Who knew that just across the Idaho border, at the northwest tip of Lake Pend Oreille, the little city of Sandpoint was so delicious?! It’s never been on my radar before, and perhaps I assumed the food desert of northern Montana extended west. Regardless, I’m happy to have assumed wrong!
Tucked at the base of Schweitzer Mountain, within shouting distance of a huge railroad hub, I found one of the most unique AirBnB’s ever — a cabin designed as a fire lookout. It sat, perched at the top of a massive granite cliff, overlooking the valley below. With a quick search, and a few queries of locals in the area, I quickly found what’s become my new destination drive-to farm-to-table restaurant: Pack River Store. Sure, it doesn’t sound like anything fancy — and it’s not. It’s laid-back, unpretentious, and from one end of the menu to the other offers up most of my favorites — particularly their eggs Benedict. The first morning we arrived, chef Alex Jacobson was not only cooking up a storm, but waiting tables, too. We’re early risers, so along with great food and service, we didn’t have the hustle and bustle that’s typical of a popular spot).
Chef Alex has a bit of a foodie pedigree. He’s a California Culinary Academy grab, and in just a short conversation it was obvious he knows his way around a restaurant, and understands making it a community event. Although we were there primary for breakfasts, he’s created a once-a-month 5-course menu that’s drive-worthy even from the far reaches of Washington state.
But I digress. Let’s chat about that eggs Benedict, shall we? What makes a perfect benedict, you ask? It’s an amalgamation of house-made hollandaise, perfectly-poached egg, enough ham to get your attention but not to overwhelm the hollandaise, and a crispy English muffin. Alex mentioned his wife has a garden where he sources some of his ingredients. Undoubtedly, that was the case with the crisp greens in my side-salad.
No, this post isn’t just about Pack River Store (but yes, I could write quite a missive about them). Another unexpected surprise was MickDuff Brewing‘s in the downtown core. I wandered past families with kids, and immediately lowered my expectations. With a seat at the bar, at an overlook in the middle of this historic building, I quickly found it to be resonating with good vibes! I chose nothing more (on a very hot day) than a steak salad and a beer, but found plenty of other appealing options for another trip.
Yet another gem, The Fat Pig brought farm-to-table fare (and has a rotating menu so there’ll be plenty for me to try another time. I loved both items I chose (an order of Korean wings with a spicy/sweet gochujang and a tangy slaw on the side, along with a perfectly-prepared filet of salmon on a bed of succotash. Paired with bright cocktails and a friendly bartender, this spot definitely made my list!
The English muffins used at Pack River Store were from Bluebird Bakery. I wandered in on a whim, having heard about the place from staff at two restaurants I’d visited. The line at the counter when I arrived immediately made me realize I wasn’t the only one who heard about them. I grabbed one of their breakfast sandwiches, then quickly devoured it prior to heading out on a ride along the lake on my bike.
I’m thankful that I have another Sandpoint trip planned late this Spring, and that I can revisit a few of the favorites I found. If you’re local to the area, or have breezed through and found a gem, drop me a note so I can check them out!