By Megan Paulson Big Sky Weekly Staff Writer

WEST YELLOWSTONE – Two years ago, Elena deDiego took a big risk – shifting from her longstanding career in the hospitality industry to opening an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant in West Yellowstone.

Her motto is simple – “Eat when you drink, drink when you eat.”

As owner and chef of Café Madriz, deDiego’s inspiration came largely from her grandmother and family, who are rooted in the restaurant business in Madrid, Spain.

“My passion for food started at a very early age, watching my grandma, Vicenta, prepare outrageous ‘banquets’ for the Sunday lunch family tradition,” deDiego says. “Even though the gathering did not have more that seven or eight people, Grandma Vicenta would make enough food to feed a soccer stadium.”

Today, the success of Café Madriz was more than deDiego ever expected, and one she says validates her hard work. The business is seasonal; May through September, the café is open seven days a week. As the sole chef, deDiego typically works 16 hours a day, making every dish by hand. This summer alone, she made more than 1,500 orders of Paella.

In a relatively short timespan, Café Madriz has climbed to the top of TripAdvisor rankings, holding at nearly five stars, and currently is No. four out of 45 restaurants in West Yellowstone.

In June, Mark Bittman, book author and food columnist for The New York Times, stumbled upon Café Madriz.

“We spent a couple of days in Yellowstone, sleeping in West Yellowstone, Mont.,” he wrote in a June 27 dining feature in The Times, “…we found Café Madriz, a Spanish restaurant with a level of authenticity you could admire almost anywhere in this country…This exception was noteworthy.”

Building on this success, deDiego has added a catering and private dinner service for West Yellowstone, Bozeman, Big Sky and greater Gallatin Valley.

The core of Spanish cuisine and tapas is very social – eating, drinking, and enjoying time with friends and family – and deDiego’s private catering will be accordingly intimate, an interactive dining experience.

“From a catering aspect, I can truly customize whatever the client wants,” she said. She’s targeting the services for groups of 20 or less, because “it’s the more intimate setting that makes a memorable experience.”

DeDiego believes the Café Madriz’s popularity stems from the quality ingredients she uses, and she takes pride in offering down-to-earth, delicious, uncomplicated food. “You don’t have to do anything fancy, the food does the talking.”

The catering menu has everything from homemade soups and salads, to hot and cold tapas, desserts, wine, beer, sangria and imported Spanish products including Manchego cheese, Serrano ham and chorizo.

“I can customize any meal – if you’ve tasted something on your travels before and it’s not on the menu, that’s OK – I am happy to make it,” deDiego said. “There are literally thousands of tapas combinations to try.”

The staples on her menu fall into vegetarian and gluten free categories. “It’s how I have cooked and the Spanish have eaten for years,” she said.

To book a private dinner, custom event or Spanish tapas party, contact Elena deDiego at cafemadriz@hotmail.com or (406) 600-1947. View photos and see a menu of Café Madriz signature dishes online at:
explorebigsky.com/cafemadriz.