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KPAX Country: Darby restaurant owner combine love of food, love - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

KPAX Country: Darby restaurant owner combine love of food, love of community

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"Nice, hot pan. The literal meaning of saute in French is ‘to jump.’ You want your pan hot," said Little Blue Joint owner and chef Michael Campbell. "Nice, hot pan. The literal meaning of saute in French is ‘to jump.’ You want your pan hot," said Little Blue Joint owner and chef Michael Campbell.
DARBY -

The Little Blue Joint owners spent several years preparing to expand their restaurant. The place has been a hit in Darby since Chef Michael Campbell brought his nationally-renowned culinary skills to this small western town.

When they opened the doors three weeks ago to their new space and bigger staff, work began to get the restaurant running smoothly, and chef Campbell’s expanded menu of what he refers to as his art, does not disappoint.

“It’s really crazy that it is the same restaurant, switching, because before it was so small and so manageable," said Little Blue Joint server Breanna Nelson. "We only had one waitress on staff at all times, and now the longest we have a waitress by themselves is an hour, in the morning. For breakfast, we have really picked up a lot, and I think our lunch crowd kind of spread out. It was kind of all at once, and I think the locals have kind of started to figure out that there are times to come in when we are slower.”

“The new place is beautiful. A lot more people, a lot more staff," said Darby resident and regular at the Little Blue Joint, Daniel Starky. "But in the daytime, when I come in, is in between the busy breakfast rush, and the lunch rush, so I still get to chat with everybody. People drive all the way up from Salmon, ya know, and when they come here, they come to this restaurant, they are also going to stop by Mr. T’s and spend a couple of dollars there, they might go to People’s Market and spend a couple of dollars there. Stuff like this draws people to our community, and then we get money spent in our community, which is great.”

“In the summers we do get kind of busy with travelers, and a couple days ago I had a table in from Texas, and they are like, 'Its still the Mike Campbell right, he still has the same nachos, like we used to come four years ago?' We do have a lot of people from out of town that know Mike and want to know if it is still him,” Nelson says.

Ok we are going to make the Vongole again. It is the traditional Italian cream sauce with clams," said Little Blue Joint owner and chef Michael Campbell. "Nice, hot pan. The literal meaning of saute in French is ‘to jump.’ You want your pan hot. Flames, alright. A little bit of garlic, keep the pan moving so the pan doesn’t burn, add wine, lemon juice. Vongole sauce, which is a very old recipe of mine, is a cream clam juice, lemon juice, worchestershire, tobasco, cream reduced for hours on end. And I just let it sit there and simmer while I cook the rest of my food. I mix it up, and I put it in a bowl.”

“We offer anything from a three-dollar grilled cheese to a 28-dollar steak," Campbell said. "We have fresh seafood, we have things that they weren’t used to in this town, that I brought to the town, that some people were like, this will never work here, but I sell ten pounds of mussels in two days, I sell seafood, I sell scallops, I sell salmon, I sell seabass, I sell everything, and the people around here, will buy.”

“We ordered off the special menu. The mussels, and mustard sauce? I don’t know, but I swear...John is having the scallops and he is cutting me a special steak, because, Mike really cares about taking care of his customers," said Darby resident and Little Blue Joint regular Denise Gunterman. "So if I don’t find what I like on the menu, I ask if they have something else, and he usually is able to come up with something. It is just delightful and right off the top of his head, and it is always, fabulous.”

“Everything that we do, we do with our hands, and we show love, we cook with love, that is the only way to cook,” Campbell said.

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