Gallatin River Lodge
Taylor Owens | Wednesday Nov. 1st, 2023
For over twenty years, the Gallatin River Lodge has nestled on the Gallatin River, in the forested area accessed via Thorpe Road, west of Bozeman. Originally a popular spot for those on a fly-fishing trip, it is now open to locals and travelers alike to enjoy a comfortable stay and a Montana-inspired meal.
The perfect place to end up after an adventure in the mountains, the Gallatin River Lodge’s dining room is serving hearty dishes this fall and winter season. Menu items like cheese fondue, crispy bone marrow nuggets, smoked trout dip, and the cowboy poutine pay homage to Big Sky country, while the location itself is rustic, cozy, and matches its environment.
I sat down with Gallatin River Lodge’s general manager, Kathryn Bartlett, over appetizers to chat about all the delicious dishes coming out of the lodge’s kitchen, as well as all of the happenings to look forward to this coming season.
Taylor Owens: How long has the Gallatin River Lodge been located here?
Kathryn Bartlett: The original lodge building was built about 20 years ago by a local family, the Gambles. They purchased the 20-acre property and then built the lodge to draw fly-fishing business. So, it was originally envisioned as a fly-fishing lodge. Steve Gamble was the original owner, and he had an outfitting license and was a guide and would run fly-fishing trips out of this boutique kind of functional lodge.
TO: Has it most recently been converted into being a restaurant?
KB: No, the restaurant was always part of the original vision. It’s a cornerstone of our vision going forward into the future as well. The lodge and the restaurant each share about 50% of the business. We have a small number of rooms. And then we have a restaurant that’s currently a dinner house and is open five nights a week.
TO: Do people still come and stay to fly-fish?
KB: Yes. It’s not a part of our history we want to lose. So, we welcome fly-fishers, national park explorers, general Montana summer explorers, and winter activity explorers. We are open year-round.
TO: How would you describe the cuisine at GRL?
KB: Our executive chef, Jorge Morales, joined us in August. His vision is kind of a local farm-to-table presentation of authentic Montana cuisine. So it’s an elevated dinner experience, but we also have a really great burger on the menu, and an excellent happy hour. So, it’s very approachable for the person who’s the fisherman or woman looking to just come in and have a great meal after a long day fishing on the river, or someone who’s celebrating a wedding anniversary. You can get both experiences here on the same night.
TO: What would you like people to experience when they walk through your doors?
KB: With Bozeman expanding and growing, we really want to carve out this truly authentic Montana experience. We use that word a lot when we describe what we do and how we craft a message around it. But just the beautiful location. I want people to feel at ease, to feel relaxed, and that the vibe is very peaceful. I think that is really important—and is something we achieve. I hear that from our guests, both restaurant guests and lodging guests, that we’re so close to town, but it feels like you’re so far out of town. You’ve really gotten away, whether that’s just for a night of dining or for an overnight.
TO: What menu items do regulars keep coming back for?
KB: Chef Jorge just released his new late fall, early winter menu. His menu will rotate and change seasonally as he gets inspired by different ingredients. Currently, we have fondue on our happy hour menu, which is the only restaurant in town I know of that’s doing that. We’re going to carry that through the winter. It’s a cheese fondue. Crispy bone marrow nuggets is one of the more unique and well-received items on our shareables menu. Chef Jorge has a great process where he clarifies the bone marrow and then fries up these little bone marrow nuggets. And from there you build it yourself. A lot of our dishes are interactive in terms of a social dining experience. So like fondue, you’re interacting with the other people at your table; with the bone marrow, you’re building your crostini. He also has a great vegetable gateau that is filled with woodland mushrooms. It’s incredibly savory. It’s a vegetarian dish with house-made Romesco. And that’s a really big crowd pleaser, too.
TO: Do you have a favorite menu item?
KB: The beef cheek bourguignon is my favorite. It is a perfect dish for fall and winter. He’s taken a classic French dish and put his own Montana twist on it by using the beef cheek. And the presentation is very elegant; I think it’s very satisfying to eat, and to look at.
TO: What would you say makes the Gallatin River Lodge unique in the local food scene?
KB: The landscape of Bozeman restaurants is kind of changing right now. We really don’t feel like there’s another place that’s comparable to what we have to offer. You have the Main Street restaurants downtown. And that has a place in the restaurant scene, the energy of being downtown, and that kind of vibe. But for us out here, it is about slowing down. It’s about having a really great meal experience. I mean, there’s not a lot of glitz and glam. We’re very rustic. But we want to make sure that it’s a quality experience. And so that’s what we’re going for. Quality and consistency.
TO: What do you personally enjoy about being part of the greater Bozeman community?
KB: I enjoy the people. I think everyone is super kind and friendly. And really, I mean, when they get to come out here, they’re kind of blown away that this is here. I think the landscape speaks for itself. So that’s really nice. I enjoy being part of a lodge that has such an outdoor focus with fly-fishing and hiking; and, this winter, on cross-country skiing. If the snow permits, there will be a cross-country ski course out on the property here. A lot of what we do as a lodge is focused on the outdoor experience, and being a great place to get a good meal at the end of your adventure. And to have a good night’s sleep to rest up to adventure more tomorrow. I like being part of that because it’s kind of how I live my life too, with a focus on the outdoors.
TO: Will the cross-country paths be open to the public?
KB: They will be. Yep, it will be open to the public. We’re still in the planning process with Bridger Ski Foundation and a Nordic group in town, and talking with Crosscut. We haven’t ever put in a track here. So, it’ll be a new endeavor for the lodge. But it will be open to the public and it will be a free amenity if you’re staying with us.
TO: Do you have anything coming up at the lodge that you would like readers to know about?
KB: Our happy hour is something I would love people to know about. It is every day that we’re open: Tuesday through Saturday from 4-6 pm. There are some really delicious items. We’re doing some killer drink specials with it: $5 Old Fashions, $5 glasses of house wine, and $25 bottles of house wines. Also, this winter we are going to bring back a Christmas Eve prix fixe meal. In the lodge’s history off and on, it has been kind of known as a great spot for Easter brunch, Mother’s Day brunch, and Christmas Eve. We haven’t done Christmas Eve in the last couple years. But this year we’re going to have a special Christmas Eve dinner. The lodge is always decorated beautifully for the holiday season. So, it’s a great time of year to come by the lodge, especially if you’re local, because it’s super festive. And then just this winter, the cross-country skiing thing is going to be new out here. There isn’t a cross-country course on this side of town, so I’ve been getting some really positive, enthusiastic participants to help me kind of plan this out. So, that’ll be exciting. And, really, just the restaurant. We’re here. We’re open. We’re open to the public. We’re not a private lodge. I think there’s a little bit of confusion in the community with that as well. We’re here.
TO: Is there anything that the Gallatin River Lodge has in place to give back to the community?
KB: Yeah, we work with different local charities, and we support by participating in auction giveaways, giving free night stays, gift cards, things like that, so people can get more traction with their auction items. We are supporting the Mason Moore Foundation, which is a local organization that supports our police departments in the area and in the more rural departments. We’re working with different schools, and organizations like Ducks Unlimited and GVLT, partnering with them in land management and different things like that. We definitely are looking for more opportunities to give back, but we’ve got a few that we’re working with.
Check out the Gallatin River Lodge this fall and winter season for a delicious meal, classic drinks and cocktails, and a beautiful view of Bozeman.