In downtown Kalispell, Chef Doug Day focuses on fine and fun American cuisine

Story by Justin Franz | Photography by Greg Lindstrom

Doug Day is no stranger to pleasing local palates. After all, he’s been doing it for 17 years in downtown Kalispell.

Day and his wife Vonnie have been staples of Kalispell’s culinary scene since the late 1990s when they opened Café Max, a fine dining establishment that focused on French cuisine. Later, they featured a Mediterranean menu with Capers, which was known for its pizzas cooked in authentic brick ovens. And today, they focus on fine and fun American cuisine with Hop’s Downtown Grill.

“Changing is always the fun part of life,” Day said recently of the transformation his downtown restaurant made four years ago. “We wanted to mix it up a little bit because it’s always fun to do something new.”

Day, who is co-owner and head chef, had worked in kitchens in Seattle and on the East Coast before coming to Kalispell to open up a restaurant. Both Café Max and Capers were wildly popular with locals, and Day said many of their signature dishes are still available on the Hop’s starters menu or as daily specials.

The cornerstones of Hop’s menu are what it calls “Montana’s best burgers,” a bold statement until you bite into one. The burger menu is dominated by a superb lineup of Kobe beef burgers, including a bacon and brie slider, a teriyaki burger with grilled pineapple, and even one made with Kalispell Brewing Company’s Snowslip Stout. And you don’t have to be a carnivore to enjoy Day’s work because Hop’s also has a black bean veggie burger that is second to none.

However, the highlight of Hop’s menu is its “extreme burger” lineup, which includes the Spring Brook Ranch yak burger, made from locally sourced meat. Topping the burger is ginger and grilled onions, along with a secret Tibetan barbecue sauce.

“When we say this is a local burger, we mean it. This yak literally came from down the road,” Day said. “These extreme burgers are who we are.”

Complementing the burgers is an excellent beer lineup. Hop’s has more than 100 beers to chose from, including local favorites from Flathead Lake Brewing, Great Northern Brewing, HA Brewing, and Cabinet Mountain Brewing.

The focus on local food is especially important to Day, along with a simple creed that keeps Hop’s pleasing patrons: “Simple preparation with quality food is a recipe for success.”

THE DETAILS

Description: A yak burger with Tibetan barbecue sauce, ginger and grilled onions, served with russet potato chips or coleslaw

Price: $14.95

Location: 121 Main St., Kalispell

Website: www.hopsmontana.com