River City Grill


River City Grill, Bonner, Montana

River City Grill
7985 Mt Highway 200 Bonner, Mt 59802


Other Missoula restauranteurs could learn a lot about how to run a great place from eating here.

When he doesn’t want to be disappointed, the Missoula Critic goes a little ways out of town to the River City Grill. Going out isn’t just about the food. It’s about how you are treated. The server’s at the River City Grill pay attention, they notice whenever someone comes in, and they notice when someone needs attention. The people who work at the River City Grill consistantly display true empathy for their customers, making sure people are greeted promptly, menus are handed out, water is brought right away, orders are taken and service is, well, just what the Missoula Critic hopes for.

Sadly, this sort of service is lacking or inconsistent at most Missoula restaurants. Failures in a restaurant experience are mostly because of  service which sucks: servers who go out of their way to not look around as they move through the dinning area, servers who seem to ooze their angst at having to actually be at work ( the standard joke in Hollywood is that all servers and waitpersons are wana-be actors, but none of them can get acting gigs since they can’t even act as waiters). But the Missoula Critic has never had a bad experience with the service at the River City Grill, the people who work there actually are working. They hustle. They move. They pay attention. And, really, they are just plain nice. And they are this way even when the owners aren’t present.

Amazing that this is what is lacking at most Missoula restaurants becuase it is so simple to provide: just hire good people and let them know they have to work when they are at work. The near-great restaurants of Missoula have wait staff which know how to behave when their bosses are present, but are often snobbish, non-attentive, distracted, and plain  rude other times.  When the Missoula Critic goes out and spends $50 or more for a meal, he doesn’t expect to be treated with anything less than graciousness.  Advice for Missoula restauranteurs who want to move their businesses a little bit closer to greatness? Go and eat a few times at the River City Grill and pay attention to how you are paid attention to.

Once you have great service, then the food starts to matter, and the food at the River City Grill, even though it is more of a diner than a fine eating spot, is more than good. It is enthusiastically what makes a hungry person stop being hungry.  And they also serve beer and wine.

What more could the Missoula Critic want? Actually, in the morning at breakfast he loves good coffee, and this, sadly, is lacking. He still politely sips his coffee, not wanting to offend the waitress who has been prompt, friendly, and managed to get him welcomed within moments after he walked in, even though the place, like it often is in the morning, is packed. And she does all this even though the most expensive breakfast they serve might come to a $15 (closer to $10 most times), and thus work out to about a $3 tip from the good tippers (and the Missoula Critic is a good tipper). So, the lack of great, or even good, coffee is easily overlooked. If the owners of the River City Grill wanted to improve their coffee, the Missoula Critic suggests that they switch brands, perhaps to freshly ground premium dark roast (the whole bean Starbucks brand at Costco – twice the price, but eight times the flavor). But this is a minor, easily overlooked lack, especially since the River City Grill makes up for their poor quality coffee with a better-then-your-average-highway-diner selection of bottled beers and ok wines, which go great with the evening time comfort food that is served, once again, graciously. Now if they only served Stella…  :)

- Critiqued Sunday, October 20th, 2013.  (c) 2013 The Missoula Critic.

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