The Haufbrau: A Bozeman Icon
Cassi Miller | Wednesday Feb. 1st, 2017
Locals and transplants alike know there are certain things one must do as rites of passage when you become a citizen of Bozeman. You have to hike the M. In the summertime, you have to float the Madison. You have to attend a Farmer’s Market at Bogert Park. You have to hike to Palisade Falls. In the winter, you have to ski Bridger. Naturally, most Bozeman rites are outdoor activities. But there’s one common denominator that transcends all of these favored adventures. There’s one place everyone goes where, very much like Cheers, everybody knows your name. That Bozeman icon is the Haufbrau.
Just as iconic and well known as the bar itself is the family behind the bar. Or, I guess the better way to phrase that would be the family inside the bar. While Don Frye, Sr., the beloved patriarch of the Frye family and owner of the Hauf, passed way in 2016, his family carries on his legacy and his traditions. So, it was my absolute pleasure to spend a cold, snowy morning with Don Jr. (and his adorable little daughter), Bill, and Cyn at The Filling Station, their other iconic establishment and my ultimate favorite hang in Bozeman. It was as if I cracked the dusty pages of Bozeman lore and stepped back into a time I could only wish to be a part of.
CM: Tell me a bit about the history of your family and the Hauf. How did this all start?
BF: Well, in 1969 dad bought the Hauf. The place had actually opened in 1961 as some sort of Dutch kitchen and before that is was a drive-thru burger joint. In fact, you can still see the lower half of the original drive-thru window on the side of the bar today.
DF: Yeah, that’s basically how it all got started. I actually think even before it was the drive-thru that whole corner was used for church revivals during the ‘20s and ‘30s. I always wondered, if those church people could see what that corner has become, how we’ve turned it into the Barmuda Triangle, I bet they’d be rolling in their graves! But, as for our part in this history, it really all revolved around dad. He enjoyed meeting new people and visiting with people.
CF: Oh yes. He’d leave to run errands or drop off change at the bar and hours later he’d come home and say “I just met the most interesting person.” He’d tell me all about their story and I always enjoyed hearing that from him.
DF: He was just a natural with people and we try to continue that. If people come in more than once, we always try to remember where they are from and something about them. We at least try to get their name and their drink.
CM: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of Bozeman? About the Hauf’s place in Bozeman?
BF: Of course it’s the people. The patrons and the local crowds really make it for us. It’s most of the same guys, the usual suspects, every day. They’ve been coming in here for years. It’s to the point where some of them are like extended family. They like to joke that they paid for our college. The happy hour crowds covered tuition for Don and I. They always like to remind us of that, still to this day.
DF: It’s also about the diversity of the place. Like, every Friday, we get the FWP guys in there. They call it the FWP Friday seminar. It’s the same group of biologists who have been coming there since the early ‘60s, I think. So, when the younger guys come in, the new college fish and wildlife guys, I always direct them to that group. They can ask them questions and learn so much from them right there in the bar. They can ask what’s current and what’s new and just like that connections are made. It becomes a great resource for college kids. They get to intermix with the working crowd, share a drink with each other.
CM: What makes the Haufbrau unique?
DF: Longevity. The class of 1962 started this tradition where each class has a bar table. They’re still doing it in 2016. And every year, people come back, they come specifically to the Hauf, just to check on their class’s place in the bar. It’s that history and legacy that really means something to people. It’s very special for us to be a part of that, too. We’ve seen grandfathers, fathers, kids, three generations from the same family come through there. They have friends and memories there. They all have a story. They remember misspent and well spent youth. We love to be a part of that. We just had a 50-year class reunion in there not too long ago. We’re one of the few places that hasn’t changed in Bozeman.
CM: So, knowing that, what do you want people to experience when they come there?
DF: It’s a good opportunity, a good place to reflect back on the past. They can think about the people who have walked through those doors, all the people who have come and gone. There’s a certain special kind of connection there. Even the bartenders are a part of that. Bars have always been known as sort of community centers. It’s where people come to celebrate the happy times and mourn the sad times. We’re one of the few bars in town who still do wakes. We get those names and drinks, and we help people celebrate life.
CM: We all know and have seen that Bozeman is changing. Where does the Hauf fit into that changing landscape?
DF: Above all, we want to keep the tradition of The Haufbrau alive. It’s kind of a throwback place, one of the few that are left and people really love that. There’s nostalgia in that. We don’t have WiFi there and we probably won’t be getting it. Dad always said it was a place to get away from it all. How can a person get away if they’re scrolling through their phone or someone is calling and texting wondering where they are all the time? It’s the celebration of the old times and the good times. Dad ran it like a family and we want to continue the same.
CM: Did you tell her how you boys started there?
DF: Oh yes, our first job was picking up the parking lot. We were probably about 6, 7, 8 and we’d come down in the morning and pick up the trash in the parking lot as our first job and as a way to help out. Then, when we were about 10, we moved into the kitchen. We’ve worked every position in that bar. So, we’ve moved up or down depending on who you ask. Ha! But, we want to continue that tradition with our own families.
CM: So any upcoming events in February? Favorite drinks or food of the patrons?
DF: Well of course everyone has to come down to the Hauf for the Lanny burger. That’s the one with the BBQ sauce. I would definitely say that’s our most popular. It’s kind of fun to be a part of the history of Bozeman in that way. When people come back to town, they always say they have to go get Pickle Barrel and they have to have a Lanny Burger with us. It’s one of those things people have to do to check it off the Bozeman list. We also have, as always, music seven nights a week. We’ll be running a special for skiers with Red Lodge Ales. Show us your ski pass and you can buy one, get one free with the Red Lodge brews.
The Haufbrau is a necessary Bozeman experience. Not only is it necessary, it’s unforgettable. If you’ve never been in for lunch, believe all the rumors. The burgers are delicious. If you’ve never been in for the live music, round up a posse and stop in any night of the week. You can bask in the glow of the neon lights and reflect on the fact that you’re engaging in one of the most unique, longstanding pieces of Bozeman’s history. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.