A Legacy of Memorable Eateries that Lives on to This Day
When trying to find the best food in Butte, you have to consider its origins. Butte is a city born out of immigration. People from around the world — Ireland, England, Lebanon, Canada, Finland, Austria, Italy, China, Montenegro, and Mexico — flocked to the city in the late 19th century in the hopes of creating a better life for themselves and their families.
This immigration not only shaped Butte’s culture but also created a legacy of rich, unique food that lives on today. Walkthrough Butte’s historic uptown and open your taste buds to all the city has to offer.
Here are five classic joints to get you started.
M&M Bar and Cafe
Opened in 1890, the diner used to serve miners 24/7 — its various owners ceremoniously tossing away the keys at the beginning of their tenure. From diner, to saloon, to gambling house (with a brief stint as a speakeasy during prohibition) the M&M has had many different faces but has been a staple of the community and a gathering place for its residents for over 100 years.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the M&M has been refurbished with classic diner Art Deco and can be spotted down the street with its glowing neon sign. It’s known for its burger, but also makes mean French Toast and delicious Bloody Mary’s.
Front Street Market
The quintessential neighborhood grocery that opened nearly 30 years ago is the heart of Butte, serving specialty, delectable foods that draws Butte citizens and tourists alike. Front Street operates a full-service Italian deli (with Cajun influences), known for smoked meats, a wide selection of gourmet cheeses, homemade sandwiches, wonderful pie and thousands of bottles of wine. Plus, the personality of its owners and friendly demeanor of the staff make the small little market a treat to visit.
Pekin Noodle Parlor
Built in 1909, Pekin Noodle Parlor is the oldest operating Chinese restaurant in the United States, and it’s located right in Butte! Rich in history, the Pekin Noodle Parlor stands as one of the last remaining properties from the original Chinatown neighborhood in the Butte-Anaconda Historic District. In the late 19th century, gold mining brought a wave of Chinese immigrants to Butte. Unfortunately, anti-Chinese propaganda took place and spread throughout labor unions, which eventually forced Chinese immigrants out of the mining industry and eventually, out of Butte. The Tam family came to Butte from China in the 1860s. However, instead of being forced out of Butte, the Tam family, fortunately, had help from their California-born first-generation relative who opened the noodle parlor. They then became integrated into the family business.
With dainty Chinese lanterns illuminating the ceiling and dining furniture dating back to 1916, you’ll feel like you’ve walked into a different time zone while munching on some yaka mein and chop suey. The historic spot has also been known to host illegal gambling gathers in its past.
Known as the Wop Chop, Freeway’s legendary pork sandwiches were once the favorite of the daredevil, Evel Knievel, and now the favorite of the entire city (which is saying something in a city full of pork sandwiches). Located off I-90, the diner opened in 1962 and still uses a top-secret, family recipe for its sandwich. Like Joe’s Pasty Shop, Freeway was showcased on the Travel Channel. It is a favorite for both tourists and Butte citizens alike.
One Butte resident comments, “This place makes Butte feel like home. I think it’s an iconic part of Butte and if you don’t have a Wop Chop while you’re here, you’ve really missed out. It’s the best pork chop sandwich you’re gonna find anywhere. My Fiancé and I both love this place.”
Not an eatery per se, the notorious distillery opened its doors in 2010 to celebrate Butte’s unique cultural heritage. Even their name, named after the headframes that lowered miners deep into the earth, is a nod to its home city.
Combine Headframe’s famous “Orphan Girl” bourbon, named after an old mine of the same name, with root beer and ice for a delicious, flavor explosion (that tastes like the adult version of a root beer float).
We’ve listed five classic Butte eateries, but with the city’s unique history, and its dedication to traditional, outstanding food, there are dozens of other restaurants that are worth visiting. For a small-town, Butte has a big appetite.