Have you ever had a hankering for some live music, dancing, draft beer and big crowds? If so, you’ve probably already been inside Montana Chads, located at 3953 Montana Ave.
Olive and Mr. Bitters are no strangers to their late-night offerings and have poorly two-stepped around a parquet floor on occasion. However, our experiences were usually later in the evening and after a few rounds, so the specific memories are a little hazy. We felt we were in need of a refresher.
For this review, we decided to check out Montana Chads in mid-afternoon. So one Saturday afternoon around 3:30, we made our way to the bar. We were worried there wouldn’t be any other patrons at this hour, but a few cars were parked in the large lot.
When we entered is was noticeably brighter than we recalled. In the evenings, they dim the lights quite a bit to create a very different atmosphere. In our experience, darkness can provide a myriad of benefits for a mediocre bar.
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Our hopes of company faded when we realized that we had almost doubled the number of patrons in the bar. In the vast emptiness, we noted several tables littered throughout the large room, as well as a dance floor, a stage set up for a band and a large peninsula-like bar that divides the room. A few gentlemen were sitting at one end of the bar, so we took a spot toward the middle. Close enough to overhear, but far enough to avoid detection if necessary.
We looked over the drink offerings while a pleasant young bartender brought us a couple food menus and informed us that it was happy hour. Olive did not even bother to ask about wine and opted for a bottle of beer. Mr. Bitters was not in the mood for cocktail and also opted for a brew. They have quite a few bottles available, as well as a few macro drafts and one local—Uberbrew’s White Noise.
Although the lure of all-day breakfast was tempting, we decided not to order food. Instead, we settled in with our beers and took in the atmosphere. In many ways, it reminded us of a typical live music venue. Easily cleaned flooring and surfaces for inevitable spills, a mix of seating options, ample floor space, beer and alcohol signs on the walls and decor somewhat dated but clean.
As we sipped, our fellow patrons debated the particulars of how one conducts “business.” It was not clear what type of business they were referencing, but that didn’t seem to matter. Alcohol had definitely fueled this conversation, and while these businessmen all appeared middle-aged, they were gossiping like schoolgirls. One of the men sat in silence, nodding along with the others.
Finally, one man had enough of this pettiness and started yelling. From behind the bar our pleasant young waitress exclaimed, “Why you yelling all the time? You need a hug!” That shut the chattering down fairly quickly, although no hugs were given.
The bartender turned to check on us, and Olive took the opportunity to ask about the afternoon crowd. Our companions seemed to be the die-hard regulars, and it was clear that happy hour traffic was slow at best. Lunch is slightly more popular, but the place doesn’t really start filling up until after dark.
The regulars did, at least appear to be unusually generous. Just that day, the bartender had been given a selfie stick, a skull-adorned shot glass, the new Vin Diesel DVD (with no case), a phone charger and some marijuana chap stick. Not a bad haul. This particular bartender only works the day shifts and likes the slower pace. After having a baby a couple years ago, she said, 2 a.m. last calls began to lose their appeal.
The regulars asked if the bartender’s boyfriend would be down soon, but alas, he was home with the baby. It was suggested that the baby could be locked in a closet if the boyfriend wanted to come down for a couple of cold ones, but this offer was summarily declined.
We decided to stick around long enough for a second round, and we were pleased to discover that a friendly regular had bought us each a beer. In fact, it seemed like he was bankrolling the afternoon for all his friends. Yet another perk of an empty happy hour.
In addition to this kind gesture, we were offered our choice of music each time the jukebox was programmed. We deferred to local tastes and listened to hair metal and ballads fill the room. Apparently the country doesn’t come on until later.
When we decided to leave, we learned that our new friends had not only covered our second round, but our entire tab. So even though we can’t offer an opinion on their drink pricing strategies, we can honestly say that we got our money’s worth.
Readers, if you’re still there, we should apologize for the mundane nature of this review. Although the company was friendly and beers were cold, our overall impression of Montana Chads was … sort of boring. If you thought everywhere the Bar Tab goes is an endless party, you were wrong. In this case, we found ourselves disappointed in our choice of venue.
We set out to have a boot scootin’ good time, but had to hang up our cowboy hats. C’est la vie.
Very friendly customers and bartenders.
Boring by day, trashy by night.
Chapter 1—The Squire Lounge.
Chapter 2—The Alpine Casino.
Chapter 3—Buck’s Bar.
Chapter 4—Stadium Club.
Chapter 5—Bones Arcade.
Chapter 6—Southern Empire Emporium.
Chapter 7—The Holiday Inn.
Chapter 8—The Tap Inn.
Chapter 9—Fiddler’s Green.
Chapter 10—The Den.
Chapter 11—CJ’s Bar and Grill.
Chapter 12—The Reno Club.
Chapter 14— Gusick’s.