s Downtown family. Everyone works together and truly cares for one another, making it a great experience for everyone.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

Laughter, great service, and a fun fine dining experience that only Jake’s Downtown can create.

What are you most proud of?

Continuing a tradition that we have had for the 42 years our doors have been open. Also the amazing support we have seen from the community throughout this pandemic.

What's your secret to good customer service?

Getting to know our guests. We are not just here to take orders, we build a relationship and an experience from the second you walk through our doors.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We always try to support the city of Billings in any way we can. From sports sponsorships to the Relay for Life, we will always help the city that has always supported us.

How do you build trust with customers? Consistency. If you have been dining with us for 42 years or it is your first experience, food and service will always be our top priorities.

FINALISTS

  • Buffalo Block Prime Steakhouse, 2401 Montana Ave.
  • Montana Rib & Chop House, 1849 Majestic Ln.

WINGS

Tiny’s Tavern

37 years in business

323 N. 24th St.

(406) 259-1625

tinystavern.com

Tiny’s Tavern is the best kind of neighborhood bar. It’s cozy, well-worn, is frequented by regulars, and everybody really does know your name.

What can customers expect when they walk through your doors?

Hopefully a smile, a greeting, a cold beer or an Orange Crush.

What does it mean to be voted Best of the Best?

Makes you feel good, but very humble.

What are you most proud of?

Almost 38 years.

What's your secret to good customer service?

We sell fun. We sell nice.

What are some of the things you do to give back to the community?

We, like the rest of Billings, just try to do our part.

How do you build trust with customers?

If something goes wrong, fix it. No blame. No excuses.

What makes your business popular?

Orange crush, wings but most importantly, the folks that come here.

Fun fact about your business?

Same three since ‘83.

FINALISTS

  • Buffalo Wild Wings, 411 S. 24th St. West
  • Grandstand Sports Bar and Casino, 905 Grand Ave.
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