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A bite of history: Defunct Billings restaurants - KBZK.com | Continuous News | Bozeman, Montana

A bite of history: Defunct Billings restaurants

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Wong Village was a Billings favorite (Wong) Wong Village was a Billings favorite (Wong)
BILLINGS -

History can be recorded in countless ways, like seeing the shift in industry or advances in technology.

But as attendees of a presentation at the Western Heritage Center learned Thursday, flavors, too, can mark the passing of time in a very memorable way.

“There’s an option here: boiled ox tongue, which we don’t find in menus these days,” said Stella Fong, who recently published a book called Historic Restaurants of Billings.

“The ox tongue. People did eat that sort of thing a lot,” said Bonnie Eldredge, a long time Billings resident.

Eldredge recalled flavors of the past at extinct eateries like Wong Village.

“It was really a cute place because it was kind of patched together because you had to go to a trailer to get to the bathroom," said Eldredge.

"And you could take pheasant there and they’d de-bone it and make a sauce and fix it all up for you to have sweet and sour pheasant," she said.

Do you think that sounds strange?

The menus aren’t the only flavorful part of restaurant history.

“I remember the Rex in the '70s where they had horse hair sofas and people went there to play chess,” said Anne Hall, who has called Billings home for 45 years.

And even the slogans raised eyebrows.

“The Stockman: “Where men meet men,” said Fong to a laughing crowd. "I’m not sure the logo would fly well these days.”

Stella Fong dug into Billings culinary history and learned dining decadence arrived by train in the late 1800s.

“Railroad tracks provided the arteries for bringing life into new territories,” said Fong.

Since then, a lot has changed, including the price per plate.

Reading from an old menu, Fong said: “Turkey and fried chicken dinner for the special price of $1.”

Restaurants like the Skyline, Bella Vista, and Elmo Club weren’t just places to wine and dine, they were for many the spice of life.

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