If you’re anywhere between Billings and Missoula, this is a detour you should not miss! The Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa is tucked back near the top of Yellowstone National Park, south ofLivingston MT and it’s like stepping back in time. There are 2 pub style restaurants framing the misty hot springs pool, but the real gem is the four star Chico Hot Springs Restaurant, just off the lobby of the classic wild west hotel.

Don’t let the giant old wood stove and the mounted Elk fool you into thinking you’ll only get steak and potatoes here. The food is aboslutely top notch, seasonal, fresh, perfectly portioned and local whenever possible. Seafood is flown in regularly and local farmers and ranchers contribute produce, game, beef and poultry. This is culinary excellence from soup to nuts, accompanied by a shockingly diverse and well rounded wine selection or your choice of unique and delicious cocktails.

What outshines the food, the ambiance and the wine, is the absolutely superior, top-notch, professional and gracious service by everyone associated with the hotel and the restaurant. From the moment you’re presented with your intimate table, through water and menues, to a mouth watering list of specials, eye pleasing plating and decadent dessert, your service staff will impress you with their knowledge, their courtesy and their absolute dedication to their job and your experience.

Colin, the General Manager, will often be around to pass your compliments to and when you do, his chest will swell with pride when he talks about the team he’s assembled here. He’ll tell you that they are empowered, from day one, to do whatever they have to do to make your visit exemplary.

If a bartender named Kelby is working in the bar, forego a table in the dining room and join him in the small, classic western bar in the back. Not only can he converse on a wide range of topics, but he knows the details of every item on the menu and every bottle in the rack and can’t wait to share them with you. Unsure what to pair with your seared ahi tuna? Leave it to Kelby. Can’t decide on a cocktail. Leave it to Kelby. When the locals and the return guests come into the bar, they hug Kelby. Not only will he keep you laughing, you’ll enjoy watching his exacting attention to detail and prowess behind the bar.

And when he tells you that the best time to go for a soak in the hot springs is 7am, listen to him. They drain the pool every night and refill it every morning. At 7am, I was completely alone, wading into the half full and still filling pool in 10 degree weather under the clear blue Montana sky where I watched the sun start to paint the tops of the mountains, in silence. It was absolutely heavenly.

The food is great. The atmostphere is charming and professional. The service is absolutely over the top. And the wine list has everything from $6 glasses to $400 bottles.

You might plan a Saturday night, have a fabulous dinner, go dancing in the pub, sleep in a charming iron bed, have a 7am soak and then feast on the all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch, with complimentary mimosas, baron of beef carving and made to order omelet station. This is perfection.

Robin Behl, La Cuentista

See all of my reviews on TripAdvisor: search for La Cuentista

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