There’s a palpable energy in the air when summer hits Montana. Long, sunny days and high temperatures feel all too brief in the Treasure State — which means every moment gets appreciated to the fullest.

From lively tourist towns to off-the-beaten-path communities, every region of Montana celebrates each ray of the summertime with plenty of outdoor fun — and enjoying delicious food and drink is no exception. Sip local brews at taprooms with outdoor seating, dine on freshly harvested local produce, and pull up a chair on an inviting patio under the stars. If you’re heading to the Last Best Place this summer, here are the first places to go.

Farm-to-table dining

Photo: Garett Thompson/Maison, Helena

Between farm-fresh meats and abundant produce, Montana has always gravitated toward a locavore diet. With the modern farm-to-table trend, the only thing that’s changed is it’s easier than ever to find restaurants proudly serving menus inspired and defined by Montana farmers.

Maison | Helena

Located in Helena at Oddfellow Inn & Farm, Maison is a classic French bistro with roots that are purely Montana. With French Master Chef Fabrice Marcon at the helm, you’ll dive into dishes made largely from ingredients grown at the onsite farm. See his creative mind and precise culinary execution in action by signing up for the five-course chef’s tasting experience (and definitely add a wine pairing).

Local Kitchen & Bar | Billings

As the name suggests, Local shines a spotlight on its community. Not only does the restaurant serve up some of the most delicious farm-to-table fare in Billings, but the owners also created a local board of agriculture to connect with nearby gardeners. As a result, the menu incorporates fruits and vegetables grown within a few miles of the city, and summer is the perfect time to take advantage of this bounty.

Central Feed Grilling Company | Lewistown

Authentic Montana hospitality is the name of the game at this upscale spot that dubs itself “Montana’s central gathering place.” The meats and produce at Central Feed Grilling Co. are sourced locally whenever possible, like beef from nearby Hobson. The restaurant resides in the historic Central Feed Mercantile building along with Big Spring Brewing (which also uses Montana ingredients!).

Prerogative Kitchen | Red Lodge

The prerogative at this casual a la carte eatery is sustainability. As members of Recycle Red Lodge, Prerogative Kitchen has a long list of ways in which they cut down on waste, like using eco-friendly to-go containers and cloth napkins. As for the food, the rotating chalkboard menu tells you all you need to know about just how fresh and local everything is.

Streatery Food Truck | Havre

You might expect to see such a trendy farm-to-table food truck in a larger city, but Streatery feels right at home in Havre, in north-central Montana. The options here are practically endless — there are always plenty of fresh, local, and organic choices, and the tasty burgers and tacos never disappoint.

Patio dining

Photo: Luci Heller/Tilt Würks Brew House & Casino, Miles City

Outdoor dining season may be brief in the Treasure State, but it’s done well and cherished plenty. Claim a spot on one of these patios and you’ll get the whole package: friendly service, tasty food, and a side of sunshine.

Tilt Würks Brew House & Casino | Miles City

Freshly grilled burgers, locally brewed beer, and hearty gastropub fare like BBQ brisket mac & cheese await you at this casual eastern Montana brewpub. The spacious patio at Tilt Würks features a large table complete with a fire pit for those brisk summer nights. You’ll certainly feel lucky to score a seat here…so why not try your luck at the onsite casino while you’re at it?

Thirsty Turtle | Big Timber

This mountain-town burger and BBQ joint has a statewide reputation for its bold BBQ flavors and hefty half-pound Angus beef patties. The casual, family-friendly atmosphere is just as inviting as the tables on the sunny porch. Bonus: Thirsty Turtle boasts a full bar to help you find the perfect pairing for your burger.

Windbag Saloon & Grill | Helena

This spot has worn many hats since it was built in 1882: a burlesque hall, a movie theater, even a bowling alley. Currently, Windbag Saloon & Grill is the perfect place to grab a plate piled high with pub fare, from smoked gouda mac & cheese bites to stiff cocktails. Enjoy it all with a prime people-watching spot on the patio overlooking Helena’s buzzing Walking Mall.

Murphy’s Pub | Havre

Want to hang out with locals in the old railroad town of Havre? This neighborhood focal point has been a favorite since opening its doors in 2007. The kitchen at Murphy’s Pub is open late into the night, while on warm summer days the patio is the place to be. Start your table with a one-pound basket of fries seasoned to your specifications and get ready to make some new friends.

Craft beverages

Photo: Hope Jones/Busted Knuckle Brewery, Glasgow

The craft beer scene in Montana has never been more exciting, and summer is the perfect time to experience all the breweries have to offer — especially after enjoying a day outdoors under that gorgeous horizon-to-horizon sky. Not a beer fan? There are plenty of craft cocktail joints specializing in freshly distilled liquors as well as tasty non-alcoholic concoctions. Montana is home to some under-the-radar wineries you’ll want to seek out, too.

Backslope Brewing | Columbia Falls

Backslope Brewing, located in the state’s northwest, pours handcrafted beer for nature lovers in a welcoming ambiance. Their kitchen and taproom are open year-round, but in the summer you can grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables to sip a cold one and drink in that fresh Montana air.

Smelter City Brewing | Anaconda

This brewery sits in the historic Electric Light Building in downtown Anaconda, a small city with a rich mining history. The impressively wide array of beers will draw you in, and the beer garden — often bustling with live music, food trucks, and happy locals — will entice you to stay for a while.

Tongue River Winery | Miles City

Tongue River Winery was founded by a church pastor with a passion for making good vino. This is one of the few wineries in Montana that only makes wine from grapes and other fruits grown in the state, which means it’s as local as it gets. The result? A LOT of award-winning wines. Most recently, their Solstice Red and Solstice White both came away with silvers at the 2022 International Cold Climate Wine Competition.

Busted Knuckle Brewery | Glasgow

Some spots are worth wandering off the beaten path for, and Busted Knuckle Brewery is one of them. Located in Glasgow, in Montana’s northeast corner, this brewery has established a reputation that stretches far past city limits — Busted Knuckle was featured on PBS’s Backroads of Montana in 2017 for its crisp and flavorful beers.

Enbär Craft Cocktail Lounge | Great Falls

This elegant, locally owned cocktail lounge in Great Falls does not disappoint. Featuring handcrafted cocktails showcasing Montana spirits, local microbrews, fine wines, and small plates, Enbär is a perfect date night spot, whether you cozy up in the dimly lit lounge or on the patio.

Crawford Distillery | Havre

Three words: Milk River Moonshine. During Prohibition, the city of Havre (and the Milk River that flows through it) saw its fair share of bootleggers transporting liquor from Canada along the Montana Hi-Line and beyond. The husband-and-wife team that owns Crawford Distillery carries on this legacy well (and legally, of course). Come experience award-winning spirits — like vodka made from red wheat, resulting in a light, crisp flavor that might surprise you — in their tasting room.

Farmers markets

Photo: Visit Montana

During summer in Montana, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to farmers markets. Get ready to peruse all the locally raised meats, fresh produce, and hand-crafted goodies you can imagine. Here are some of the standout spots.

Hamilton Farmers Market | Hamilton

This market takes over historic downtown Hamilton on Saturdays from 9am–12:30pm, May through October. Spend a sunny day perusing the Hamilton Farmers Market and splurge on artisan crafts, food, and more, all while supporting local businesses.

Red Lodge Farmers Market | Red Lodge

Red Lodge hosts a market on Saturday mornings from late June to mid-September in Lions Park. You’ll find plenty of local offerings, from veggies to beef to more surprising items like toffee. This volunteer-run market seeks to share some of the state’s top vendors with the hungry public.

Helena Farmers Market | Helena

While the Helena Farmers Market takes place on Saturday mornings all the way from late April to late October, summer means double-time. From July 26 to September 27 this year, there’s a second market on Tuesday afternoons from 3 to 6pm. Local farmers, food vendors, and artisans bring plenty of Montana-made goodies for shoppers to enjoy, all while being serenaded by live music and teased by the scent of freshly popped kettle corn.

Montanans are proud of their heritage and the places where they cultivate food — and it really shows come summertime. Take a swig of wine fermented from local grapes. Nosh on Greek-style meatballs made from local beef. Sit back with your friends or family on a sunshine-blanketed patio framed by the Rockies. Experiencing the summer months in Montana is like learning a lesson in making the most of every moment. Cheers to that.