Woods Bay’s newest eatery puts new twists on international favorites

Story & photography by Justin Franz

Successful restaurant owners often run into a problem after a few years — or decades. Patrons, be it locals who come every week or seasonal visitors who return year after year, have certain expectations. Chief among them, they expect their favorite dish to always be available. For The Raven in Woods Bay, that means dishes like fish tacos and chicken Pad Thai.

But dishing out the same fare over and over again can get tedious for an adventurous owner and chef. So head chef and owner Lisa Cloutier decided to make a change: she opened up a new restaurant directly across the street from The Raven. The eatery, Bonfire, opened in June and has been a welcomed addition to the lakeside community.

Cloutier and her husband have traveled extensively in the Caribbean and Asia. In the 1990s, when they purchased a bar in Woods Bay, they decided to bring their love for international cuisine to Montana. The Raven has been a cornerstone of summer days on Flathead Lake ever since.

Earlier this year, Flathead Lake Brewing Co. closed its Woods Bay tap house directly across the street. Cloutier jumped at the opportunity and launched an extensive remodel of the space. The kitchen was completely remodeled, and the dining area and patio were given a facelift to take advantage of all the available space. The old brewing area was also converted into an additional dining room.

Some people thought it was odd for Cloutier to open up a restaurant across the street from The Raven, but she didn’t see it that way.

“People often say, ‘Aren’t you competing against yourself?’ But we’d be competing against someone anyway, so we might as well try something new,” she said. “This gives us a chance to branch out … to try some different concepts.”

Cloutier said the driving force behind Bonfire’s menu is taking new twists on international favorites. Korean fried chicken and Argentinean seared portabella steak are among the staples. The menu also encourages sharing, and people can order an entrée and mix and match sides. The menu also features a lot of options for vegetarians or people maintaining a gluten-free diet.

“Far too often the gluten-free item or the vegetarian item is the saddest thing on the menu, so we wanted to change that,” she said.

Cloutier said one of the most popular dishes is the Smoked Idaho Rainbow Trout Starter. The dish features smoked rainbow trout with micro greens, seasoned tomatoes, crème fraiche, salt, lemon and fresh pepper atop cucumber slices (to keep with the gluten-free theme). The cucumber offers a fresh stage for the rich and smoky fish. Cloutier said it would likely become a staple of the menu.

After one bite, you’ll agree that it’s well on its way to becoming a favorite at Bonfire, just like the Pad Thai and fish tacos are across the street.

The Details

Description Rainbow trout with micro greens, seasoned tomatoes, crème fraiche, salt, lemon and fresh pepper atop cucumber slices
Price $14.50
Location 15300 Montana Highway 35, Bigfork
Website www.montanabonfire.com