One of the things I really enjoy are observing those folks who find a niche for their business. Montana Rib and Chop House is one of those places. Started by a couple who learned the business from the ground up (the best way) from pots and pan washers up to line cooks and sous chefs, this small chain of restaurants based out of Montana has found a niche in the tertiary food markets.
Okay....what's a tertiary food market? Well, let's start with Sharon, PA. THAT is a tertiary food market, barely. Chain businesses like to expand. One of the considerations is the size and quality of the market into which they decide to go (notice I didn't end the sentence with a preposition!). So...in Youngstown you won't find a Cheesecake Factory or a Morton's of Chicago or a Ruths Chris Steakhouse or a McCormick and Schmidt's. The income and size of the market doesn't justify it. But the Montana folks opened their first restaurant in Livingston, Montana, and have found success in markets abdicated by the big boys. After all, people in Sharon...and Meadville, and Miles MT, and Oxford MI like to eat too!!!
The Sharon entry is located in Hermitage very close to the corner of Route 18 and State Street. It’s convenient to those wanting to do timely Christmas shopping at Kraynak's. It IS “Kraynak's time of year.” That is why my son and were in Sharon on a cold Monday night. We needed some lights and electrical accoutrements to attach the lights thereto. Kraynak’s has a wide selection.
The restaurant is located behind a plaza that fronts on State Street. It is clearly marked but you have to drive behind the plaza to get to it. For a Monday, the place was busy so it must be doing something right. They take reservations, a real plus on the weekends.
Here’s the skinny. Given the history of the establishment, I really really wanted to like it, and I was underwhelmed. The restaurant is awkwardly laid out with the bar inaccessible to the entrance. The high top seating and booths in the bar are used for dining seating which means open seating is limited to the bar itself. The bar area is very loud and difficult to carry on a conversation without shouting.
The dining room itself is somewhat plain with tables randomly placed. It looks like things are slightly askew!! There is a small fireplace inside the entrance to the dining room for some ambience. It wouldn’t take much to dress the place up. They should do it.
The menu is actually very nice and well thought out. There is a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, steak and ribs. Ribs are supposedly their specialty. In addition, there is salmon and pot roast...all sorts of things. They have some HUGE signature steaks. I saw one, and like I said, they are HUGE. I should have gotten one of those.
Instead, we had the ribs which are supposed to be their signature entrée. I asked the waiter how big the full rack of ribs was, he said not big enough (because they are so good). Well, they just weren’t big enough. Served on a plate with no garnish, it was kind of sparse. My son had a ½ rack which was lost. They ribs were okay, but nothing spectacular…and I know spectacular ribs. The entrée is accompanied by soup or salad. I had the French onion soup which was not very good. My son had a pedestrian salad. The French fries, on the other hand were outstanding. I almost ordered a refill…because I was still hungry after I ate the ribs. No bread is served with the meal and I really need the carbs.
Prices are mid to high for our area. Steaks are in the twenties plus and a full rack of ribs is twenty bucks. That’s not the restaurant’s fault. Anyone in the food business knows the “no inflation” environment the government says we are living in doesn’t apply to food…or anything else for that matter. The service was prompt and extremely friendly. The wait staff seems well trained and the management makes frequent stops at the table to see if everything is alright making for a good experience.
I will give Montana’s a second go to try their steaks, which looked delicious…and so did their sandwiches. For the Sharon market, Montana’s probably rises to the top of the list…and is more than an adequate eating establishment when visiting Kraynaks or Daffins or Reyers!!! Word to the owners!! It would take very little to turn this okay place into a great place.
Montana’s Rib and Chop House
3176 East State Street
Hermitage, PA 16148