I like to road trip. The allure of southwestern desert landscapes calls on my camera obsession each spring. The route I take to these southern excursions from my home Whitefish is almost always Interstate 15 with a self-imposed pit stop at Exit 23. Being an aficionado of all things breakfast, I think sometimes I travel this stretch of lonely interstate just as an excuse to visit one of my all-time favorite eating establishments in Montana. Yesterday’s Calf-A in tiny Dell has been serving up inexpensive home-style cooking goodness since 1978 in a distinctive refurbished schoolhouse.
I’m not the only one who has been seduced by the assortment of delicious meals that the eatery is known for. According to owner, Linda Marxer, the loyal following includes local ranchers, tourists, especially snowbirds, and truckers. The long distance haulers are “like family”, said Marxer. I can see that point as meals at the Calf-A remind me of simple home heartiness that I would have gotten served up from local farm ladies back in Ohio growing up. When Marxer purchased the restaurant in 2002 she kept the exact same menu as when the establishment first opened in 1978. Why mess with a good thing!
Beside the tasty dishes like the popular roast beef served with fresh mashed potatoes the place just oozes of character. When walking through the front door into the wooden flooring there is a stable of happy eaters donning trucker and cowboy hats and the aroma of fresh donuts, pies and a strong cup of coffee permeates the historic schoolhouse. The building served as the entire school system for Dell children from 1903-1963 with an average 20 students per year.
Even after all of the years since teachers and students, the place feels like they just left for recess. The chalkboard is still in service now touts daily specials and pie selections instead of homework assignments. There is a collection of books in the corner of the structure, a wide assortment of vintage memorabilia from the school-time era. A large map on the southern wall where the restaurant’s many satisfied clients from all overt the world proudly place pins that proclaims their homeland.
I know I can be considered a loyal diner of Calf-A as I even plan my road trips leaving Whitefish by 4:00am so that I will arrive while the tasty breakfast menu is still being served. I’ve even passed this trait to my son Logan after he and I would make spring break trips to mountain bike in southern Utah during his high school years. He gets jealous every time I mention that I have stopped by Dell without him. I can always rub it in a bit more by mentioning the glazed donut that I took “to go” simply melted in my mouth before I reached the Idaho line.
It is located on Main Street right off the Exit 23 on Hwy 15
Open 7 days a week. Usually 7:00am-7:00pm.
Off season hours may vary, call before you go.