From the Mouths of Babes: A Family Visit to Burger Bob’s

Sunday Jul. 31st, 2011

I am completely in the dark regarding the history of Burger Bob’s, though one pass through and it’s easy to assume this restaurant is a local institution. We Yates like institutions. We also like traditions.

Hailing from Bigfork, we have long practiced the tradition of going to the “Garden Bar” for “a burger and a beer.” Bringing guests to the Garden was as routine as heading up to Glacier…because above all, we Yates really like to sink our teeth into a good hamburger. That said, my conversation with three grandkids on the way from Gallatin Field Airport the other day went something like this:

Me: We’re going to make a tradition of going directly to Burger Bob’s every time you come to visit.

Ellen (12): Who are you and what have you done with our grandmother?

Ben (8): Is that the place with the sign, “Sorry We’re Open?”

John (6): Are you going to let us eat French fries?

Ben: I thought you wouldn’t take us to those kinds of places, Gram.

Me: I’m not talking about fast food, Benjamin; this is different. Papa and I ate there once and I think you’ll like it.
John: Are you going to let us eat French fries?

Me: We’re going to taste lots of their food because YOU guys are going to help me with a review of the place.

Ellen: Who are you and what have you done with our grandmother?

And so it was that in the midst of a fierce storm, two cars of Yates unloaded and ran through thick rain to arrive at Burger Bob’s like a horde of marauding Huns. We were hungry, our excitement level buried the needle at “extreme,” and we all talked at once. Loudly. Give us a spear and we’d bring down a water buffalo if we had to: with only a bag of Delta peanuts under their belts, our son and his kids were ready to gnaw the cover off the menus. Food was critical, especially for two little boys who could easily be nicknamed Hoover and Kirby.

Sarah came to our rescue. Sarah was working the front of the house by herself that day, which is restaurant lingo for: Sarah was the only server in the joint. Kind of a panicky feeling for us as we six sat on stools, steam from our wet clothing vaporizing around us like heavy fog at Hogwarts. Cheery and upbeat, Sarah welcomed us, by gawd did we welcome her, and a new tradition locked into place. “Going to Bob’s for a burger” instantly became our new mantra. This said, our order was for six of Bob’s Original Burgers, with personal preference thrown in. Six variations soon appeared at our table: some with all the trimmings, some with bacon, some as plain as vanilla ice cream (our Ben), some adventurous, some spicy. This in spite of brisk business and full tables, worthy of mention since receiving a meal as requested is an oddity these days. Food was presented by the noble Sarah, who magically created three delectable milk shakes from one order, each complete with a thick cap of whipping cream. Johnny was delighted in my reasonable compromise of sweet potato fries, Ellen and Ben split fried mozzarella sticks. Not a designated driver, our son happily guzzled some good Montana draught. It was only after we’d stuffed ourselves that we raised our heads to look around. The restaurant had a rustic, Western look, with an ample nod to local sports teams, not too different from the Garden other than the obvious Bobcat/Griz thing going on.

Boys being boys, John and Ben followed some inner tracking system directly to the adjoining game room, proffering us (to no avail) with hints galore about acquiring pocket change to play a game. Little boys being little boys, John hit the bathroom regularly, stopping along the way to chat up everyone in the place…”my Gram bought us French fries well not really French fries but kind of like French fries they’re made from sweet potatoes like the kind my mother and father make only better does your grandmother let you eat French fries I’m from Virginia and we’re making a tradition did you get caught in the rain?” Something
like that.

Stuffed like ticks, we adults were sated, pleased with service, quality, and taste and maybe a bit smug about “our new place.’ Was this a good new tradition and would we be back? Yes. And now the children:

Ellen: “My expectations were pretty much fulfilled. I loved the “Sorry We’re Open” sign. I felt that Sarah was very accommodating. I didn’t find the food amazing, but certainly good enough. The burger was my favorite—very classic. The milk shake was a close second but a little bit sweet toward the end.” (This comment drew howls of disagreement from Ben, who as Ellen says, has a sweet tooth that takes up half his mouth.) “The music was very perfect volume, nice enough to listen to but did not distract. The bathroom was not very nice. I would love to turn this into a tradition.”

Ben: “I was very excited because the sign said “Sorry We’re Open.” It was pretty clean but it looked old time. I liked that there was a game in the next room that was like target practice where you shoot animals for meat. The food was good and filling. I loved the mozzarella sticks. The walls of the bathroom were, you know, wrinkly and a little dirty. I would definitely go back.”

John: “The place was clean and nice and people looked like they were happy. The sweet potato fries were even better than Mommy and Daddy’s. The bathroom kind of had a lot of trash on the floor. I really like Burger Bob’s, Gram. I hope we go there a lot.”

If you haven’t been to Burger Bob’s yet, maybe you’d like to make a tradition of your own. Ask for Sarah, and remember to bring pocket change for the game room.
Burger Bob’s is located at 39 W Main St, Bozeman MT. Hours of operation are11am-9pm Sun-Thur and 11am-10pm Friday and Saturday.

Cynthia Yates cut her teeth in the restaurant business, ran a café in the middle of nowhere, hosted a popular wine group, and was active in the Slow Food movement. An author of several lifestyle books, she has been known to eat on a regular basis.