The Roving Diner: Billings’ Burger Dive and Bozeman’s Cateye Cafe


I am taking a break this week from my regular blog (the sauté classes will resume next blog) to tell you about some of the places that Amy and I ate on my recent road trip to Billings and parts thereabout. I probably wouldn’t have thought too much about it especially after the first night of mediocre Chinese food in Helena but there were three other places that really stood out for various reasons, all deserving of a mention.

As most of you know I am an Italian chef. I am not one of those hyper-critical “take no prisoners” type of chef, that believes if I didn’t do it, it can’t be good. I want to enjoy myself when I go out to eat. Even if it isn’t the best, unless a meal is poorly prepared, or the service is incredibly bad or there is something that really strikes me as wrong, I will rarely say anything to the negative.

That being said, the same is true in reverse. If I find something that I like, I certainly want to let folks know, not only that I liked or disliked it, but why. The last blog was about the Café Regis in Red Lodge MT, which I consider to be one of the most progressive restaurants I have seen in ages.

In Billings we went looking for a burger. We had driven past a place next to Jakes’ Downtown called The Burger Dive a day earlier so we decided to give it a try. It is located in Downtown Billings at 114 N. 27th St. (406) 281-8292.

The Burger Dive at 114 N. 27th St. located Next to Jake’s in Downtown Billings

It would probably be enough to tell you that they have an assortment of delicious burgers and hot dogs, real potato French fries and hand dipped milk shakes. 

Scrumptious burgers and hot dogs served with real potato French fries.


Did we mention HAND DIPPED Milkshakes? YUM!

While I had an absolutely tasty burger, hand pattied, juicy but not bloody, and served with a roasted poblano pepper, and the fries plentiful enough that Amy and I shared them, there is something to be said for a great milkshake. I have long believed that if you can’t make a good vanilla shake you shouldn’t make shakes at all. Creamy, thick and drinkable through a straw, their shakes are classically perfect. What really makes me want to tell you about The Burger Dive is the inside story.

I get told an awful lot by people, that they have often thought of going into the restaurant business themselves. My first question is always: “Have you ever worked in restaurants?”  The answer is often times” “No, but I’m a pretty good cook and it looks like fun.” I, of course then want to suggest that they hit their head repeatedly with a hammer until they either lose consciousness or come to their senses.

Owners Brad and Andi Halsten came from a background where they worked with troubled youth.

The Burger Dive Owners Brad and Andi Halsten

They thought it would be fun to own a restaurant even though it was not a business they had worked in. Brad and his Dad figured they could run it themselves but soon after opening realized they weren’t going to be enough. Enter Andi and a staff (Brad’s Dad still works there too.)

As if to prove me wrong, they are succeeding and loving the restaurant business. What is it that they did right? It is easy to see from my perspective. First they opened in a spot where they don’t have to invent traffic. With office buildings all around and being within walking distance of them the traffic was already there. They kept their menu simple, allowing them inventory control and they didn’t try to do foods that they had no familiarity with.

Being downtown in Billings they saw themselves as a lunchtime business and thusly close at 4 p.m. giving them a life outside of the restaurant. Their restaurant was clean, the staff was friendly, the owners were there working and I hope smiling all the way to the bank.


We stopped in Bozeman on the way home. The choice came down to two restaurants for lunch. We actually went to the first one (a deli) but found their menu pretty basic and uninteresting so we left and went to the Cateye Café.

We walked up the steps to a check point at the top step that had a sign instructing us to “Wait Here”. While waiting I brushed several scraps of food and who knows what else off of the dining area floor and back into the kitchen with my foot. I guess if I was going to tell people to wait somewhere I would make sure they aren’t staring at garbage on the floor. Regardless, we were quickly led into a funky, in a cool way, dining room by a smiling server.

She promptly told us a little of the buildings’ history as an old telephone company and brought us water at our request. We went through the menu. I ordered a Homemade Chicken Pot Pie and Amy had a Quinoa Salad.

Granted we were there in mid-afternoon and it wasn’t very busy but the volume of noise coming from the kitchen certainly overshadowed our conversation at the table. In addition to the general kitchen clatter, we could hear every word that the cooks and servers said.

I noticed on the table a sheet of paper the proclaimed “The Way of the Cateye”. It was a set of 20 rules that one must observe to eat at the Cateye. If I had seen it before I went in, I never would have eaten there.

Maybe they meant it as tongue in cheek and I just don’t get it. I have spent over 40 years in this business and find rules like “Order off the menu. That is why we have one”, “We don’t and won’t poach your eggs” and “If you have a fork then you don’t need a spoon to stir your coffee” condescending, arrogant and insulting.

I believe that it is our obligation as restaurateurs, feeding the public to try to meet their needs when they are dining and not slap them with stupid rules. Amy’s salad was delicious. My chicken pot pie tasted good but was more crust (I’m thinking bisquick) than filling and then was served with 2 pieces of totally falling apart corn bread. It was like bread with bread, more bread and some gravy.

I would have ordered a salad instead of the cornbread as a side but there was another stupid rule about substitution that I am not sure I even understood. “We will gladly substitute nothing for anything, or we might substitute something for something, but we will never substitute something for nothing, (no guarantees, ever.” Ridiculous.

I am sure many people love this and find it charming but I think Kev and Tina (who I believe to be the owners) should get a clue. The way of the Bob has one rule here which is: “I won’t be back.”  Here’s a complete list of their rules.


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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.