Timber Eatery: Surprise for the Oblivious in Deer Lodge Montana

Oblivious, indeed. I parked and walked into Timber Eatery, a surprise café in my home town of Deer Lodge, Montana, without paying any attention to the new sign over the window. Last time I was in the building, it was a seasonal Mexican restaurant with undersized portions and oversized prices.

Just how unaware of my surroundings had I been? As my father would have said with disapproving sarcasm, “If it was a snake, it would have bit you.” Turns out the Mexican restaurant gave up the struggle long ago. The “new” café opened its doors on March 15, 2018, fifteen months prior to my “discovery.” Worse, this chow spot is right there on Main Street. On average, I drive past that block of small businesses twice per day.

Can you spell clueless?

Just so you don’t miss it if you drive down Main Street in Deer Lodge, here’s a picture of the block. Timber Eatery is the second small business door from the right.

That photo was taken during the morning hours prior to the day’s opening. They’re open year around, noon to 7:00 p.m., flexible on the 7:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays and Mondays during the winter, only closed on Sundays during the summer. When they’re ready for business, it’s easy to tell even without the neon OPEN sign in the window. They put out a cool sandwich board. That is, a blackboard decorated with colored chalk.

The sandwich board. Cool park bench, too, even if it is on a sidewalk.

Come to think of it, the above picture underscores one of the many advantages of living in a town like Deer Lodge. If that bench were in a major city, there’s be a homeless person living on it, another one underneath the bench, and a couple propped against either end.

On the chalkboard itself, hints of the varied menu pop out to catch the eye. A little bit of everything, right? So far, I’ve eaten there twice, trying the barbecue pulled pork sandwich (best I’ve tasted in as long as I can remember) and the burrito (which is a real monster, requiring a box for half to take home). Tomorrow night? The gyros for sure. Finding gyros right here in town was about as delightful as discovering a thumb-sized gold nugget stuck to my shoe. (Still waiting on that one.)

An impressively varied menu. (The complete menu has a lot more.)

When you walk in, guess what? It’s bigger on the inside than the outside. Sort of like Dr. Who’s telephone booth time travel machine.

Timber Eatery dining area.

Gone is the unremarkable seating from the Mexican restaurant era, replaced for the most part by solid plank benches and tables built right here in town by a local craftsman. This is, after all, the Timber Eatery. Around here, we take timber seriously, with a large sawmill (Sun Mountain Lumber) being one of our largest employers (along with Montana State Prison for men, Rock Creek Cattle Company, and the medical center).

Handcrafted, solid-plank table and benches. Check out that beautiful wood grain and clear finish.

Fortunately for me, the café also features one sizeable table featuring more “ordinary” chairs with soft, padded seats for my bony butt. These days, stick me on a solid wood seat and I’ll be squirming uncomfortably within seconds.

“My” table with comfortable chairs. Even these are pretty cool looking, though.

It’s no secret that it’s the people who make or break a business. So let’s meet them. After all, they’ll greet you with smiles when you pop in for a bite, right? Might as well know who they are in advance.

There are three. Don’t know if they’re Musketeers or not, though one is a former platoon leader (U.S. Army, retired). Feel free to guess which one. And, Sergeant? Thank you for your service.

Jill Garland. The paper tape and Saran wrap are protection for a brand new mountain tattoo.

Yolanda Pierce.

Flint Gilman.

Restless yet? Think it’s about time to show some food, for cry-yi?

Sure. Why not?


While you’re waiting for your food–a short wait, mind you–and then eating, there are plenty of wall decorations to grab your attention. I’ll only show a few of them here because the page is already getting slow to load. Don’t want to bog it down entirely. Besides, you’ll want something left to check out for yourself, right?

Let’s start with politics. Remember the environmental battle over the spotted owl? Couldn’t be logging in spotted owl territory, right? Want to see a liberal’s head explode? Check out this picture and the bumper sticker tucked into the lower right corner of the frame.

Spoted Owls taste like chicken. (Not really, I bet. Diet of mouse vs. diet of grain and all that.) www.fightliberals.com

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against liberals. I wouldn’t dare be. My mother was one. Yet I couldn’t help laughing when I read one of the suggestions on www.fightliberals.com. On the website’s home page, a number of suggestions for learning how to win arguments include the following:

+ Determine if you suffer from argumentile dysfunction….

Back to the Timber Eatery wall hangers. Even if you’re not a Spotted Owl, logging is an extremely dangerous business. Never mind chainsaws and falling trees that don’t cooperate, operating heavy equipment on steep slopes and all that. Just ask anybody who’s ever set a choker.

Log choker.

Simply driving a log truck should be safe enough, right? Yeah, right.

Looking good.

Looking not so good.

One aspect of the logging industry that makes it so dangerous is the fact that both logs and log-moving gear tend to be big enough to squash a mere human like a bug.

Sure hope the photographer moved out of the way after taking this picture.

That’s my size eleven work boot next to the chain link and hook.

We’ll stop here for now. After all, you’ll want to check out those highly decorated walls on your own. I took 95 photos before selecting 18 for this page, so there are plenty of wall goodies left to explore at Timber Eatery.

In the meantime, enjoy the food. I know I will.

P.S. Despite the name, customers are not required to literally eat timber. It’s an awesome café, not a soggy beaver dam.