Dinner Debriefing: Jake’s Bar & Grill

In Billings, Jake’s operate a Steakhouse downtown and the Bar & Grill out by the Interstate hotel strip. We chose the latter, partly for convenience and partly because the helpful front desk guy suggested it. It would compete with Outback or The Keg. We walked to it because it’s only a couple of blocks away.

I have to say we are not really Steakhouse people. I love beef; Caroline not so much. But this is Montana, and ordering seafood here would be like trying to get fresh fruit juice on the International Space Station. So we decided to play it safe. We had coupons for a free dessert, beer or glass of wine from the hotel. Caroline used hers to have a glass of Copper Ridge Chardonnay, which is pretty good stuff for house wine. I let mine slide – hey, It’s not like I paid anything for it!

So, on the safe side. I ordered a salad and a filet. Caroline went with clam chowder and lamb shanks. Because I wanted both the veg (broccolini) and a potato, I had to pay for one. Peppercorn sauce was also extra. Caroline thought the lamb shanks were a safer bet than the duck, and besides, she just had a fine duck dinner at Pearl. 

The highlight of the evening was spotting an old friend on the wine list, in the half bottle section. Merryvale Cabernet almost certainly meant their Starmont (so, an entry level wine from a fairly high-end Napa winery) and so it was. Nice stuff.

How was it, you ask. Mostly kind of ordinary. The clam chowder was better than expected, but then you could say the same at Earl’s. The salad was your basic tossed salad, although the thousand island dressing seemed a cut above average. The steak was just a steak, no special flavor or anything. Caroline said her shanks were very good, but the mashed potatoes were watery and tasteless. No sign of the root vegetables that were described on the menu. I guess most people didn’t want them, so the restaurant just started subbing the mashed potatoes. Since lamb shanks usually come with both, we didn’t realize our waitress was describing a substitution. To her credit, she went and fetched us a whole plate of them; they were good. People are missing out but I’m sure zucchini must be a tough sell. She didn’t charge us.

That was the other pleasant surprise. Steak houses tend to charge for every little thing and this can really jack up the bill. Our tab was much less than we expected; very reasonable by Kenora standards. We’d go there again, but mainly because it’s convenient. On the other hand, if we’d stayed in Laurel, dinner would have been merely edible. If that.


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