You can’t fully appreciate where you are until you know where you’ve been. Three decades ago, just the mention of Montana Avenue evoked a tremor of trepidation. This was the grittiest street in the state, bar none. Actually, there were as many as 24 bars in this blighted area, some so notorious even the police kept a respectful distance. Abandoned buildings, epitomized by the once-grand 1909 Northern Pacific Railway Depot, were boarded up and given over to derelicts and pigeons.
Fast forward to today, and a dedicated effort to coax people back to a downtown that has been losing commerce to a booming west end. Nowhere in Billings is there a trendier, more diverse collection of restaurants and related businesses than along and near Montana Avenue east of 27th Avenue, an area that became a historic district in 1990.
What began with The Rex Hotel and restaurant has since blossomed with McCormick Cafe, Ciao Mambo, Café Zydeco, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Lilac, Café Italia, Don Luis, Uberbrew and Trailhead Spirits, all within easy strolling distance. The NOVA Center for the Performing Arts and a variety of shops makes for a pleasant afternoon and evening.