Restaurants Remembered

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Many people are upset that Rikki’s restaurant closed permanently a few days ago – including me! We enjoyed Rikki’s, and dined there usually once or twice a month. I will miss their pizza, the cheesy flatbread, and the apple crisp.

Some people began bashing Great Falls on Facebook – not just sad or upset about Rikki’s, but somehow interpreting the closure as an indictment of Great Falls as a whole, pointing to several recent restaurant closures.

I get it – losing a favorite restaurant really sucks! But the closure of this restaurant, or that restaurant, doesn’t mean that Great Falls as a whole is a failed city. Restaurants are HARD. Keeping a restaurant open for more than a few years is almost a miracle. And that’s not just Great Falls — the restaurant business is notorious for fast opens and fast closures across the country.

And in a community such as Great Falls, where the economy is very stable and steady and not growing like gangbusters, there’s going to be an equilibrium, so to speak, in terms of the number of restaurants that our population can support.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane – here is the list of all the restaurants in Great Falls that have closed (that I can remember) since I arrived in 2002.

I hope you noticed that many (not all) of the restaurants listed above that closed became DIFFERENT restaurants – the list is not a net-loss for Great Falls. For instance – Elmer’s became Monty’s A Taste Of The West became Canyon Burgers/Baja Fresh became Beef O’Brady’s – and Beef O’Brady’s has been going strong in that location for years. Ming’s restaurant became Pho Vi Tai recently

Other locations have hosted several restaurants, but are currently dark (hopefully not for long): Big Sky Bagel became Suki Cafe; Portofino’s became Sedgie’s became Rio Ranch Grill became Tap House Grill.

Part of the incorrect perception of Great Falls restaurants closing at record-setting rates is that the closing restaurants are KNOWN to the community – just about everybody has eaten at, driven by, or heard of 5th Street Diner during its 20-year existence. But when a new restaurant opens, not too many people know about it at first, or even for a long time, simply because it is new. It may get a mention in the TV or paper, and anyone who chances to see or read about it may decide to check it out, but after that initial push, the “newness” quickly fades and a lot of people simply don’t know about it.

And now to crib from an earlier post: let’s focus on the OTHER side of this — yes, some restaurants are closing, but did you know that there are at least six NEW restaurants that have opened in the last few months?

The Black Bear Diner opened in December over in the Marketplace; I’ve been there twice so far.

The Double Barrel Coffee House Cafe opened recently on 15th Street South – been there a few times, and really enjoyed it.

The Block opened downtown on 5th Street a few months ago; been there three times so far (love it!).

Pho Vi Tai opened several weeks ago along 10th Avenue South, offering some unique dishes (mini-review here).

The Last Straw Bistro opened recently on Central Avenue – it’s quite fun!

Mrs. Wright’s Pastys is now open at the intersection of 10th Avenue South and 20th Street – cute!

The point is – please don’t let the closure of any particular restaurant (or two, etc) lead you to think that Great Falls is some sort of bottomless pit of despair when it comes to dining out. We have so many choices – some that succeed and stick around for years or decades, others that manage to hit it off for a few good years, and others that try their best but just don’t “click.”

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