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Out and About: Grab a bite on the Southeast Montana Burger Trail

Posted at 5:24 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-12 10:32:33-04

If you’re a fan of hamburgers, we have the road trip for you. There’s something called the Southeast Montana Burger Trail – highlighting the best of the best in this part of the state.

To find Montana's best burgers, you may have travel off the beaten path to places like The Joseph Cafe in Forsyth.

The burgers and their names are unforgettable. Each pays homage to the town’s railroad history.

“I’ve got a derailer, I’ve got a jumpin’ jammin’, I’ve got a broken knuckle. You know like when the knuckles break apart,” said the owner of The Joseph Cafe, Alecia Smith, on Wednesday.

Southeast Montana burger trail
The Joseph Cafe in Forsyth, Montana

And the interesting names aren’t the only eye-catching thing about this place. Smith is the mastermind behind the creative burgers and focuses on the fact that people eat with their eyes first, so presentation is everything.

“When you pick a sandwich, I think you need to know when you bite into it that you’re getting every flavor,” Smith said.

And she wasn’t messing around with the presentation. The burgers served were stacked high and almost too perfect to want to bite. But I had to try the "Broken Knuckle Burger." A 6-ounce patty, with jalapeno cream cheese, bacon and pepper jack cheese served on a Wheat Montana pretzel bun. And I’m glad I did.

But this is just one of 24 stops on the Southeast Montana Burger Trail.

Our next burger joint was about 30 miles down the road in the small town of Hysham. Where their one restaurant made the list.

“Putting Hysham on the map is not a bad thing,” said owner of BW Bar & Grill, BJ Schoelkopf.

Getting put on the map was well deserved for BW Bar & Grill. Schoelkopf and his wife bought the restaurant at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, moving here from Washington state, and they haven't looked back.

“I’m a burger flipper. I mean that’s basically what I am. If anybody asks me what I do for a living, I don’t mind saying I flip burgers,” Schoelkopf said. The majority of the time, he is the only chef in the kitchen.

And his best-selling burger has an extra special sauce and he’s been holding onto the recipe for quite a while.

“The sauce comes from, actually, one of the first restaurants I ever worked in when I was 15, 16. Somewhere in there,” said Schoelkopf.

A well-deserved mention for this small-town spot, the burger was basic in the best way possible.

Stomachs full but not stopping yet, we made our way back to Billings to stop at The Burger Dive for an "I’m Your Huckleberry" burger that originated when owner Brad Halsten was in the World Food Championships competition.

“And in our minds, we are thinking that we’re coming from Montana. So we should bring something that represents the area that you’re from. So we’re like huckleberries, that’d be cool,” Halsten said.

And the burger is award-winning.

“Won the world championship,” said Halsten.

A nationally recognized burger in Billings, so it makes sense it made the burger trail.

Whether it’s the hustle of a busy kitchen full of staff, a sky-high burger that looks too perfect to eat or a one-man show in a small town, you can’t go wrong with any of the 24 stops along the trail.