Country Clubs don’t get more “Country” than the Square Butte Bar & Country Club in Square Butte, MT. Anchored at the northeastern end of the Highwood Mountains at the base of the butte for which it’s named, the unincorporated town has a historic stone jail, two dormant grain elevators, a former schoolhouse, a 13-year-old mayor, “And about twenty residents, give or take a few,” says Amy Wentz, owner of the Square Butte Bar & Country Club. “I’m the only business left in town.”
Wentz bought the place on July 1, 2008, moving to Montana from Pennsylvania, and is thoroughly enjoying small town life. “I get a lot of locals and people stopping in from Lewistown, Great Falls, Fort Benton, Stanford,” she says of her clientele, “But when the weather’s good, they come from all over.”
Hunters arrive in the fall. “We have three trees out back with outlets in them, so they can hook campers up right out there if they want.” Last October I stopped in for lunch and visited with a group of antelope hunters from North Dakota. “We’ve been staying out back for a week and have eaten every meal here,” one of them told me, his mouth watering. “Amy’s made us Pork Roast, Stuffed Sicilian Steak…she even gave us Brie with blackberries!”
Wentz has definitely taken the menu up several notches. I would have never dreamed that the Coyote Nowhere place my parents used to bring me to for burgers and steaks would one day be serving sushi! “Friday night we always have a fish or seafood special, and it’s fresh…not fried,” says Wentz, though Fried Jumbo Shrimp is a staple on her menu—as is every cut of steak imaginable, salads, and made-from-scratch Chicken Alfredo. “For example, this Friday I’m making Grilled Shrimp & Lobster with Herbed Penne Pasta.
Dinner specials on Fridays and Saturdays include potato or pasta (whatever goes with that particular dish) and salad bar. “On these nights, my salad bar has twelve to fourteen items on it, and not just homemade salads. I do a cheese tray, homemade focaccia bread. Sometimes I do sushi.”
The menu has Rocky Mountain Oysters and a long list of burgers. “Ten—to be exact,” declares Wentz. Perhaps best of all, her fries are han-cut, and those big and juicy hamburgers are hand-pattied in the kitchen. There’s a Portobello & Brie Burger and one called The Heart Attack. “It’s topped with a fried egg, sausage patty, sautéed onions and peppers, bacon, and cheddar cheese,” explains Wentz. “That one’s pretty popular, believe it or not.” She also makes a Square Butte Reuben: thinly sliced rib eye with sautéed onions, mushrooms, sour kraut, thousand island dressing and melted cheese. “That thing is almost a foot long!” she exclaims.
The menu alone would bowl over any wayward Foodie, but so does the decor. The building, built in 1901, has very low ceilings. Although a few beer posters and bumper stickers that were inherited from the previous owners hang behind the bar, most of the barn wood walls showcase the artwork of Phyllis Dickson, who grew up nearby on the Four Sisters Ranch. Now in her 80’s, Dickson divides her time between Square Butte and Santa Fe. “Phyllis brings new painting in when she arrives every summer,” says Wentz, adding that Dickson mainly paints from photographs. “Her subjects are all locals and regular customers, except for Marilyn Monroe and Butch & Sundance,” explains Wentz. “She says she won’t take any money for her art, because then it would be a job.”
Hmmmm….Wentz charges a mere $12.50 to $16.50 for Friday and Saturday night dinner specials, which include the extensive salad bar. Do I detect a kindred philosophy at play?