Whitefish staple offers familiar breakfast and lunch menu with creative flair under new owners

Story by Justin Franz | Photography by Hunter D’Antuono

Swift Creek Cafe’s head chef and co-owner Christian Moreno has a simple philosophy for the food he offers his patrons.

“I want to give people food that they remember growing up with — food that people love, but with a little extra flair,” he says.

Moreno grew up in Texas and was bouncing around the country cooking when he and his wife decided to have a family. With a baby on the way, the couple wanted to settle down and in 2017 moved to Montana, where Moreno’s father was living. A few months after that, Moreno found himself as the co-owner and head chef of a café.

A decade ago, it’s unlikely Moreno would have looked into the future and saw himself leading a kitchen in a small town in Montana. He went to Texas A&M University in 2008 with a degree in Latin American Communications and Media Studies. At the time, there weren’t a lot of job openings in his field, or other fields for that matter, so Moreno went looking for something to do. Some friends suggested he try cooking.

“I went out to see if it was a good fit and it was,” he says.

For the next decade, Moreno cooked in Florida, Denver and eventually Minneapolis, where he worked with a chocolatier. Upon moving to the Flathead Valley two years ago, fate stepped in. His dad had recently moved next door to the owners of Swift Creek Cafe, a longtime staple of the Whitefish food scene. The owners were looking to leave the restaurant business, and the elder Moreno saw it as a perfect opportunity for his son to get back into cooking. In December 2017, Moreno, his wife and father all purchased the Swift Creek Cafe and opened it under the new ownership in January 2018.

Moreno says he wanted to maintain a menu that was familiar to the restaurant’s regulars while also introducing some new flourishes.

“I really want to do a good breakfast and a good lunch that is accessible to people,” he says.

One of Moreno’s favorite items on the menu are the flash-fried Brussels sprouts with Asian pears, shishito peppers, pistachios, scallions, and granola topped with a poached egg, parmesan cheese and vanilla vinaigrette. Moreno says the dish was inspired by one from a restaurant he had worked at previously, although he has updated it with his own spin.

“I like taking dishes that people are familiar with and making them just a little different,” he says.