Happiest Hour: The 9 Mile Roadhouse

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Why I’m here: I grew up in the Six Mile, and as a kid when my parents would ask, “Who wants to go get some greasy cheeseburgers?” I knew we were going to the 9 Mile House. Back then it was a restaurant with a bar attached, and it wasn’t always necessarily a “family” place, depending on what night of the week it was and who was getting liquored up in the bar. When I heard that after a four-year absence the place had been reopened, I had to check it out.

Ambiance: Who says you can never go home? It’s still a restaurant with a bar attached. The Roadhouse looks much the same as the dim fog of decades allows me to remember, only more polished. It still leans suitably rustic with a low ceiling, pine walls and posts, and a big, copper-plated bar. A flatscreen TV occupies one wall and a quartet of gaming machines props up another. I’ve been twice, and both times shared lively conversation with bartender/owner Shawna McWatters and her dad, Scott, who cooks.

Who you’re drinking and feasting with: Could be a family of locals, a crusty old-timer or a Simms bedecked pack of fisherfolk. This time of year there will probably be a hunter or three, and maybe some highway workers from the endless road construction that seems to have been a permanent process as long as I-90 has linked South Dakota with Washington state.

What you’re eating: Delicious burgers, prime rib sandwiches, chicken, steak, some seafood and mountains of the best fresh-cut, skin-on fries I’ve had in forever.

What you’re drinking: I counted at least a dozen beers on tap, the locals well-represented, and who knows how many others in the cooler. The Roadhouse has an all-beverage liquor license, and the bar had plenty of whiskeys and spirits on offer.

How to find it: Head west on I-90 to the Ninemile exit, maybe 30 minutes or so from Missoula. From the exit it’s just a couple miles up and down a hill; where the road forks it will be on your left. You really can’t miss it. Assign a driver if you’re drinking. They’ve just announced new fall/winter hours: 4 p.m.—10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email editor@missoulanews.com.

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