Muralt’s Café – Serving Ounces, Not Attitude
8800 Truck Stop Road
Missoula, Montana 59808
I-90 Exit 96, & US 93N
406-728-7282 – fax
Sunday, June 20th, 2010
Gabe Giles – Restaurant Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Also: chef, All Events Catering, 406-728-3400
1609 West Broadway
Missoula, Montana 59808
Normally when traveling I have a no fast food rule – I always do my best to search out the best local food on the route, and avoid chains whenever possible. I love finding local spots with an actual owner who’s probably in the kitchen, taking pride in the plates hitting the tables. This trip hadn’t gone quite on schedule though, leaving me hoping for no more than something to get me through. What I found was Gabe Giles.
I opened the menu, and was rather pleasantly surprised at the descriptions on the offerings – everything you wanted in a truck stop was there – great sandwiches, big fat omelettes, and several homey dinner plates – but everything seemed a little bit ‘more’. The server (turned out to be Gab e himself) mentioned the soup of the day – French onion, and I immediately said “it’s not homemade stock is it”? The corner of his mouth quirked and he replied “all my stocks are homemade”. Caramelized onion, homemade in house beef stock, garlic parslied crostini…”
“Bring it”. Skeptical, but figuring anyone describing food in a diner by saying ‘crostini’ instead of ‘toast’ might possibly know a thing or two, I ordered that one thing, waiting on anything else until I tasted it. I was tired and cranky and ready to be irritable, picky and dissatisfied. One taste was enough to get me over all of that.
The soup was everything great home food should be – simple, not fussy or ‘chefy’, but with each ingredient treated with care and attention. The stock was delicious – I learned later that it’s made with a lovely little beef reduction Chef Gabe uses for his au jus. The flavor was clean and hearty, beefy and intense and perfectly seasoned (I’m a fanatic for correctly seasoning). The onions were grilled, beautifully caramelized, and tender. Instead of being topped with cheeses, the soup was topped with a bit of parslied butter crostini. The whole thing was luscious in all the right ways – the kind of thing that makes you close your eyes involuntarily with each bit and “mmmmm” a little bit. It tasted like someone who not only knew how to cook but who loved food made it. There’s a difference. Ok – time for more…
Gabe's Fab French Onion
The Big Medicine Buffalo Burger
Chef Gabe Giles
“More” – based on Chef Gabe’s suggestion was two things- The Gunslinger and The Big Medicine Buffalo Burger (no I don’t eat all that – but I HAVE to taste as much as possible!). I told him to bring me what he liked most and those were his choices. Good choices – if you aren’t familiar with buffalo – give it a try when you get a chance. It’s like beef, yet not at the same time. Much leaner, the flavor is similar but the texture much closer to game such as elk or venison. The burger Gabe makes is delicious – he seasons it well – don’t know what his ‘magic’ seasoning is – and the flavor comes through well. It’s lean yes – but this one was perfectly cooked.
The Gunslinger was what really shone though – Gabe called it a prime rib sandwich, but I’m going to claim it’s the love child of a French Dip and a Reuben – the horseradish mayo is what gives the kick, and the au jus with which it’s served gives a lovely mouth feel. The kicker though is the piles of gorgeous rare roast beef with more of the grilled onions. Served on sourdough and grilled on a press Panini-style, the ingredients are simple, but the combination will roll your socks down. By this time I was quizzing the chef on everything – where his ingredients come from, what his kitchen is like – what his thoughts were on all of what he was serving.
“I make it all homemade here – as much as I can. I source as locally as possible and search out everything I can’t make in house. But where possible I make it all myself”. You can’t beat that – and he’s doing something right, because his food is just flat out good.
Last year the catering service Chef Gabe runs – All Events Catering, was named runner up in the Best of Missoula for Catering. He took over the management of Muralt’s about the same time, so he’s had a busy couple of years. He handles the food for All Events with the same philosophy as he does what he makes for Muralt’s – although the food at the truck stop is more ‘homey’, and the catered items more upscale. He uses one to celebrate the best comfort food America offers, and the other to more fully express his own culinary creativity. I just wish I knew enough people in Missoula to throw a party for, because I’d love to see what he produces given free reign. Check out the link below and browse through his menus.
I could suggest making a stop at Muralt’s if you’re ever in the area – but I’d go one more than that. If you’re anywhere even close – make the trip out of the way. Gabe Giles makes Muralt’s Café a trip worth taking of itself.