Brent’s Best of the Zoo

Every newspaper in every city seems to do it. They poll its readers on what is best in that certain city regarding everything under the sun from food to nightlife to retail to tanning salons to coffee places to celebrities to attorneys to etc. etc. etc. Some publications get a little too carried away and really overstep its bounds by creating way too many categories. For some reason, something tells me that some of the especially obscure categories probably have winners that only receive two or three votes…but who knows.

For tonight’s post I wanted to take this idea and add a little twist to it in conjunction with the lovely town I live in. The twist of course is that there is no democracy here nor are there 2,000 crazy categories that nobody cares about. Instead, this esteemed blogger is the only one making the judgments and the category count has been trimmed down to only include the most important (thus dealing mostly with food).

I give to you Brent’s Best of the Zoo*. There were categories that I wanted to include but knew I had to hold off on due in part to conflicts of interest in relation to my job. With those categories off the table, I made the best compilation that I possibly could. Enjoy!

Best Missoula Influencer: Aaron Traylor, 107.5 ZOO FM.

Aaron is a DJ for 107.5 Zoo FM in Missoula but his voice is just not heard only over the airwaves. With the largest social media following in the city and with his hands in about as many different pies as you can imagine, his influence blankets across Missoula. Everyone knows Aaron and that is a good thing because his number one goal is to help the community.

Best Missoula Experience: Any event/festival in Caras Park

Initially I wanted to choose Griz football in Washington Grizzly Stadium but I am trying my best not to be biased so I have to go with Caras Park! Whether it is Downtown Tonight, Brewfest, the Great Griz Encounter, Celtic Fest, or any of the other events held at this Missoula gathering place, there is no better spot in town to relax, people watch, socialize, eat, and drink. Events at Caras Park oozes Missoula and seems to instill the Zoo spirit into everyone in attendance.

It is always a great time at Caras Park. This was taken at Brewfest 2012.

Best Missoula Restaurant: HuHot

Okay, so I know HuHot is a franchise with locations in seventeen states but I just can’t overlook how good this restaurant is. Always offering fresh and creative ingredients in a cool atmosphere, I find myself craving HuHot a lot. I have dined at a lot of Mongolian grills in my time and nothing comes close to HuHot. If I get to choose where we go to eat and if I have a large appetite, we are driving to the end of Brooks to eat at HuHot.

Best Missoula Burrito Joint: Taco Del Sol

I start to salivate a little bit when I think of Taco Del Sol. Much in the same way that HuHot stands out to me as the best of its kind not just in Missoula  but everywhere, so does Taco Del Sol. When it comes to burrito shops, I think Taco Del Sol is #1. When I think of this place one word comes to my mind: flavor. There is a distinct flavor that is Taco Del Sol that I can’t get enough of. Also, it is cheap and they sell cold beer. I am a huge fan.

Best Missoula Breakfast: Montana Club

Whenever my parents come to town, it is a requirement that we go to the Montana Club for breakfast. With a breakfast menu as big as its portion sizes, you will definitely get a great start to your day. Everything about the food is high quality. I always struggle about whether to get the pancakes, the ham and cheese omelet, or the larger than life biscuits and gravy plate. Although the decision is always tough, I always leave satisfied.

Best Missoula Restaurant Server: Adam, Iron Horse

If you don’t know who Adam is right off hand, you will after I briefly describe him to you: He is the guy with the long hair set in a ponytail who is always working at the Iron Horse busting his ass off. Accurate, accommodating,  and entertaining, Adam is one of those people at the top of his trade. He epitomizes the title of his job, “server”, because that is what he does…he serves.  He is polite in that classy way that is not overbearing but respectful and charming. He always remembers me and I have had nothing but top-notch service from him the numerous times I have been lucky enough to sit at one of his tables. I can only imagine the tips that guy brings in on a nightly basis.

Best Missoula Brewery: Bayern

With a couple friends who are brewery-obsessed, it seems like I have developed a pretty good taste for all the fabulous breweries in Missoula. For me, one especially stands out and that is Bayern. The first selling point for me is the beer. I love pretty much all of the Bayern beers with Dragon’s Breath and Dump Truck earning special places in my heart. I also just connect the best with Bayern’s atmosphere. I like the two story set up and the actual bar location. If an out of towner comes and they want to experience a Missoula brewery, I am taking them to Bayern.

Best Missoula Blogger: Saskia Boogman, “According to Sauce”

Although Saskia recently penned her last post for “According to Sauce”, there is no way I was not going to choose it as Missoula’s best blog. From 2009-2012, she blogged about her experiences and adventures while working at the Missoula Hooters. Saskia took her readers behind the scenes and into the world of a Hooters girl. It was must read material. It brought her great notoriety and opportunity on a national level. On a much more local level, her blog was one of my influences in starting Don’t Blink. The combination of honesty and humor she used in writing her blog made it such a success. I already miss it greatly!

Best Missoula Writer: Joel Carlson, Grizzly Athletics

Now I said I wanted to stay away from any possible conflicts of interest but there is just no escaping this one. Joel Carlson is the best writer in Missoula period. Joel is our assistant sports information director in the athletic department at The University of Montana and the wonders he does with the written language is incredible. No one from any publication or other outfit in the city can hold a candle to him. Joel blows everyone out of the water. Early this summer he earned some well-deserved recognition as he won several national story awards, including national story of the year. Do yourself a favor right now and surf over to to view some of Joel’s work.

Best Missoula Mentor on Campus: Keith Graham, Professor – School of Journalism

You won’t meet a cooler guy. Energetic, outgoing, good looking, athletic, and very positive, Keith Graham is a person who everyone loves at The University of Montana. The number of cool things he has done and the number of important people he has met is pretty impressive. What is more impressive though is how nice and respectful he is to everyone. I never took a class with Keith, heck, I never even took a class in the journalism school (if you have read this blog you can figure that out) but that didn’t stop him from reaching out to me and giving me the time of day. The UM is very lucky to have Keith.


There you have it, the 2012 edition of Brent’s Best of the Zoo. To all the winners of my prestigious list, I regret to inform you that you will not be receiving a framed certificate or an invitation to a special recognition party. Maybe in my 2013 installment I might have something in the budget to more appropriately recognize the people and businesses who top my list. Until then, please contact me if you if you want to call BS on any of my selections or if you would like me to weigh in on any other categories that I did not include.  Congrats to the best of Missoula! Don’t Blink.

* The term “Zoo” is a nickname for Missoula.