My fingers and toes were still frozen from my walk in the neighborhood with my friend Sue Balter Reitz. We decided to warm up by grabbing a bite of breakfast on this blue-skied Sunday morning. With our timing right at church letting out, we prepared for a wait at the popular Sophie’s Kitchen, located in Billings’ West End at Shiloh Commons by the City College.
Since its opening in mid-November, crowds have embraced its arrival. Sophie’s Kitchen is one of the business anchors for the apartments above. We slipped through the nondescript entry behind a small group of people into a bright sunny space. Inside, the décor brought childhood memories of Disney’s Tomorrowland, and from the cartoon show, the Jetsons’ living room. Avocado green colored the base of the host station and tall-backed booths. The room, lined with windows, had the capacity to seat more than 100 people. A couple of garage-style doors allow for al fresco dining when the climes warm.
Luck was on our side as we were quickly shown to a table. I slid into the Bentwood silhouette chair at a table for two situated next to the dining bar fronting the service area and the kitchen. We studied the staggered pages of the clipboard menu edged in the theme colors of green, orange and black. The category names were playful and nontraditional. For breakfast food items fell into “Eggs & Such," "Brunch Sides" and "Lunch Break," while dinner offered up “Let's Get Started," "Staples & Seasonal Fare" and "Quench Your Palate.” Our server, Christy, quickly arrived at our table to take our drink orders. She began by explaining that the food was prepared in-house with fresh ingredients sourced as locally and sustainably as possible.
Christy, an experienced restaurant worker who said she had worked at other area restaurants, said proprietors Stacey Hettinger and Dylan Brumwell “really care about their employees.” She said they tried to make changes that help out workers. When she interviewed for the job, she knew it would be a good fit.
Co-owner Brumwell grew up in Billings as well as his partner and aunt, Hettinger. They chose to name the restaurant after Brumwell’s great-grandmother and Hettinger’s grandmother from Lovell, Wyoming. In the kitchen, Chef Ramiero Gallegos, transplanted from Seattle, cooked up what Brumwell described as “upscale comfort food with a twist.”
This is Hettinger’s third restaurant, with sister eatery Geraldine’s Counter. The restaurant, located in Columbia City, south of Seattle, has been serving up all-day classic American breakfast since 2005. The menu developed there with co-owner Gary Synder, including childhood comfort foods, inspired the menu at Sophie’s Kitchen.
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Brumwell’s favorite item on the menu is “Slammin” with “two eggs cooked to your liking, choice of meat, and buttermilk pancakes” with his recommendation of the French toast that has been soaked overnight and “cooked to crispy perfection” as described on the menu. Brumwell said of the dish, “You get everything in ‘Slammin’.”
We could not resist ordering the coffee cake made with raspberries and sour cream, especially after Christy’s enticing description. “This reminds me of New York-style coffee cake,” Sue exclaimed on first bite, “It is really moist,” similar to a New York crumb cake, a tender cake topped with chunks of cinnamon sugar. The two-inch thick buttery goodness was crowned with melted raspberries and a brush of sour cream prettied with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Sue ordered the “Bacon, egg and arugula sandwich” substituting avocado for the bacon, while I opted for the “feta scramble,” both served with browned hash browns and fluffy scrambled eggs. While Sue’s sourdough bread made from the Annex Bakery shined, I found comfort in the house-made biscuit that accompanied my dish.
Now happily warmed, Sue and I zipped up our jackets and made our way back into this brisk winter day.