Woods Bay’s iconic lakeside bar serves up worldly flavors in the wilds of Montana

Story by Justin Franz | Photography by Greg Lindstrom
Whenever we travel, we tend to bring pieces of our destination back home with us. Sometimes it may be physical items, like a magnet or a T-shirt. More often, we carry with us warm memories of the places we visited that we hold on to until we can return again.

The latter is exactly what Lisa Cloutier brought to Montana following her years of traveling throughout the Caribbean and Asia. But Cloutier wasn’t satisfied with just memories, and in the 1990s she decided to turn the bar that she and her husband purchased into a tribute to her overseas adventures.

Today, The Raven in Woods Bay has been bringing the flavors and feel of the Caribbean and Asia to the wilds of Montana for 21 years. Cloutier, who serves as owner and head chef, said the establishment’s success is rooted in its atmosphere.

“The Raven’s casual atmosphere is great,” she said. “This is a place where you can come and have drinks with the guys or dinner with family. This place works for everyone.”

That is certainly true of The Raven’s menu, which features both familiar fares and more exotic entrees that showcase “Asian inspirations with local twists.” There’s everything from Greek tacos and burgers to yak meatloaf and steak frites.

Cloutier changes up the menu frequently based on local availability. Getting local meat and produce has gotten easier in recent years, she said, thanks to places like the Western Montana Growers Cooperative that deliver fresh products every week. In the past, she had to send employees across the valley to pick up goods.

“What I have available to me in June is always so different than what I can get in September,” she said. “It’s always changing so I’m always changing the menu, but of course there are always some staples that never leave the menu.”

Chief among those staples are The Raven’s Pad Thai and Baja Fish Tacos. Cloutier said the two dishes are by far the resturant’s most popular items, and one bite into either will tell you why. The Pad Thai can be ordered with chicken and features peanuts, fresh herbs and lime. The noodle dish is covered in house-made sauce that features 17 different ingredients. The Baja Fish Tacos have the restaurant’s chipotle-lime sauce, salsa, purple cabbage and cheese.

Like all of The Raven’s entrees, prices range from $11 to $14, perfect for those on a budget. The cost includes the added bonus of stunning Flathead Lake views that are available from any seat in the house.

Cloutier said that keeping The Raven affordable and friendly has always been a priority throughout the restaurant’s 21 years on the lake.

“Our friends love to hang out here and we love to hang out here,” Cloutier said.