Tupelo Grille, Whitefish

by ROBERT FORD

I have never wavered in my opinion that Tupelo Grille in Whitefish has been one of the premium restaurants in the Flathead Valley for almost two decades. When owner Pat Carloss and his family opened Haskill Station, also in Whitefish, they showed us what creative and extensive refurbishing can produce. And now he’s done it with Tupelo Grille. As you read this,  the restaurant’s new addition should be open, bringing the total area to about 4,000 square feet.

The story goes back to when Pat bought the building next to the restaurant about 10 years ago. I asked him if he always intended to use the space for a larger restaurant. “Heck yes,” he said. “But we had to pick the right time.”

Last summer, the restaurant acquired a full liquor license and enhanced its award-winning selection of wines and ales to include everyone’s favorite cocktails. A welcome addition. Wheels set in motion.

In late October, the restaurant closed and work began to merge the two buildings into one larger space. Anyone who’s worked with or on some of our older buildings, even those from the ‘40s, can tell you that it’s a journey similar to a roller coaster ride. Careful planning notwithstanding, nearly every part of the project is a custom fit. Add the challenges of accessibility, additional fire suppression, heating and air conditioning, new bathrooms, and the scene is set for long, long hours, and some masterful work by artisans and craftsmen. “There was a lot of talent working on this, with not much time to get it done. Eric Thompson was a standout,” Carloss said.

The addition allows for the new entrance, which is warm and inviting with some unreal wall texturing, some neon, and some unique ceiling treatments. Diners will have a choice of the dining room or the bar, which will have its own new menu. Reclaimed wood from a 1938 sawmill in Kalispell was used for the flooring and for the ceiling beams that had to be hand fitted. Reclaimed tin was used to create a warm complement to the wood in the ceiling. The new bar was crafted by Brad Wilds and is a work of art in itself. Surround that with custom tables, bases made from I-beams, brushed steel chairs and huge couches in the far end. Extensive up lighting will be used. Bar manager Mike Christensen will be serving up some very special drinks, as well as all the favorites.

The new entry to the dining room is through signature arched doorways from the main entrance. A large amount of work has also been completed on the original restaurant side, adding even more intimate seating areas and booths. There will be much less movement through the seating areas with the relocation of the entrance. The same wonderful New Orleans feel is still there, along with the stellar collection of artwork and wine.

The kitchen was originally designed to accommodate the larger restaurant, so no major changes were necessary. However, Chef Tim Novacek and his staff will prepare an ambitious array of new dishes, as well as all the favorites.

The bar menu offers a lot of mouth-watering choices: house-made Tupelo poppers, jalapenos stuffed with bursin cheese and andouille sausage; oysters on the half shell; cilantro cured salmon; grilled green onion sausage; fried green BLT with pork belly and baby arugula.

Let’s keep going: shrimp and crawfish cakes; sweet potato fries with warm gorgonzola sauce; mini chicken and dumplings; almost famous baked mac and cheese; vanilla glazed scallops; buffalo carpaccio; bison meatballs with lingonberry jus. That’s not all. There’s plenty more to tempt the palate.

The dining room menu has all the old favorites, with entrees including pecan and mustard seed pork tenderloin; steak frites; chicken marsala; Tupelo’s original low country shrimp and grits; filet of tenderloin; jumbo scallops; braised lamb shank; Zydeco combo platter with crawfish and shrimp cakes, fried catfish, crawfish etouffee, grilled shrimp and jambalaya. There are plenty of soup and salad starters. Don’t wait – go visit an old favorite that’s even better, and let floor manager Bree Hopper, along with her knowledgeable and attentive wait staff, take good care of you.

Chef Tim and his staff will do whatever it takes to produce the best, freshest, and most well-prepared Cajun and Southern cuisine. I know that the new Tupelo Grille will surpass the original in popularity, good times, and great food. And that’s saying something. I’m a big fan.

Tupelo Grille
17 Central Avenue
Whitefish
406-862-6136
www.tupelogrille.com
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