Recent Posts

After success at home, Uzbek pastry chef opening new store


A little more than a year after starting a bakery in her home kitchen, making Russian, French and Eastern European pastries for customers who placed orders by phone or via the internet, Veronika Baukema is almost ready to open a brick-and-mortar pastry shop on Montana Avenue. The self-taught baker said she learned a lot from books and YouTube videos, but she thinks her passion for baking is the most important thing she has going for her. “And I practice,” she said. “I practice. I practice.” (more…) Continue Reading →

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Food truck-mobile bakery almost ready to hit the street


Late last decade, Matt Melvin, a chef and baker who had worked for a lot of restaurants, started thinking about opening his own place. But he and his wife, Maggie, were looking at an upfront investment of up $200,000, and it was a hurdle they couldn’t get over. Things started looking up last year, when Brian Johnson got a hold of him. (more…) Continue Reading →

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French baker to set up shop in downtown Billings


Having spent most of his life working as an information technology expert on three continents, Francois Morin has a new home and is embarking on a decidedly different new career. The 55-year-old Frenchman is planning to open a small bakery in downtown Billings this spring, concentrating on a handful of simple, traditional French breads. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Billings Petroleum Club hires Lilac’s Engebretson


Jeremy Engebretson is well on his way to becoming the busiest person in Billings. He opened Lilac, a popular Montana Avenue restaurant, five years ago, and just about a year ago he announced that he was partnering with Joanie Swords, owner of Harper & Madison, a bakery and cafe, so they could share their talents to make improvements at both establishments. Today, the Billings Petroleum Club announced that Engebretson has become its “executive chef in residence.” The Billings Gazette carried a story 10 days ago saying that the Petroleum Club had just finished a six-month, $513,000 renovation of its lounge and dining room on the 22nd floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza hotel at North 27th Street and First Avenue North. A press release from the Petroleum Club pointed out that Engebretson was recently named one of the top 100 executive chefs in the United States. It also said he plans to continue his executive management of Lilac. Continue Reading →

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Downtown arts and culture create ‘experiential economy’


As I drop down Interstate 90 into the river valley that holds the “Magic City,” I swear: I won’t ever live in Billings, Montana. The sun glints off a spawling refinery that dominates the city’s eastern entrance. A sickly sweet smell smacks my face, making my teeth ache and my stomach curl. And they’re processing sugar beets on the South Side. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Outside magazine’s Billings video now available


The Outside magazine piece on Billings’ selection as the best town of 2016 is now posted online. Better yet, so is the five-minute video tribute to Billings that was created by the folks at Outside. To find the video, just click on the link above and scroll down to about the middle of the article. Two Billings attractions are featured prominently in the video: all the nearby mountain-biking opportunities and the many craft breweries in town. (This seems like a good time to remind our readers to be careful when combining these attractions.)

The downtown-centric video covers the ground quite thoroughly, to the point where you could almost imagine someone in a distant part of the country watching it and then Googling “job opportunities in Billings, Montana.” Continue Reading →

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Noodles O’Brien aims at ‘fast food made healthy’


Paul O’Brien was nearing the completion of his doctorate in physical therapy when he had a life-changing thought. He liked doing physical therapy, but he realized he didn’t really love it. Talking to his then-girlfriend, he wondered aloud what he could throw himself into that he was truly passionate about. As O’Brien recalled it, she looked at him and said, “It’s food. Are you kidding me? Continue Reading →

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New downtown art gallery plans open house Thursday


Tucked into a corner just inside the front door of the Western Art Forum, a new gallery in downtown Billings, is an elegant blue easy chair. Gallery owner Kira Fercho, an artist known for her vibrant oil paintings, designed the chair and said it represents the kind of art—slightly Western but also mid-century modern—she wants to display and sell at the gallery. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Local boy (and his restaurant) makes good

Well, this is pretty cool. Local Kitchen and Bar, which we profiled when it opened and where we have eaten many times since, was selected by Travel and Leisure as the best farm-to-table restaurant in Montana. The short article doesn’t say whether Lynn Donaldson-Vermillion helped Travel and Leisure make the selection, but it does quote her extensively. If you haven’t checked out Lynn’s elegant, mouth-watering Last Best Plates website (great name, too!), here’s your chance. Local Kitchen chef Travis Stimpson worked at some great downtown Billings restaurants—Walkers Grill, Cafe Italia and Lilac—before deciding to bring a bit of the downtown to the West End, just off Shiloh Road and Grand Avenue at 1430 Country Manor Blvd., to be exact. Continue Reading →

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