The Bar Tab: Mr. Bitters, Olive to give pens, livers a break


Mr. Bitters and Olive

If Mr. Bitters and Olive hoist any drinks in the coming months, it will be for their enjoyment, not the edification of our readers.

After weeks of strong cocktails, mediocre wine and lots of draft beer, we’ve decided to give our livers a break.

This strange journey has given us a glimpse into many of Billings’ finest watering holes and we’ve enjoyed the escape. As we return to our normal, boring, professional routine, we thought it would be appropriate to leave you with a few recommendations. So without further ado, here are a few of our favorites in the Magic City:

The best happy hour in Billings has to be Jake’s Downtown. Where else can you get great drinks specials and free chicken wings? During a brief stint of living downtown, we haunted these high tops on a too-frequent basis and are still greeted with a friendly hello. Mr. Bitters even taught at least one bartender what a sidecar is, and they make one of the best in town as a result. Try it out.

To sample our favorite signature drink, head to Tiny’s. Nothing says summer like a delicious Orange Crush on the patio. If you haven’t experienced this delightful wonder, it tastes like a melted Creamsicle with a definite kick. Plus, their popcorn is what legends are made of. Just don’t think too hard about how often they clean the popcorn machine.

If you’re in the mood to try something new, we recommend City Vineyard’s frequent wine tastings. This small but cozy bar has a great selection of beer and wine, tasty nibbles and enough product knowledge to make sure you find something you like.

While we love this nook at all times, we have to admit its tastings are by far the best time to visit. Outside of these events, you’ll probably wind up having a delicious beverage in an otherwise empty room. Pity.

Best outdoor space is a difficult one, since the few venues with this option are otherwise subpar. We understand that “patio weather” in Billings is a very short season, but there are few things more relaxing than a warm evening watching a sunset under the big sky.

Our favorite summer spot is the outdoor patio at the Windmill. We can’t in good conscience recommend anything else about the venue, but the patio is sublime. The nature preserve, walking trails, picturesque reservoir and beautiful fire pit make this a perfect summer hideaway—and since their service is generally quite poor, you can enjoy the view while you linger around waiting for your drink.

We’re a little hesitant to share our next jewel. Olive, an avid runner, noticed a marquee day after day that boasted 27 beers on tap and cheap growler fills. We finally checked it out, and felt chagrined that we hadn’t sooner. The Palm Tree Casino on Grand Avenue definitely wins best growler fill; with their stellar selection of local and imported microbrews and low prices, you can’t go wrong.

One fateful evening, Mr. Bitters scored a growler of barley wine for $6. That was a great night, from what we remember. Plus, if you’re in the mood to lose some money in the machines, you can partake of the potluck-style meal options. We’ve never sampled the various crockpot offerings, but assume they taste as cheap as one would expect.

Billings is a town awash in craft breweries. In fact, a recent list of the Top Ten Beer Cities gave Billings an honorable mention. So while choosing the best craft brewery might seem like a tough decision, in reality there is only one choice: Carter’s.

Now don’t get us wrong, we have enjoyed the offerings from Angry Hank’s and Uberbrew and look forward to sampling the new Thirsty Street brewery, but what sets Carter’s apart is the sheer variety of offerings. From saisons to sours to pallet-obliterating triple IPAs, no other brewery in town offers the variety and experimental ambition that Carter’s does. Its commitment to the adventurous is exactly what we look for in a brewery.

The best date night pick goes to Walkers Grill. With its extensive top-shelf liquor collection, cultured wine list and delicious tapas, combined with an elegant interior, you are sure to impress your date with your knowledge of all things refined.

It may be a tad expensive, but we feel the atmosphere and opulence more than make up for it. Walkers also has a dynamic menu, with constant changes to keep it fresh and mostly local. We recommend going on a Sunday night and taking in some fine jazz music, but be sure to get there early, as it tends to fill up quickly. Maybe one day they’ll let us use the library-style ladder behind the bar.

On our journey to uncover the unknown we were met with many surprises, but none more surprising or delightful than the Reno Club. This earned it the medal for best dive bar. It has everything we look for in a good dive: charming staff, colorful clientele and strong cheap drinks. Its location is sufficiently sketchy without being dangerous.

Best bar to end your night goes to the Rainbow. This may seem quite similar to the dive bar description, but there is an important distinction. The Rainbow is undoubtedly a dive, and many may consider it the best dive in down, but that fails to address its unique appeal.

The Rainbow is not only known for their absurdly strong pours and smelly bathrooms; the people-watching is unsurpassed. And the best opportunities occur only after most have gone home for the night. Late nights at the Rainbow bring together all elements of the downtown billings scene—from vagrants and hipsters to doctors and lawyers—and everyone is seriously drunk.

Trust us. You should only patronize the Rainbow when you’re too schnockered to object, but when this happens, you will have the time of your life. Even if you don’t remember it the next day.

Best place to day drink goes to the Montana Brewing Company. Infinitely unobjectionable, it’s always a safe choice. It is a great place to meet friends. They have multiple seating options, including a bar, patio and dining room. Don’t bother with the last, however. If there isn’t room in the bar or on the patio (weather permitting), we suggest you go elsewhere.

They offer a wide selection of drinks, including a full bar, as well as a menu that can meet most tastes. We can recall more than a few times going to lunch at the MBC, thinking “I’ll just have one with lunch,” and finding we’ve wasted the whole afternoon.

As they say, that’s all folks. Thank you for joining us on our journey to discover the awesome, old, interesting and sometimes questionable taverns Billings has been hiding. We hope we’ve inspired you to venture outside your own your comfort zone, or at least appreciate a local business that makes you feel welcome.

Billings has a lot to offer and the options grow daily. We’ll keep exploring, but for now we say adieu, and bottoms up.

Previous reviews

Chapter 1The Squire Lounge.

Chapter 2The Alpine Casino.

Chapter 3Buck’s Bar.

Chapter 4Stadium Club.

Chapter 5Bones Arcade.

Chapter 6Southern Empire Emporium.

Chapter 7The Holiday Inn.

Chapter 8The Tap Inn.

Chapter 9Fiddler’s Green.

Chapter 10The Den.

Chapter 11CJ’s Bar and Grill.

Chapter 12The Reno Club.

Chapter 13Manny’s.

Chapter 14Gusick’s.

Chapter 15Montana Chads.

Leave a Reply