Here’s the stereotype, mostly true: Steaks are standard and usually good. Vegetarians manage to make do with the pervasive salad bars. Although the 1990s brought espresso machines to all corners of the state, be prepared for plenty of thin, often bitter coffee laden with sugar and powdered creamer.
There really isn’t anything to justify the label “Montana cuisine.” Dishes peculiar to the region usually bring changes to established entrées, which is not to say they’re bad. Adding huckleberries to every dish does not a cuisine make. However, local beef and fresh Montana trout give even a teenage fry cook a chance for greatness.
Buffalo burgers are simply hamburgers made with ground buffalo meat; promoters claim buffalo is a leaner, more flavorful alternative to beef. Indian tacos load taco ingredients onto fry bread. Rocky Mountain oysters are more often threatened than served; served correctly, lamb or calf testicles are the quintessential offal meat, surprisingly palatable.
But even when restaurant fare seems unimaginative compared to cuisine on the coasts, the general quality of the food is quite good. Home cooking sets the standard, and simple unprepossessing food is often the best.
There are happy exceptions to the rule, however. Chefs have mastered sauces in some pretty out-of-the-way places: Where you least expect it—Chico, Broadus, Essex—you will find that isolated but enterprising cooks have established restaurants with sophisticated dining. The Flathead Valley is accumulating quite a collection of good restaurants; Bigfork  can boast of being the culinary capital of the state.
Montanans like to eat out. Cafés and restaurants are social centers, and eating out is a way of combating isolation. The bar is another meeting place, and not just for adults. Entire families meet up at bars, where it’s perfectly normal to stick to soft drinks.