The stage is set for the second act of one of Bigfork’s favorite eateries, Showthyme, which is under new ownership and soon to open with a host of new flavors.
After serving the Flathead for nearly 30 years, the restaurant’s former owner closed Showthyme almost a year ago.
The historic building on Electric Avenue sat vacant until a few months ago when an ambitious couple walked along the street looking for a place to eat.
Like a siren song, the old brick building, originally built as a bank in 1908, called to Aaron Killian and Jennifer Crough of Bigfork.
Their reply, Killian said, was a snap.
“[We] saw the for lease sign in the window, had a conversation. A week and a half later, the keys were in our hand,” Crough said.
Crough and Killian fell in love and joined forces through a chance encounter at a steakhouse in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota.
On his way home to Pennsylvania following his latest adventure of flipping a restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, Killian stopped for dinner in Devil’s Lake, unsure of his next step.
He never finished the journey after chatting with the restaurant’s owner over his meal, instead taking a job as a cook for the steakhouse, where Crough worked in front of house.
“We needed a chef, and apparently, I needed a partner,” Crough said.
Fast-forward through ventures spanning multiple states and styles of restaurants, and the couple landed back in Crough’s hometown of Bigfork in September 2017.
The two launched the I Don’t No food cart, serving Philly cheese-steaks, game sausages and mac ‘n’ cheese across the Flathead Valley during the summer season.
When she saw the sign in Showthyme’s window toward the end of their second season, Crough recalled memories of the restaurant she often passed throughout her childhood.
“I was 10 years old, walking by, looking in the window, saying ‘I’ll never eat there because it’s too fancy,’” she recalled. “And now it’s ours.”
The restaurant’s previous owner, Blu Funk, ran Showthyme for more than 28 years, sculpting his fine-dining establishment into a community cornerstone before retiring in January.
“It is Blue. It is Showthyme. It’s a lot to take on,” Crough said. “It’s an icon of Bigfork.”
Now, with Funk’s help, Killian and Crough are working to revive the Bigfork tradition with their own flair and a modified name.
Showthyme “Act II,” its owners said, will combine Killian’s ample culinary experience with a more family-friendly atmosphere.
Minus the linen napkins and high-class prices, Act II promises an upscale casual environment offering lunch and dinner year-round.
“You can bring your 6-year-old in here and have a grilled cheese,” Crough said. “And mommy can have a really great glass of wine and a really good steak.”
“I make a mean grilled cheese, you know,” Killian added.
Killian’s menu includes items taken from over 25 years of experience, including French, Caribbean and German cuisine, game meat and more.
“I’ve done steakhouses. I’ve done Creole. I’ve done Greek. I’ve done Italian…I can cook a lot of different stuff,” Killian said.
Highlights from his resume also include time spent working for celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck, and serving celebrities Liam Neeson and Shaquille O’Neal, among others.
“There’s not going to be any one style,” Killian said of his menu.
Elk filets to Philly cheese-steaks, puttanesca to prime rib, each of Act II’s appetizers and entrées will feature its own wine pairing.
As new wines come in, Killian said, he’ll be evolving the menu to complement each one.
Lunch will feature favorite items from their food cart, which will return in the summer months as a side venture.
“Our focus is the locals and to get these people in here and get them something different in Bigfork, something fun,” Crough said. “We want to make Bigfork a better place. This is my home.”
Set to open in early December, Act II will first raise its curtain on the main dining room, with plans to renovate the outside deck for summer seating. Down the road, Killian said he and Crough plan to turn what once served as the old bank vault into a speakeasy-style grotto with underground seating and a bar.
“We know we have big shoes to fill,” Crough said. “We got it. We’re not trying, we’re doing.”
Updates about the opening of Showthyme are being posted on the I Don’t No Restaurant Group Facebook page.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.