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Last month you probably would've had to wait a while for a Saturday morning table at Missoula's Rocky Mountain Grill. Large weekend crowds were common at the West Broadway restaurant, bar and casino, where hearty portions of eggs, hash browns, pancakes and sausage were served up in a dining room adorned with big-game mounts and long tubes of green neon.

Most patrons probably never noticed the note at the bottom of the menu advising that consumption of undercooked food could be hazardous to your health, but in the wake of a salmonella outbreak that caused the 13-day closure of one of Missoula's busiest breakfast joints, that notice carries a little more weight.

The Rocky Mountain Grill received a clean bill of health from the Missoula City-County Health Department last Thursday, but all is not yet back to normal for employees who were out of work for nearly two weeks. On Monday, just four days after the restaurant reopened, you could sit anywhere you liked.

By 8:30 a.m., a few tables had started to fill up, but that's still only about half the crowd Jenny, a waitress there for six years, is used to on a Monday morning.

"It's been pretty slow," she says. "It's been really hard on us. Some of the girls are losing their cars because they couldn't make their payments. One girl is even losing her house; she's being evicted at the end of the month."

For nearly two weeks Jenny stayed home and tried not to spend money while health department officials oversaw the sanitizing of the restaurant.

Now, Jenny says, "We've got the cleanest kitchen in town."

Not everyone went without a paycheck during the closure. Casino staff continued to work while the restaurant, which served more than 2,000 breakfasts the week the outbreak occurred, was shut down.

"The girls in the casino helped some of the girls in here buy groceries," Jenny says, clearing the remains of breakfast from our table. "I'm not supposed to let these sit here too long."

Today the employees park their cars in front of the restaurant-instead of the employee lot-to give passing motorists the impression that the grill is busy. And by 9 a.m. business has indeed picked up a bit and Jenny banters with some of her regulars.

"They're the reason I think all of us have been here so long," says Jenny. "We know their names, and their family members' names and the names of their pets."

But Rocky Mountain Grill wait staff, who are now bringing home just half the tips they earned only a month ago, are going to need to see more than just regulars before the holidays start to look cheerful again.

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