By Jason Bacaj MANAGING EDITOR
A staple restaurant for Big Sky and Gallatin Canyon residents shut down for good in September after a nearly 67-year run.
The Inn on the Gallatin and its breakfast café first opened in 1955, according to Deanne Stalnaker. She and her husband, Steve, purchased the café, its six of cabins and nine recreational vehicle sites back in 2013. Neither had been in the restaurant business before, but they decided to jump in regardless. The restaurant was closed for a couple years while they shored up the building.
The couple will continue operating the cabins and RV sites. They simply felt the need to step back from the café after 10 years in order to open up space for new projects and adventures.
“We had fun doing it,” Deanne said. “I think if we hadn’t had such an issue with labor, you know, we probably could have done it a little bit longer.”
Trouble finding people able to work the café led the Stalnakers to shift café operations so that it was only open to folks staying at the Inn’s cabins or RV sites. They had a chef at first, but when that person moved to Helena, Steve took the reins in the kitchen.
At one point two years ago, just Kevin and Deanne were available to staff the café, and they ended up serving 52 people in three hours, she said. The two ended up working in the kitchen for hours past closing getting things cleaned and prepped for the next morning. The day marked a turning point for them. They knew the restaurant’s time was limited.
The breakfast café was not just locally renowned, but regionally.
Steve said they were perhaps most well known for their biscuits and providing a basket of hot doughnut holes to each table. Beyond that, their spicy eggs benedict, pancakes and unique cinnamon roll recipe developed by the chef initially hired by the Stalnaker’s were what brought people back repeatedly.
“People used to come in from Livingston and Helena to eat breakfast,” Steve said. “So, you know, all the locals that ate here and supported us, it’s a big thank you to them. They just made it fun.”
As for their future plans, the café space is slated to become a workshop. And the two want to make changes to some of the cabins and their own living space on the property.
“We definitely don’t sit around for months waiting for something to happen,” Steve said.
But mostly the couple wants to finally take advantage of the outdoor summer recreation opportunities that abound in the area.
“This is the first year we went whitewater rafting,” Deanne said. “This is our time.”