Owners of The Keep open 1889 steakhouse in Missoula Merc

The staff of the new 1889 steak and seafood restaurant in the downtown Missoula Mercantile includes (left to right): Owners Reed and Melissa Mooney; Bar Manager Chris Frost; Head Chef Mark LeFebvre; Sous Chef Bert Gahagan, and General Manager Brendon Chamberlain. (Dave Stalling/Missoula Current)

The owners of The Keep, in the South Hills, have opened a new steak and seafood restaurant with an old name in the Mercantile building in downtown Missoula.

“It’s not The Keep, it’s not a chain, it’s 1889,” reads one of their online advertisements.  

Their bison-skull logo — reminiscent of cowboy-artist Charle M. Russell’s signature “buffalo skull,” but with a modern touch — sums up the feel of the place.

“We want to capture the classic feel of that era,” said owner Melissa Mooney. “A traditional steak house but with a contemporary twist.”

Melissa Mooney, who, with her husband Reed Mooney, have owned The Keep for the past 12 years, said they’ve been wanting to open another restaurant downtown for some time now. 

“A few years ago, when discussions were underway to put some restaurants in the new Mercantile building, it piqued our interest and we thought, ‘This is our chance!’” Melissa recalls.

Being a bit of a history buff, Melissa choose the name 1889 because it’s the year Montana achieved statehood. 

She said the Mercantile building particularly appealed to her. 

Site of the historic Missoula Mercantile, built in various stages beginning in 1877, the new structure used a lot of wood, metal and brick recovered during the deconstruction of the old building, much of which is on full display at the 1889 steak house and bar.

A full, wall-sized reproduction of a photo, taken in 1889, adorns the wall behind the bar, showing Native Americans and early settlers alongside Mount Sentinel. (If one were to stand outside on the sidewalk along Higgins Avenue, and look in through the large windows, the mountain in the photo almost seem to align with the silhouette of the real Mount Sentinel.) 

Another photo of downtown Missoula, taken in 1889, covers an entire wall at the entrance to the restaurant.      

“We wanted to honor the history, and the memory of the Mercantile,” Melissa said. 

The menu includes starters such as Le Petit baguettes with artisan butters and smoked sea salt ($6); tuna tartare with orange ginger dressing, avocado, wasabi and cilantro ($16), and lump crab cakes with pickled mustard seeds and creole remoulade ($16). 

Soups and salads range in price from $8 to $10, and includes French onion soup with gruyere, Le Petit baguettes and chives, and an heirloom tomato wedge salad with pancetta, pickled red onions and blue-cheese dressing. 

An 8-ounce “baseball cut sirloin” cost $29; a 14-ounce prime New York strip is $39, and a 30-ounce “Tomahawk Ribeye that serves “two or more” costs $90.  All steaks are served with roasted garlic whipped potatoes and a choice of sauces that include 1889 steak sauce, bearnaise and cilantro chimichurri.

Options for accompaniments include bone marrow ($8), roasted mushrooms ($2), and caramelized shallots ($2). 

Nearly half the menu is dedicated to “Chef’s Creations,” prepared by 1889’s head Chef Mark LeFebvre.  

Originally from Red Lodge, Montana, LeFebvre recently returned to Montana from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he worked at the legendary Broadmoor resort, and then Cerbrus Brewing Company. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and has also worked at the historic Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, along with several other five-star and five-diamond establishments. 

LeFebvre’s current creations at 1889 include: King salmon with summer corn succotash, bearnaise and chili oil ($34.00); duroc pork chops with roasted garlic potato puree, fennel, mustard seeds and madeira mushroom jus ($34.00), and flat iron steak frites with truffle parmesan frites, red wine demi and charred rosemary ($23.00). 

Choices of sides include creamed spinach, glazed brussels sprouts and farmers market vegetables, all for $10.00. 

The restaurant includes a full and complete bar.