It’s lunch hour and the Trough is slammed. The baristas whiz around, taking lunch orders with one hand and pulling velvety espresso with the other. The warmth of the room hits me as I leave the cold air and life-size cow sculpture outside.

I check out what’s on the waitstaff’s trays: perfectly golden paninis and soups that smell better than a baby’s head. Waiters greet the regulars by name.

Mark Jones, the general manager, says the neighborhood has fully embraced what was once a convenience store and is now a full-service restaurant on Clements Road.

“I’ve run all sorts of restaurants, but this has got a totally different feel,” Jones says. “It’s kind of neat, because we have this residential area from Reserve Street to the west, in between the two rivers, and [the neighborhood] considers this ‘theirs.’”

The Trough

Sit in the vintage white chairs, which might be straight from your grandma’s house, at wooden tables topped with fresh flowers. Those are newish, but the business, or some form of it, has existed since before 1973.

Originally, this was Dale’s Dairy. In 2014, Carter and Susan Beck bought it and expanded service to include a small deli called the Trough, serving customers seven days a week. It evolved from that into a bigger idea: breakfast, lunch and dinner. The crowds have followed.

The menu offers a hodgepodge of family favorites, with a twist. Try the Big Beef, which Jones calls a “jacked-up French dip,” with horseradish cream cheese and Swiss. Also a don’t-miss: the Hickory BBQ burger—thick, juicy, piled with bacon, onion rings, coleslaw and a slather of sauce. Maybe ride a bike there, passing some of the last of Missoula’s rolling farmland, so you don’t feel so guilty about eating every one of the hand-cut fries.

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