By Doug Hare EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – With the opening of The Wilson Hotel, the beginning of farmers markets around Fire Pit Park, the resort opening for mountain biking season, and weekly Music in the Meadows concerts, Town Center is sure to see increased foot-traffic during the summer months. While the buildout process always always takes longer than expected in Big Sky due to the limited supply of contractors like plumbers and electricians, three experienced restaurateurs are getting closer to opening new eateries in the heart of Town Center.
Toast, a new cafe concept in the location where Compass Cafe was located on Town Center Avenue, is slated to open quietly on June 15, according to Oregon-native Kristin Voisin. Previously, Voisin owned a popular full-service restaurant called Truby’s in Whitefish, Montana, for 23 years before deciding she was ready for a change of pace from running a 6,000-square-foot restaurant with 40 employees.
After taking a little time off, yet still enamored with the service industry, she decided to open a cafe called Toast in a 300-square-foot-shop to focus on breakfast and lunch fare. Last year, Voisin was approached by Lone Mountain Land Company and offered an opportunity to bring Toast to Big Sky and decided she was ready to make the move.
“I kind of think Big Sky is where Whitefish was back in, well, around 1996. I’ve only been here a month but from what I can gather that this town is still very seasonal whereas Whitefish doesn’t have the seasonality to that extent these days,” Voisin, a mother of four children and U.S. Navy veteran, said.
The menu at Toast will feature a variety of open-faced sandwiches built atop artisan breads. For example, “The Empire Builder” will sport an over-medium egg, stone-ground mustard, green scallions, tomato and white cheddar on a grilled brioche Pullman. In addition, Toast will serve Belgian waffles, locally made pastries, house-made desserts, stone-baked pizzas and coffee from Bozeman-based Ghost Town Coffee Roasters.
Longtime local Josh Kone will be opening Blend, a new wine bar featuring small plates and wines produced by co-owner Michael Ruhland’s Valo Cellars in the space previously occupied by Enoteca next to The Rocks. Last year, Ruhland opened a tasting room called Blend on South Willson Avenue in downtown Bozeman, and the pair of old friends hope to have their new spot, which has a full liquor license, open for business no later than June 17.
Kone has worked in food and beverage in Big Sky for 15 years, and most recently was part-owner of Ousel and Spur Pizza Co.
“Blend is going to be wine and cocktail driven, and we’re going to be reasonably priced,” Kone said. “We don’t even know how to unlock the doors yet, but eventually we want to be a small operation that offers something different to the scene.”
To begin, Blend will be open Tuesday through Sunday nights and have four employees.
Blue Buddha Sushi is slated to open in early July in the Plaza Lofts Building as soon as Troy “Twist” Thompson finishes building out his rustic Japanese concept next to The Wilson Hotel. Thompson, who grew up as a snowboarder in Colorado, is trying to create what he likes to call “a Kung Fu dojo in the mountains.”
In 2006, Thompson trained under Chef Andy Matsuda for six months in Little Tokyo, a Japanese-American district in downtown Los Angeles. In 2007, Thompson opened his first Blue Buddha Sushi in Page, Arizona, on the southern shores of Lake Powell. Thompson plans to be on the front line during the first few months but eventually plans to hire and train up to six sushi chefs and about 10 more front-of-house and back-of-house employees, many coming up from his Arizona location.
“I hope that we’re a very comfortable and casual place. We want to bring some next-level sushi as well, but our main menu is very approachable. We’re here for the locals who live here year-round,” Thompson said. “We’re going to have smoking happy hour deals, late-night deals, $2 drafts, beer-and-a-hand-roll for $5. We really want to make this a place where people can eat here all the time and it’s still affordable.”
Thompson and his wife Jaime are living within walking distance of the restaurant and plan to enroll their daughter Echo in Ophir Elementary School, returning to Arizona during the summer months.
Town Center has been transforming at an increasingly quick rate during the last few years, and with three new eateries opening within two weeks of one another, it’s a safe bet that Big Sky will continue to be boomtown for the foreseeable future.