Chef Erin Hamilton brings worldly flavors to Whitefish’s newest hotel

Story by Justin Franz | Photography by Greg Lindstrom
T hat a good meal is best shared with friends is a core concept for Whitefish’s newest hotel and eatery, The Firebrand.

The 86-room hotel opened in the summer of 2016 on the corner of Second Street and Spokane Avenue, and is cementing itself as part of the community, said Edna White, sales and marketing director for the facility’s owner, Averill Hospitality.

“We want to be part of the downtown scene for locals and visitors alike,” she said.

In an effort to attract locals, head chef Erin Hamilton has set out to offer something different to Whitefish’s burgeoning culinary scene: tapas and small plates that are best shared. While The Firebrand’s menu does feature a few entrèes — including a pan-seared Alaskan halibut and flat iron steak frites —smaller dishes are the heart and soul of the menu, including crispy pork belly, seared ricotta gnocchi and duck confit nuggets.

“You can get bar food or you can get a big steak, but there are not many places to get some good tapas,” Hamilton said. “We wanted to bring delicious and shareable comfort food to Whitefish.”

Hamilton said an emerging favorite for guests and locals alike is a fresh roasted beet salad. Alongside the roasted beets are black kale, house-smoked almonds, goat cheese and grapefruit, topped with tahini vinaigrette. As with just about everything on the menu, many of the ingredients are locally sourced from Montana — in this case, the goat cheese hails from the Gallatin Valley.

Hamilton first worked as a cook in college in North Carolina. At the time, the 18-year-old was frying chickens, and while it wasn’t exactly easy work, she knew it was where she belonged.

“I realized I needed to be in a kitchen,” she said.

Hamilton dropped out of college and headed for culinary school. Upon graduation, she moved to Whitefish, where she worked at local mainstay restaurants, and then got a gig at the Yellowstone Club. But the pull of the Flathead Valley brought her back in 2016 when Firebrand opened.

The head chef brings years of experience to the new kitchen, which comes in handy since focusing on small-plate dishes can be a challenge — instead of a table ordering one entrèe per person, the order will include multiple dishes. The members of the kitchen staff are adept at thinking on their feet, and Hamilton said they all bring their own perspectives to the menu.

“Sometimes we get slammed in the kitchen, but we always get it out,” she said.

The Details

Description Roasted beet salad with black kale, smoked almonds, goat cheese, grapefruit and tahini vinaigrette

Price $12

Location The Firebrand Hotel, 650 East Third Street, Whitefish

Hours 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.