Columbia Falls restaurant offers Asian fare with Hawaiian influences

Story by Justin Franz / Photography by Greg Lindstrom
For most Americans, the mere mention of a pu pu platter evokes the image of a large plate of fried food — perhaps a semi-circle of egg roles, a pile of wontons and a greasy assortment of beef teriyaki. As delicious as that guilty pleasure may be, the words “homemade” or “fresh” aren’t typically associated with this tray of Americanized Chinese fare.

But that’s not the case at Columbia Falls’ Tea Kettle Café. Opened by Ian Moore two years ago, Tea Kettle Café on Nucleus Avenue provides a fresh take on Asian cuisine, including its version of the classic pu pu platter.

Moore, 45, grew up in Oregon and started working in a kitchen in his teens. He eventually moved to Hawaii where he fell in love with the islands and its Asian-inspired cuisine.

“Hawaii and its cuisine are a melting pot,” he said.

Moore eventually ended up in the Flathead Valley, working in kitchens around Whitefish, but he had a desire to go out on his own and share the flavors of the Pacific Rim that he loved.

Moore started selling made-to-order Thai and Indian food. Once a week, he would email a menu to friends and ask if they wanted to order something for the following day. Friends would place their order, and the next day, he would drop it off at their house. As his food’s popularity grew, he purchased a food truck and started showing up at farmers markets and catering events. A few years later, when a storefront in downtown Columbia Falls became available, Moore jumped at the opportunity. The Tea Kettle Café was born.

While Asian-influenced fare is at the heart of the menu, Moore said it was important to have a diverse menu. Besides noodle bowls and “world-famous” pot stickers, Tea Kettle’s menu also has sandwiches and good old-fashioned hamburgers.

“In a small community, you want to make sure you have something for everyone,” Moore said.

One dish that is sure to have something for everyone is the pu pu platter, Moore said.

“I feel like the pu pu platter really shows off the diversity of our menu and that there’s something for everyone, from a healthy spring roll to a fatty pork belly,” he said.

The Details

Description Two- to three-person appetizer with chicken pot stickers and a sweet soy dipping sauce, vegetarian spring rolls with bacon-flavored tempeh, rice noodles and seasonal veggies, house-cured pork with a sweet huckleberry chili sauce, and rice

Price $10

Location Tea Kettle Café, 420 Nucleus Ave., Columbia Falls

Hours 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Website Facebook/teakettlecafe-columbiafalls.com