Missoula v. Bozeman
On the heels of my Portland and Seattle trip, I followed up with two cities in Montana: Missoula (75k population) and Bozeman (55k). Montana is likable because it’s a “purple” state, unlike Wyoming or Idaho, and has conditions favorable to skiing and biking.
Compared to larger cities, I met compromises. Both cities only have one proper bagel shop, and one of them sells frozen bagels flown in from Brooklyn (not a joke). But on the flip side: The scale is smaller and more of the city is walkable. Bozeman in particular has a smaller city plate and narrower streets with many local businesses lined along a narrow corridor. (It’s also wealthier.) Both cities had good breweries and pizza, but you won’t find good Vietnamese, for instance.
On transportation, while these cities may have fewer dedicated bike lanes, on the “people actually biking” metric, Montana has the Pacific Northwest beat. I saw all sorts of people biking, at all hours of day, for commuting and recreation. Both cities also operate free bus networks. (In my experience, Missoula’s was much more useful than Bozeman’s.)
Another plus: Montana has a disproportionate number of bookstores, and I saw people reading in public.
But Montana isn’t great. Beyond being a bagel desert, there’s something odd about its residents. They talk loudly, even in quiet places. They have long hair. They own preposterously large vehicles. They’re not conventionally attractive.
Also, all breweries in Montana must close by 8 p.m. nightly.
I’m going to continue my search. Onwards to Wisconsin.
- Bayern Brewing: a dodgy bar with impressive European brews, try Dump Truck ★
- Black Coffee Roasting: very good coffee, great location ★
- Clyde Coffee: very good coffee and cute space but lousy bagel ★
- Conflux Brewing: very good brews and tasty vegan burger with potato salad ★
- Cranky Sam Public House: all the beers were a miss
- OddPitch Brewing: great mix of beers, friendly (but loud) patrons ★
- Pie Hole: above-average pizza slices to go
- Rice Fine Thai Cuisine: serviceable Pad Thai
- Vietnam Noodle Restaurant: plain, greasy food; sat facing three vacuum cleaners