Ready for a novel.......
I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula in California (yes, I'm one of those #&%@ Californians, but I was born in North Dakota- wait, is that worse?); anyway, the Peninsula has some of the finest dining and eating establishments in the world- literally. I REALLY miss the diversity and quality of the fare available there. I worked in some of the restaurants before continuing with college and moving to Montana; made it up to chef at a small place on the wharf.
I now live in the land of meat and potatoes- as do the rest of you. Many of my local friends and family get upset stomachs from the local taco shop, having grown up on bland, prairie diets. Tacos and spaghetti are about their limit. But not mine! I absolutely love a well made meal, or a good sandwich on fresh sourdough, a fine desert that didn't come from a box. 99% of what is served in Miles City comes from a box or a bag pulled from a corporate semi-trailer or the regional food service company (FSA, SER, etc.) What's lacking....
Money for one. Much of the community won't spend much on a meal because they've found (locally) that high cost doesn't mean high taste/quality (ever eat one of those rubbery frozen lobsters here?). Acquiring a palete for good food does not happen over night. It's also hard to actually taste your food when the room is clouded with cigarette smoke. Like a good bottle of wine, you learn to taste the subtleties of a well seasoned filet; to appreciate the delicacies of a well made pastry; the flavor of a fruit or vegetable that ripened on the tree/bush/vine and has not been boiled to death with other products to the point of being a flavorless bit of mush.
I appreciate a well made donut, a good hamburger or steak, and a cheap beer, but I miss freshness and well thought out and prepared foods.
We get together occasionally with several of our friends and have international meal nights. Each attendee brings something from Latin America, Asia, the Mid-East- whatever region of the world we're in the mood for. It's not a huge ordeal because everyone is contributing to the table. It's fun and good.
What does Miles City need???
1. A dedicated cook that has been trained and is willing to work lousy hours for little or nothing is the first step.
2. A non-smoking restaurant that serves food and beverages- not a gaming hall or a bar. It should have a comfortable feel and preferably an enjoyable or entertaining view. Most of the local establishments seriously lack character and atmosphere; they look as tastless as their food.
3. A commitment to actually prepare food- not pull it from a bag, box or container. The menu should be composed of good recipes that are within the capabilities of the chef. It could include various "ethnic" items or be some of that fine "nouveau cuisine" that has become so popular.
4. Changing the menu on a daily or weekly basis would be great in addition to some regular items. This can be costly, but it can also guarantee repeat customers seeking something new; it also takes advantage of things that are available seasonally (ever try to get a decent artichoke or fresh Pacific salmon in December?). Additionally, the prices should be fair, I don't mean affordable or cheap. I'll pay for a good filet mignon, but if it's lousy I'm going to let everyone know about my dissatisfaction.
5. Good Service. I can't begin to say how much lousy service is available here. Tables, floors, counters, and all dinner and glassware should be spotless. Linens should be clean and crisp- not soiled and worn out. Wait staff needs training and appreciation from their employers. And cutomers- don't be so darn tight with tips; if you get good service give them a decent tip because they're not getting rich waiting tables!
6. An educated public that appreciates truly good food and is willing to pay for it. Enjoy the experience of being pampered and served; of having a meal prepared for you; be willing to experiment and try something new, wierd or bizarre (not Rocky Mountain oyters!). Hopefully, the chef has done his/her homework and knows what they're doing. A good chef becomes known and relates with his/her cutomers and reacts to thier input.
That's a beginning. It's far deeper than that, but this covers my basic instincts. Sadly, quality restaurants are more likely to succeed where there's more money and talent available.