By Taylor-Ann Smith
Explore Big Sky Staff Writer
BOZEMAN – Red Chair Café & Bar is Bozeman’s newest neighborhood joint on the west end of town, located on Ferguson Street in the refurbished WeeBee’s building. The restaurant, which opened on Feb. 20, seeks to attract customers with locally made dishes at a reasonable price, according to Jon Slye, who manages Red Chair Café with business partner Jay Thane.
The restaurant’s name derives from Bridger Bowl Ski Area’s original, red “riblet” lift chairs – some of which can be found hanging inside Red Chair Café – and speaks to Bozeman’s love for the outdoors.
Slye and Thane, managing partners of Copper Whiskey Bar & Grill, decided they couldn’t get enough of the food industry and wanted to add a different style of restaurant to their portfolio. Thane grew up in Bozeman and Slye hails from Seattle but has lived in Bozeman for 16 years. Both live on the west end of town and wished to bypass driving downtown for dinner or drinks. They decided to fix the problem themselves by opening Red Chair Café.
“We needed a neighborhood bar,” Slye said. “I envision people riding over on their bikes during the summer to enjoy a good family meal, or groups coming from the river after floating to enjoy the bar.”
Red Chair is an “athletic bar” rather than a sports bar, according to Slye, since they want to appeal to all forms of recreation. While the café’s name might resonate with winter, Slye notes that it speaks to all types of adventure in the outdoors – a common passion in Bozeman.
Slye doesn’t have a formal culinary education, but he climbed to the top after entering the industry as a dishwasher 16 years ago. He says his appreciation for his staff stems from walking in their shoes for years, and he’s always eager to step back in them when his help is needed.
Red Chair’s owners and employees demonstrate their creativity throughout the building, and the business. Slye has a talent for metal work and built the tabletops in Copper’s bar seating area, as well as Red Chair’s back bar. Thane utilizes his creativity as the primary photographer for both of their businesses, while Red Chair’s general manager, Nicole Morgan, brings her artistic passion to the restaurant as their graphic designer.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner all week. The breakfast menu includes market style dishes – such as a baked egg skillet or a baguette with butter and jam – and a full espresso bar featuring beans roasted by Bozeman’s Ghost Town Coffee Roasters. Lunch involves an array of bar-style appetizers, hearty salads and craft sandwiches.
Slye and Morgan agree that the most popular entree in the opening month has been the Slow and Low French Dip, a sandwich with braised beef chuck, Swiss cheese and a unique balsamic au jus that’s served on a fresh hoagie roll.
If your meal isn’t complete without something sweet, Red Chair Café offers a variety of baked goods, as well as a few signature desserts. Snack Packs are a take on the classic lunch box pudding snack with an adult twist. Flavors include Bourbon Butterscotch or Chocolate Espresso and the treats are served in a glass jar topped with whipped cream.
Red Chair also brings its craft to the bar with uncommon cocktails and local beer. The Whiskey Ferguson, appropriately named after the location, includes Benchmark Bourbon with rhubarb bitters, muddled basil, grapefruit, and topped with ginger beer on the rocks. The cocktail menu also features drinks created with in-house syrups such as the Maid Marian, a lavender infused lemonade with vodka.
Walking into Red Chair Café & Bar, you’ll notice the attention to detail – from the creative drinks to the unique twist on classic dishes – and the relaxed atmosphere is likely to make the restaurant your west Bozeman gathering spot.