It’s an amateur mistake to drive in the left lane heading south on Montana Street in Butte and get stopped behind cars crossing traffic to get to Bonanza Freeze. This local landmark is so popular that it really deserves a dedicated turn lane or a stoplight. But until then, stay to the right.
Its architectural style is “Drive-In Modern,” and one can’t help but be nostalgic for the days of cruising the main drag. The original building, built in 1947 and added onto since, boasts a sloped roof, a glass façade, 2 drive-up windows and a walk-up window.
The owner, Tom Russell, took over the business from his parents in 1986 – but only after running it for a year on his own. They had it for 19 years prior and Tom started helping out at age nine.
Tom named the famous Win A Muck A burger – a sloppy and delicious burger with BBQ sauce, fried onion rings and bacon. Coincidentally, the word “Winnemucca” translates to “charitable man.” Just ask any of his dedicated and loyal employees and they will gush about Tom’s character. He is a beloved boss and friend.
But we are here for the food, right? First of all, ingredients are top quality, they use as much local and fresh as possible. Second, the grill is original. 68 years of seasoning.
And while you may think of this type of food as “fast food,” we prefer to call it “leisurely food.” You will wait a full ten minutes or more for your made-to-order meal. But among the folks waiting, you will find someone you know. And you might then find out something you didn’t know. Lunch with a side of scuttlebutt.
The outside wall-mounted menu will tempt you into indecision if you’ve not been to Bonanza Freeze before. Proper etiquette dictates that you park, decide, and then order at the take-out window.
Walking up to the take-out window is like walking up to a carnival. All the sweets and drinks and goodies are visible: popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream machine, colorful bottles of flavors. Choose from shakes, malts, floats, sundaes and frosties.
The meals are too numerous to mention. Burgers galore, sandwiches, pasties, halibut, specialty items and a kid’s menu. Side orders range from fries and gravy to breaded mushrooms to fried pickles. Tom says cheese balls are a local favorite. And for those of you suspicious of fryer oil, Bonanza Freeze cleans and strains theirs daily.
Tom claims the enduring popularity of Bonanza Freeze is all due to community – residents and visitors, suppliers, and the workers who love their jobs. Those workers get to go home at closing time. Tom and his crew come in the morning and clean and restock and get ready for the day. Charitable indeed.
This local gem is open all year round, 7 days a week.
Winter hours are 11am – 10pm, with delivery until 9pm.
Summer hours are 11am-11pm, with delivery until 10pm.
1040 S. Montana Street
Butte, MT 59701