The Roving Diner Bitterroot Edition: The Wild Mare and The Catered Table Restaurants


I love the Bitterroot Valley. From the first time I set foot in Montana back on January 13th of 1976 I have loved the Bitterroot. I was a baker back in the day in Jackson Hole Wyoming at Bru’s Buns and Breads (also known at the time as the Hippie Bakery on King Street).

A guy I knew in Jackson was headed to Kalispell to visit his brother. I had friends living in Hamilton and asked him if I could hitch a ride north when he went, to which he said yes. I gave notice on my job and worked my last shift (3 a.m. to 11 a.m.) the morning that we left. Johnny picked me up at the bakery. We stopped by my house to pick up my stuff, said goodbye to my brother Nick and our other roommates and we were off.

When we left Jackson there were 6 foot snowbanks. I had not seen pavement, grass or dirt in a couple of months and pretty much figured it would be the same in Montana. I slept the whole way, finally waking up between Sula and Darby. It was brown outside, not white but brown. I saw dirt, grass and a dry road ahead of us. For a moment I considered that I had died and gone to heaven.

After settling with my friends in Hamilton, I went looking for work in the area restaurants. The dinner restaurants in the area, at that time, were steak and deep fried seafood houses. Ethnicity in dining was nonexistent. I did some work clearing brush on a ranch in the Little Sleeping Child Valley with my friends and then was offered a job touring with my college friend singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist Frank Angeloni, so I left for a year and a half (see my earlier blogs on the road to Red Pies).

Fast forward to 2014…

There is some dining to be had in the Bitterroot these days.

Amy, my paramour, sous chef, and travel partner and I have taken a couple of drives down to the Bitterroot in the last couple of weeks. The first on New Years day found us in Corvallis right around dinner time. We were headed for Hamilton to look for something to eat.

We passed a little sandwich sign advertising the best steak in Western Montana two blocks to the north at the Wild Mare Restaurant. Amy doesn’t eat a lot of meat but recognizes that I love a good steak so off we went with her hoping they would have a decent salad that she could order for her dinner.

The Wild Mare

Boy, were we in for a surprise at The Wild Mare. In addition to a nice steak menu there were salads, pastas, poultry, pork, seafood dishes and a variety of ethnic taste treats. The room was comfortable, the service excellent and meals delicious. They have a fine compliment of wine and beers to add to the experience. After our dinner we adjourned to the comfort of the couch by the fireplace to finish our wine and enjoy dessert.

Wildmare 1

Owner Pamela Kaye has done a wonderful job of renovating an older building into a wonderful dining establishment. She and her staff ensured that our new year got off to a great start.

On New Years Day we planned on stopping by The Catered Table in Stevensville for dinner on the advice of our friend Sheila Callahan. The door was open so we went in only to find out that they were closed for a private party. I knew several of the people at that party all of whom said that we really needed to come back and try it as soon as we could.

The Catered Table

On Thursday evening we decided to do just that. We took the ride to Stevensville hopeful that it would meet our expectations. Another pleasant surprise was in store for us upon our arrival. This is the quintessential family run restaurant. We were greeted by Kathy Marcus who with her husband Chef Richard, owns the restaurant. She was very friendly and we immediately felt welcome. The dining room was unpretentious and comfortable.

Chef Rich came out to chat with the folks at a neighboring table.  At the conclusion of their visit, I introduced myself and as it turns out he and Kathy were long time customers of Zimorino’s Italian Restaurant in Missoula (the original Red Pies). He gave Amy and me a tour of his sparkling clean kitchen where their son Phil was doing the cooking.

The Catered Table 2

Their menu also featured a full compliment of beef, poultry, seafood, pastas, wines and beers. House specialties include Mac and Cheese which is a four cheese (asiago, gruyere, fontina, & parmesan) sauce with pasta to which you can bacon and/or snow crab). It was another wonderful dining experience and made for another excellent evening in the Bitterroot.

Both of these restaurants have ambitious menus for small towns in Western Montana. This is traditionally beef country and had either of these restaurants been around in the mid 70’s I may have never left. If you are sitting there racking your brain for somewhere different to go out for a meal, I recommend that you consider either of these choices.

Missoulians, take a ride down the valley. Enjoy the ride, the scenery, and a meal that will last in your memory long after you have finished eating it.


Visit the “Taste It” archive or check out Bob’s recipes.


Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a musician with the popular local band Mudfoot and the Dirty Soles, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in his lifetime.