The "Pasty Capitol of the World" is out of pasties. We're hunkered in a booth at Gamer's Cafe early Sunday morning, our blood-shot eyes and slumped shoulders saying everything for us. Last night was our first time in Butte on St. Patrick's Day. We think we survived.
Our waitress, Tina, apologizes for the pasty shortage. The green-clad mobs cleaned the restaurant out of its storied Cornish dish yesterday. "We're making more now, but it'll be a while," she says.
They'd better hurry; it's only 9 a.m. and already more bloodshot eyes are trickling in the door.
There's been talk since yesterday afternoon that this was the busiest St. Paddy's in Butte yet. The Montana Highway Patrol anticipated 10,000 visitors, and the Billings Police Department even sent two officers to bolster the Butte PD's presence. Butte reported 45 arrests Saturday, down from 100 in 2008.
I wouldn't be surprised if every visitor had been at the M&M Bar at least once last night. The place was so crowded, people were leaning out an open window.
Tina refills the coffee and our day of Irish revelry comes back in waves. Quarry Brewing's new digs in uptown were packed when we arrived, their Emerald Isle Green Beer clearly in vogue. The throng at the Silver Dollar Saloon was singing a rousing rendition of "Drunken Sailor" not long after cops busted up a fight outside the front door, reportedly arresting three. We bumped into a few Missoula folks drawing on the fogged-over windows at the Headframe Spirits distillery on Montana Street with their fingers. They were first-time visitors to Butte's St. Paddy's Day, tooand loving it.
"We should start coming here every year," says our old college buddy Bill Oram. He drove up from Salt Lake City Friday, drawn by legend and a desire to see if Butte would live up. "Seriously, let's make this a tradition."
For Butte, it already is. The city's been hosting a St. Patrick's Day parade since 1882. There's no open-container law, so the post-parade festivities have only grown more popular. Locals refer to Butte as "Ireland's Fifth Province." The cheesy green beads and shamrock sunglasses aside, the assessment doesn't seem far off. Fights may break out, police citations may spike, but it's not often that embracing complete strangers and singing pub songs at the top of your lungs become social norms.
The sentiment at our breakfast table seems unanimous: We'll be back next year. Maybe we'll have better luck getting pasties.