Maiden Missoula: Why Drive to Butte for Pasties?


One of the first questions new Missoulians usually ask is, “Why is Higgins Avenue closed?” The answer is almost always, “We’re having a parade!”

I love Missoula for using just about any excuse to throw a parade and for being able to stretch just about any holiday into a week-long celebration. This year, we began St. Patrick’s Week on Saturday, five days before the actual holiday, with a great parade under blue skies and sunshine. What a great start to the week celebrating all things Irish!

One of the longest standing Irish traditions in Missoula is LEAVING town. A rite of passage for most UM students is the yearly pilgrimage to Butte, America.

My husband went annually through his college years.  Even my sister would drive from Spokane every year to drink green beer at the M&M and try to stay out of trouble.  For those of you who have made the trip, you know it’s a party like no other. The thing is, Butte-ites know how to throw down! And for 30-something moms with kiddos, like me, I’m not sure I can keep up. (You are allowed to call me a wuss.)

Even though Missoula does St. Patty’s totally right (check out the local Irish band Malarkey) there are some things that Butte just does better. Like pasties.

For the newbies or non-Irish, a pasty (said “past-ee”) is a little pocket of heaven: Meat, potatoes, onions, and maybe a carrot or two lovingly stuffed in a flaky crust and made even better smothered in salty brown gravy. Pasties were a portable, homemade lunch that the miners could take with them down below the mountains of Butte.

Now you can make these at home for sure, like my mother did, with ground beef, carrots, and potatoes. While they’re delicious, and no one cooks like your own mother, there is something about the real deal. Huge, heavy hand pies stuffed with tender chunks of beef, not that ground stuff. Even though I’m a little leery to drive to Butte for St. Pat’s in my old age, I can walk or drive a few blocks from my South Reserve Street office to a tiny little diner tucked away on Sussex Street just a block off South Avenue: Lisa’s Pasty Pantry.

When you walk in to the very unassuming building, you will feel like you are in Uptown Butte. (Or my Grandma Mahoney’s kitchen!) Order your dinner and sit at a tiny little table or call ahead and pick up a few for takeout – way more satisfying than a burger or pizza. And you are on your own if you order the tasty little cocktail sized ones; I’m sure I eat more than I should of those little bite-sized wonders!

Lisa’s pasties are so satisfying. You may have missed their corned beef dinner on March 17, but a simple pasty dinner is always a great weeknight meal. Make a lunch date and pretend you’re in Butte for an hour. Or pick up pasties even better than your grandma could make for dinner tonight. Save yourself the drive to Butte and still enjoy some real Montana Soul Food!

A word of advice – don’t forget the gravy.

Watch for Leah’s weekly Maiden Missoula reviews. Feel free to comment below and let her know what YOU make in Missoula!  Back to Maiden Missoula home blog page.

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Leah Lewis is living the dream on Missoula’s Northside with her handsome and handy husband Mark, daughters Zoe and Mila, two dogs and a cat.  She enjoys making things on her sewing machine, with her knitting needles and in her kitchen.  You can listen to her play today’s pop music every day on Fresh 104.5 FM, or listen to her podcast about hundred or more year old pop music on her classical music podcast at with Darko Butorac from the Missoula Symphony.  You might catch Leah and her family relaxing in their backyard, cheering on the Missoula Osprey or rooting for the Lady Griz on any given weekend.