Walking into a small town Montana bar is often tough….with folks staring so hard at you that it almost feels like a classic Western movie, with the jukebox stopping in the middle of a love ballad, and all you can hear are the spurs coating cowboy boots tapping against their stools. A tumbleweed blows by as you slowly draw a menu from the table. But what if I told you it didn’t have to be this way? What if I sent you to the Hell Creek Bar in Jordan, Montana and told you where to sit, what to order and enough history about the place to be decent talking to the folks next to you? Take a seat…because here is how it goes. And the place is legendary, so you wouldn’t want to miss it because of tumbleweeds.
First off, walk in the front door facing Main Street. If you are solo or with just one other person, perch just inside on the right at the tall bistro table with a window perfect for people-watching. If you have a bigger group, we’ve still got you covered – just make your way to the far back, past the pool table and toward the juke box. You will find tables that could easily fit a crowd back there. The menu is on a well-manicured, double-sided sheet of paper with the typical plastic guard to protect itself from the deliciousness about to befall you.
But you won’t need to make any hard decisions just yet, because you’ll want to order the Mushroom Swiss Burger, a 1/3 pound hand formed beef patty, sandwiched on a bun between a layer of melted Swiss cheese and the most amazing mushrooms in sauce. Mind you, these are not the kind of mushrooms that were so freshly yanked from a can that they squeak on your teeth. These are the kind of mushrooms that were carefully sautéed in the kitchen completely renovated in December of 2014 by new owners Doug and Darla Stanton and their daughter and son-in-law, Ryan and Tammy Dodd. By the way, each table has its own roll of paper towels…you’ll need a few of them to eat this properly. This is not the place for dainty bites.
Now, the beverage. It is important to note that, while this is still considered a full-service bar, children are allowed to dine here with the lunch and dinner crowds. A favorite for the little ones is the Shirley Temple. For the bigger and taller ones, Tammy suggests her mother’s favorite drink – Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Imagine vodka, pineapple juice and half and half topped with splash of grenadine and a cherry. If you decided to sit at the bar stools for the drink, your reflection will echo back from the beautiful mirrored cherry Art Deco bar just behind the counter. According to local lore, it’s carved arches traveled from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO upriver to Fort Benton, Montana by boat, then by wagon train to a final resting place in Jordan. Over the years, the mirrors have reflected famous (and infamous) patrons such as Benny Binion, gambling and mob boss legend, known for his kindness and respect to the cowboys. Another complicated personality that the mirrors often reflected was Gregory Hemingway, son of writer Ernest Hemingway and, more importantly to Jordan residents, the sole doctor in the county from 1978 to ’83.
Are you done with your burger and the homemade fries that came with it yet? Good. Let’s talk dessert. You’ll want to order the Deep Fried Cheesecake with either the Blueberry or Cherry Sauces. If visualizing this is hard, imagine a churro giving a cheesecake a tight hug as it hopped into the fryer. You don’t get brownie points in the wild west for wasting a good treat, so be sure and ask them to split the dessert in half before it arrives to your table, in case you need to take the rest with you for later. Sinfully rich but completely worth it, the crunchy crust combines with the perfect soft center in a fashion sure to please the biggest sweet tooth.
And there you go. You just successfully navigated a trip to the Hell Creek Bar, open from 10:00 am to 2:00 am seven days a week. Hopefully you didn’t manage to trip over the brass spittoon on the floorboards, had a chance to look at the jaw-dropping mounts while potentially sitting next to famous paleontologists back from dig sites. Perhaps as a movie fan, you finally realized you were sitting in the bar featured in Jurassic Park 3 in a nod to these real life bone diggers and one of their favorite watering holes over the years. Cowboy poet Baxter Black once wrote,” In the Hell Creek Bar by the light of a star, you’ll find yourself where all the cowboys are all talkin’ ‘bout horses they’ve rode. The buckers they’ve known, the times they’ve been thrown, and the stories they tell might cut to the bone…..long as the whiskey flowed.” Just don’t forget about the other half of the Fried Cheesecake in your coat pocket on the way home.
Hell Creek Bar & Grill
502 Main Street
Jordan, Montana 59337
Open Daily 10:00 am – 2:00 am