A Review of Helena

Ok, so not Helena, exactly.  A review of a few places we visited when we were there recently.  Generally, I’m pretty biased against Helena.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it per se, I’m just so in love with Missoula that it’s hard for me to give Helena a fair shot.  I grew up there, and there’s generally better restaurants, more things to do and cooler people in Missoula.  I kid, I kid!  Oh, and hippies!  I love the hippies. (I’d never kid about that)

Anyway, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find a better range of local restaurants and cafes than historically present.  Helena seems very corporate to me, and I think that’s where the turn-off comes from.  Most of the local places I frequented in high school closed down quickly after graduation, and all that was left were chain style restaurants and short-lived coffee shops. Not a ton of healthy eating options, either.

There are a few notable exceptions to my biases:

Riley’s Irish Pub
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Although the menu is not groundbreaking, the food is predictably, consistently good. The strong Irish roots of this menu don’t smother it, and fresh ingredients seem to be a top priority. Not vegetarian friendly, but not many Irish American restaurants are. (Fortunately for me, I’m not actually vegetarian :))

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The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, and I love the tribute to their Irish heritage.

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And like me, the cooks at Riley’s aren’t as concerned with presentation so much as taste. My “BLAT” sandwich (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) and salad with poppy seed vinaigrette was exactly how I thought a well done pub sandwich should be.

Scenic Brew Coffee
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I absolutely love when baristas draw pretty things in my lattes. It highlights a standard of care in their work and their products.

Bright, airy and welcoming, I felt like this was the kind of place that a person could break out a laptop and work all day, or chat with friends (and sisters) for hours.
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Plus, how cute is this guy?
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A moose after my own heart.

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I’m a sucker for funny food/drink names. And any place that can make my son’s face do this:

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gets an A in my book. The barista was incredibly friendly and polite, and he even let my son watch him make the designs in all of our drinks. We ended up coming here more than once during our visit, and it was excellent every time.

The Bagel Company
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The Bagel Company has been around forever, or at least, as long as I can remember. Freshly made bagels, every day; tons of different kinds of cream cheeses, ranging from savory to sweet.  And I’ve recently discovered how good their coffee is. One of my sisters used to work here, and I’ll never forget the time she introduced me to the cinnamon sugar bagel with cream cheese frosting. To die for!

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Look at those big chunks of sugar! Not the healthiest bagel, but definitely one of the tastiest.

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We were there for lunch, so that’s why the baskets look a little empty. Trust me, if you’re there earlier than noon, that display case is stacked to the brim.

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I got adventurous and tried something new, and I loved it! This was the hummus and salsa sandwich on a sesame seed bagel. The bagels are soft, yet dense and chewy, the hummus was warm and so creamy!  The salsa had enough kick to entertain my tastebuds without burning them off. This is a great place to meet friends for breakfast or lunch.

So there you have it! There are actually a lot more places in Helena that I’d like to tell you about, but I just didn’t have the time on my trip. Helena can’t be all that bad with places like these, right? 😉

If you ever pass through, or you live there, let me know your favorite foodie hangouts in Helena. I’d love to discover some more hidden gems.

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