Story and Photos
Patrick Bird, slim, 36, recently returned from Hawaii wearing around his neck a canine tooth from a black bear and a well-used chef’s apron.
Mr. Bird is the chef at the new Benson’s Restaurant, updated from what used to be George Henry’s at 404 N. 30th St.
“We want to be 80 percent sustainable according to the standards of the Western Sustainability Certification Committee,” he said, adding, “You have to be certified sustainable at a certain percentage.”
Mr. Bird, from Billings, studied hotel and restaurant management at a community college in Hilo, Hawaii.
Evidently comfortable in the National Park dining system, Mr. Bird previously served for five years as chef at Acadia and Volcanoes National Parks and also worked in a four-star resort, The Lake Hotel, in Yellowstone National Park. He said that he bases his menu on what is in season, the freshest available and organic.
On the day that The Outpost staff dined at Bensons, the hand-carved Reuben sandwich on dark brown rye with bright purple cabbage and perfectly browned shoestring skinny potatoes sated all thoroughly.
Although on the expensive side at $56 with tip and several pints of beer, the lunch for two included excellent green salads and an outstanding hand-carved Reuben sandwich.
A to-go box made dinner that night – the leftover Reuben – delicious, if not economical.
A diner who had just departed Benson’s and was about to climb into her SUV wouldn’t identify herself, but she recommended the homemade soup on the menu: “housemade roasted corn chowder.”
“I don’t have time for a picture,” she said, “but the roasted corn chowder was fantastic.”
Jennifer and Stephen Benson, the new owners, are respectively from Paige, Ariz., and from Butte. Ms. Benson said they had heard that the previous didn’t want to sell or lease the building to anyone who might totally change the place.
The entire restaurant holds 150 diners, has a lower dining room that opens out onto the patio and is convenient to the Alberta Bair Theater for symphony-goers.
The upstairs party room at Benson’s holds from 12-30 diners and has a full wine and beer bar.
A complete menu is available at www.bensonsrestaurant.com. For more information, call 252-3595.