I’m always surprised when friends wrinkle their noses when I say I have to shoot in Billings. What is it about The Magic City that elicits this response? I can cut people some slack if they’ve never been downtown and have only seen, say, King Avenue or 24th. Both of these streets have heavy traffic & box stores and are NOT pedestrian-friendly. But downtown Billings? Montana Avenue? It’s full of great galleries, antique shops and phenomenal dining. (See previous posts on Harper & Madison and Montana Vintage The Downtown Billings Alliance even has a Loan-A-Bike program where you can park and borrow a bike.
Billings is also home to some of Montana’s best restaurants. One of my favorites is so well hidden that out-of-towners may need a GPS to find it. Tucked in an industrial section among auto body shops and warehouses, Café DeCamp takes Slow Food and Farm to Fork concepts to new heights.
Chef Jason Corbridge began seeking vendors before he and his wife Emily, who co-owns the business, bought the building. “Ingredients were definitely the most important thing,” he says. “They provided the framework, and I put a menu together based on what I knew would be available and on the concepts I wanted to implement.”
The website lists over 50 Montana businesses the cafe supports, including Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery, The Montana Wagyu Cattle Company, Lavender Lori and Shane Creek Bison. “And the list grows daily,” says. Jason “Like any craft that has artistry to it, I’m always looking for something new.”
It’s a popular place. Lined with windows and finished with reclaimed wood and metal, the small space is furnished with a hodgepodge of vintage tables and chairs set close together, creating a communal vibe. A “chef’s table”-style bar seats seven, and a spacious patio is open spring to mid-fall.
Certain items on the menu are perennial (like the Real Montana Lamburger with fresh mint, Dried Pear Rings, Smoked Chevre, Balsamic Apricot Syrup, local Bacon and fresh Arugula on toasted Ciabatta with Honey Garlic Aioli & House-cut Potato Chips).
Specials are fresh and change daily. “That’s why I have a daily soup, quiche, fresh catch,” says Jason. “So I have a clean slate and can do whatever I want with it.” (As I write this, the menu is titled “End of Summer/Beginning of Fall.)
They offer both sourdough and savory crepes (like the Migas Parmesana & Chorizo—a Chorizo-stuffed crepe beneath two runny Eggs, Parmesan Breadcrumbs and a Smoked Paprika Romano Tuile topped with Grilled Pico and Parsley Chive Crème Fraiche) as well as lunch items like Strawberry Rhubarb Smoked Turkey Ciabatta (Seder Ridge Turkey, Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Marmalade, Honey Garlic Aioli, Smoked Gouda and local Radish Sprouts on grilled Ciabatta bread with Yoghurt Waldorf Salad and House-cut organic Potato Chips).
Whether Kate from Rosetto Garden calls and says, “Hey, I just picked some pineapple sage and some chard. I’ll bring it down,” or the owner of Beartooth Coffee Roasters—who roasts the café’s custom fair trade, organic house blend—shows up at the back door with coffee beans, Corbridge values the connections he’s made with local purveyors.
“It really matters where it came from and how it was treated,” he says. Jason buys from people who are passionate about what they grow and do, and he matches that passion in the kitchen. That expertise—from farm to fork—comes through in every bite.
NUTS & BOLTS
Café DeCamp – 1404 6th Avenue North. (406) 256-7285. Open Tuesday through Saturday. Lunch 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.; Dinner 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. www.cafedecamp.com