The Porter House Restaurant: Dining on a Human Scale

Thursday May. 31st, 2012

I’m sitting at an outside café table in a pinch-me-enchanting Bavarian village just on the edge of Munich. It is late April, and in true Euro-style, a blanket drapes the back of my chair, lest I get catch a draft. This café is the equivalent of a fast food joint, but I’m drinking my coffee from a porcelain cup, with a real spoon at my disposal. My water comes in a glass, no Styrofoam, paper, or plastic in sight. (My water also comes without chlorine or fluoride, which are against the law in Germany.)

There are flowers on the table, which is covered with a starched white tablecloth, and I am expected to linger over this measly cup of coffee, which cost as much as I’d pay in the States. All of this is NORMAL in Bavaria, something I have come to call “living on a human scale.” And this sentiment is precisely why the Porter House at the Gallatin Gateway Inn is my favorite restaurant by an Alpine landslide: consider it “dining” on a human scale. That the Porter House nests within a grand old dame of a building adds to its appeal–just walking through the doors of this Inn delights all senses.

Seduced by its beauty and glorious past as a high-toney railroad hotel, Charlie and Bonnie White bought the Gallatin Gateway Inn a few years back. At the time the Inn was slipping away, edging toward disrepair, and was losing its verve. Faded glory. Charlie and Bonnie rolled up their sleeves, cut the grass, polished the silverware, and flung the doors open to bring in fresh air and energy. They haven’t looked back. Here is a place where staff is considered family, the Inn is considered home, and hospitality has become an expression of grace freely given. Their Porter House Restaurant offers exceptional food, raising nearly all its produce during growing season. The rockstar kitchen crew dishes out homey plates with a nod toward edgy and trendy gastronomy. Presentation is spot-on without capitulating to Avant garde goofiness or the recent “less is more” fad. You get a good meal at the Porter House. The wait-staff is efficient, friendly, and accommodating without pandering. They are there to serve and do so with élan—no need to pester here with inane questions: How is it? Do you need anything? (Pul-leeze! You should know if it’s okay; you should sense if I need something…let me eat in peace.) The bar is a comfortable place that offers a surprising assortment of specialty drinks ala dry-witted and ever-attentive Rob, who infuses alcohol with fun flavors and makes all syrups from scratch. A wine flight is in the offing. Count me in.

While lighter summer entrees and creative new appetizers will soon debut, the Porter House has a few permanent stars on its seasonally adjusted menu. Imagine yourself sitting under the evening sky amid twinkle lights on their large back deck, sipping a “Gallatin Gateway” (champagne and huckleberry syrup, over ice), and lingering over their signature mac n’ cheese, their insanely yummy pork chop, or their newly introduced steak salad. And if you are feeling plucky, why not challenge Rob to create a drink just for you? (By the way, the “Hugo” [Prosecco, elderberry syrup and mint leaves, over ice] is all the rage in Munich.)

Though the price point is what you would expect in a finer restaurant, costs are astonishingly reasonable considering service, food, and atmosphere. Charlie and his staff work hard to keep the Porter House wallet-friendly… and, surprisingly, child-friendly. Which brings me to kids. Which brings me to one of my pet peeves; namely, the predictable pap that is offered on children’s menus. I am irked that we have generations of children whose palates are not developed, who are fed hot dogs, French fries, and chicken strips with the consistency of cardboard. Not here. The Porter House has a sensible menu for children, its penne pasta dish most favored by the younger crowd. That a place like this welcomes all ages is telling: in spite of its pedigree and heritage, the Porter House is not fussy, but is a comfortable hang-out–many a time I’ve gone for their unsurpassed burger after an afternoon of outside work. Charlie reminds: You needn’t order an entrée to eat at the Porter House. Appetizer? Salad? Dessert? Why not? And dress code? Anything goes. “This is MONTANA,” Charlie declares with passion, “just as long as you have shoes and a shirt, who cares?” I’ve seen mobs of people swarm the place after a day in Big Sky, shuffling-in clad in nothing but ski clothes and rosy cheeks.

The Gallatin Gateway Inn is a well-known venue for weddings, conferences, and banquets, and it should be. It feels good to be in a pinch-me-enchanting country inn just on the edge of Bozeman. The Porter House Restaurant adds an important dimension to the Inn and makes it easy for all of us to go there without benefit of wedding invitation. Charlie and Bonnie now offer jazz on Tuesdays and will open for lunch on weekends during the summer. They also offer fun events throughout the year. St. Paddy’s Day? Erin go braugh! High tea? One lump or two, Madame? Liquor tastings from the distillery down the highway? Pull up a stool and sit a spell, Pardner. Their Facebook page not only informs of special events, but displays pictures of dishes offered, provides an opportunity to make a reservation, and even offers road construction reports. (Don’t forget it’s an inn with thirty-three rooms. Think: special anniversary.)
The Porter House Restaurant at the Gallatin Gateway Inn is a class act without pretense or puff. It excels on all points and makes for a satisfying and memorable dining experience. Bring a date, bring the family, or go alone and chat-up Rob at the bar; this place is not to be missed…and did I happen to mention it has starched white tablecloths?

Refer to this column during the month of June and receive a 10% discount, compliments of Charlie & Bonnie White.

Open at 5 PM   every day, last seating 10 PM;   11 — 1 lunch Saturdays and Sundays during summer.

The Porter House Restaurant
76405 Gallatin Road
Gallatin Gateway

With a degree in Nutrition Education, and special certification in Sacred and Traditional Foods, Cynthia takes food very, very seriously. She is especially passionate about the health (and palates!) of children.