Montana is one of the most uniquely beautiful states in the country, with the Rocky Mountains climbing up, and the great big sky she’s so well known for. The wildlife, too, makes the state the envy of others, with bison, elk, moose, wolves, bear, loons, pikas, marmots, and so many more.
Wild game (and farmed) is part of the charm of dining out in Montana – and there’s nothing more local than finding a brewpub serving bison burgers or a great bottle of Montana red.
As you hit up Missoula, Montana on your travels, you’ll definitely want to take on that tradition and snag yourself a bison burger.
Travel Tips for Eating The Best Bison Burgers in Missoula
As you head into the restaurants, looking to dine like a local on the delicious bison burgers, craft beers, and other local delights, you’ll want to keep some things in mind.
Tipping in Montana
- Like in most states of the U.S., tipping is an important part of service personnel’s wages. 15 to 20% is the usual range for most folks tipping their servers, fly fishing guides, and other service professionals, but if you really like the service and food, most folks recommend going for 20%.
Peak Restaurant Hours & Meal Times
- Missoula’s peak restaurant hours are pretty standard compared to other locations. Most lunchtimes are between 11:30 and 2 pm, with some early birds sliding in around 10:30. Dinner time shifts over around 4 pm, which is when meal prices, portions, and menu offerings shift.
- If you’ve looked at the lunch menu for a given restaurant and seen something you like, be sure to get there within the stated hours or check the dinner menu to make sure it’s available at dinner time, as well.
- Also note, that unless the restaurant serves breakfast, most dining establishments open around 11 am and close after dinner time, between 8 and 10 pm. Typically, bar and grill-style restaurants will be open later than family-style restaurants. Bar and grill-style might be open until the wee hours. Be sure to check their specific details if you’re grabbing a late-night burger. Open hours may vary by day of the week, as well, so double-check the day before you head over.
- Also, some restaurants may close between lunch and dinner hours for 1 to 3 hours. This typically gives the restaurant time to clean more thoroughly, switch menu items, and adjust any details that transform the spot from “daytime” to “nighttime” dining.
Where to Find the 6 Best Bison Burgers in Missoula
There’s nothing more local than slapping some bison meat on a grill and swigging some locally crafted beer or Montana wine. So, as you look for the best bison burgers Missoula has to offer, you’ll want to think about drinks, sides, and, of course, the atmosphere in each spot.
To enjoy the best of the best bison burgers in Missoula, you truly could take a tour of these fine restaurants and experience the same burger twice.
1. Tamarack Brewing Company • 231 W Front St • $$
The Tamarack Brewing Company very definitely started out as a craft beer brewery – but in recent years, it’s become so much more. Now, you can pull up a table in Missoula or Lakeside for a cold one and some amazing food.
Tamarack is the number one ranked-choice on Yelp for bison burgers Missoula offerings. The simply delicious burger has cheddar cheese, loads of bison meat, and beer-braised as onions.
They recommend drinking the hat trick hop IPA with this burger. Also on the menu, you’ll find bison tacos in a flour tortilla, loaded with cheese, chipotle sour cream, pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce.
Other delectable choices from the food side of the brewing company include prime rib brew bread, brie chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, garlic bleu fries, verde pork burritos, pizza, and “railroad ties” (eggroll wrapped chicken, mozzarella, cream cheese, and green chilis).
Their brews include American pale, Indian pale, blonde, apricot wheat, amber, rye, wheat, and oatmeal stouts and ales, along with (nonalcoholic) root beer made with Montana honey and raw sugar. You’ll find unique cocktails and seasonal offerings as well – so always check any specials menus to see what’s new this week.
While you’re here noshing on your bison burger and throwing back a cold one, you’ll find the atmosphere cozy, modern, and rustic, with Montana/western décor.
From Monday to Friday, they open at 11 am. Saturday and Sunday, they open at 10 am.
2. James Bar • 127 W Alder St • $$
The façade of the James Bar is fairly unimpressive – blending into the strip mall where it’s located. But once you step inside, you’ll see a modern, energetic country grill and bar where fantastic food is served, and people come to gather for all sorts of reasons.
The warm atmosphere, cozy booths, and comfy bar stools offer great vibes while you nosh on your favorite Montana meal choices.
And while other bison burgers might be great, the James Bar bison burgers are both great and unique. The Green Chili Bison Burger is topped with bacon, roasted green chilis, and American cheese. The bison gourmet sliders are topped with bacon, black pepper, and blue cheese for a zingy bite. You’ll also find bison stew and bison meatloaf on the menu.
Along with your bison, you’ll find a variety of meal and drink choices from falafels to mussels and fries, smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese to shepherd’s pie – and everything in between.
The drink menu offers local favorites, cocktails, imports, and more. You can even come in for a Boozy Brunch Saturdays and Sundays at 10 am.
On weekdays, the James Bar opens at 3 pm, with takeout hours between 12 and 8 pm all week long. Dine indoors or enjoy the patio seating.
3. Iron Horse Bar and Grill • 501 N Higgins Ave • $$
The Iron Horse Bar and Grill is located in the most convenient part of town for most visitors – downtown on Higgins Avenue.
The restaurant offers four different outdoor seating sections with beautiful backdrops, as well as, of course, plenty of indoor seating choices.
The Iron Horse is a full-service bar and grill that has a trendy lounge, long attractive bar, balcony seating, sunset deck, courtyard, and patio seating options that vibe with modern, colorful, and chic moods.
The kitchen is open from 11 am to 10 pm Monday through Friday, and from 10 to 10 on Saturdays and Sundays.
On the menu, you’ll find a unique bison burger that you’ll definitely want to make your way through. It’s a half-pounder with chipotle bacon jam, Swiss cheese, and thick, crispy onions.
Additionally, you’ll find loads of tasty options like tequila glazed shrimp, sticky ribs, bourbon street mussels, Tandoori chicken, French onion soup, Salmon BLTs, and Ruebens, fish tacos, and a plethora of house sandwiches.
Drinks include a variety of mixed cocktails, draft beers, house chardonnay, and cabernet.
4. Conflux Taphouse • 210 N Pattee St • $$
The Conflux Taphouse and brewpub, located in downtown Missoula, was built around the idea of convergence (conflux – and thus the name!) of unique food and great beer using community-driven and sustainable practices.
Not only do the two come together in a tasty menu, but as you sit inside the dining room, you can watch the brewery operation in motion.
The bison burger at Conflux is one you won’t soon forget, thanks to its unique huckleberry BBQ and smoked gouda combination. Dine on the patio or indoors by the firepit to enjoy a good brew and meal.
Other popular choices on the taphouse menu include bison meatballs, birria tacos, country poutine, buffalo chicken mac ‘n cheese, fish and chips, and a variety of tasty sandwiches like the blackened steelhead trout BLT and the (vegan) mushroom French dip.
The brewpub and taphouse are open from noon to 10 pm.
5. The Keep Restaurant • 102 Ben Hogan Dr • $$$
For a classy night out with decadent desserts, beautiful wine, and apps galore to accompany that bison burger, The Keep Restaurant is your go-to in Missoula.
Open from 5 to 9 pm each weekday and 5 to 10 pm on weekends, the elegant restaurant is the perfect place to settle in for a selection of delights.
The bison burger itself comes with aged cheddar, Dijon aioli, tomato relish, crispy onions, and French fries. Other menu selections range from a baked brie starter made with local honey and pecans to Cajun prawns, chicken marsala, pan-roasted duck breast, and a variety of steaks and poultry choices.
For dessert, dive into crème brulee, cheesecake, tarts, cake, ice cream, and more.
The spirits and wine menu are equally impressive with chardonnay, pinot gris, reislings, sparkling wines, zinfandels, and more – many of which are local.
If spirits and beers are more your cuppa, the house cocktails and draft beers get rave reviews.
6. Paradise Falls Tavern, Restaurant & Casino • 3621 Brooks St • $$
Open from 7 am to midnight, Paradise Falls Tavern, Restaurant, and Casino is an exciting, fun place where you can grab a fab bison burger, cocktails, throw some dice, or just kick back and enjoy the bustle of entertainment around you.
There are 22 TVs, 20 gaming machines, and 18 beers on tap, as the first thing you see on the website tells you. Sunday brunch, happy hour, live events, and much more keep folks coming back for more – and visitors are always welcome.
The bison burger here is made with hot pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo for a zesty, spicy meal you’ll want to pair with a local brew like the Strange Haze IPA from the Missoula Brewing Company or the Powder Hound Winter IPA from Big Sky Brewing Company.
The menu has plenty of other selections for kids and big kids alike, with breakfast classics like corned beef hash, island French toast, eggs benedict, and Belgian waffles, along with lunch and dinner favorites including pizza, elk burgers, quesadillas, salads, clam strips, gyros, and buffalo chicken.
And don’t forget the martinis, mules, Montana-made cocktails, and a variety of wines available for the big kids.