Is there a more versatile food creation than the all-mighty sandwich? At its core, a sammie is incredibly simple and can be made with almost any combination of ingredients. This modest construction of bread and filling often stirs up international debates over what constitutes a sando. The late RBG once concluded that “a hot dog was indeed a sandwich.” The hamburger is often referred to as "America’s favorite sandwich." Heck, today we still throw peanut butter, banana, and bacon between two slices of bread and call it the Elvis Sandwich. Although the creative possibilities are endless; perhaps what makes it one of the most craveable meals is that nostalgic longing for simplicity. When biting into the perfect grilled cheese, chunky peanut butter and jelly, or basic ham and cheese; I am immediately transported to simpler times: a rainy-day snack after school, a comforting sack lunch in an elementary cafeteria… nothing brings me back faster than the sandwich.
I have traveled the globe, eating in some of the world’s best restaurants; and I can say with near certainty that I would give up a 5 course Michelin meal for the sandwiches in Florence and Lisbon. 8 days of the week I would pick a Francesinha in Porto over the country’s best steak. Simply put, I am a fan of the sandwich. Luckily, Billings has enough options to keep me happy and full. Whether at a sit-down restaurant on the west end, or at a food truck downtown, I can find some top-tier grinders, heroes, subs, or whatever you prefer to call them. Here are three of my favorites:
A relative newcomer to the food scene in Billings, Cork and Barrel is quickly becoming one of the west end’s favorite establishments. Although the restaurant has been open for less than a year, chef Aaron Zitar is no rookie, and it shows on his menu and meal execution. The space has an approachable simplicity to it: casual yet classy. It offers a great patio, a wonderful international wine list, and a superb spirit selection.
My first lunch order was the Muffaletta, and I will never need to look at the menu again. This Sicilian-American dish is layered with Italian cold cuts and house-smoked turkey, olive tapenade, pepper relish, provolone, garlic aioli, and stuffed between sesame Italian bread. This meal is not for those who have an aversion to salty food, or for those on a diet. C&B is one of the only locations in Billings to offer a Muffaletta (standing ovation and appreciation from yours truly). The portion is generous and can absolutely be split between two people. I recommend pairing it with the garlic parmesan fries and a cold beer… perfection.
Located on Historic Montana Avenue, Last Chance fills a spacious warehouse with a long list of previous tenants. What was once a tractor showroom, now proudly hosts one of the best cider mills in the state and one of the most awe-inspiring interiors in the city. The dining room, boasting a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, is one of my favorite places to eat and drink on a cold, snowy day. The recent renovation to the back patio has also provided Billings with an amazing outdoor space in the downtown corridor, a perfect place to enjoy a Flathead Cherry Cider (in my case, usually 3-4 Flathead Cherry Ciders).
The menu offers great accompaniments to the Red Lodge Ales and Ciders on tap. The burgers are worth the visit, and the spicy fried chicken sandwich is legit… but the showstopper is the Last Chance Cuban. I am always a bit skeptical when trying a Cuban on any menu as it is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches, but this one is the real deal. By house-smoking the pork carnitas, house-curing the Canadian bacon, and house brining the pickles in Red Lodge Bent Nail, the culinary team at Last Chance Pub & Cider Mill have perfectly crafted a go-to sandwich in Billings. Pro-tip, pair this with the salt and vinegar chips and house-made buttermilk dill ranch (chef’s kiss).
Forget your mother’s grilled cheese sandwich. In fact, forget everything you know about grilled cheese… Montana Melt is on a whole different level, hell, they are on a whole different planet. For nearly a decade, Kevin Campoy and his family have come up with the most delicious and unique grilled cheese creations, earning them a plethora of awards. From the Billings Gazette’s: Best Food Truck to First Place at the Food Truck Battle on Yellowstone, Montana Melt has wowed the taste buds of Billings and the surrounding communities.
When you throw melted cheese between buttery bread, there isn’t really any way you can go wrong. I could eat the entire menu and be completely satisfied. However, for me there is one gourmet creation that stands above the rest: the signature Montana Melt. Campoy stuffs loads of bacon on top of pepperjack cheese, herbed cream cheese, and spicy pickles in between crusted sourdough bread. The result is a thing of beauty. I have worked at my fair share of outdoor events featuring Montana Melt as a food vendor, and I can proudly say that I have eaten this sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a single day… and in no way am I embarrassed about it. Try one and you will understand why. The best way to locate Montana Melt is by following Billings Food Truck Tracker on Facebook or by downloading the WTF (Where’s The Food Truck) App.