For decades I’ve been hearing about the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana. Some of the stories I heard sent a shiver up my spine and made it sound like one of those rowdy roadhouses of the Deep South where hippies entered and never were heard from again. It is, so the stories go, the type of establishment non-locals might want to avoid, especially if you’re decked out in Lycra, and if you dare enter, don’t accidentally have eye contact with the wrong person or his girlfriend.
Finally, at least two decades late, I had my chance to check it out, and it was almost a disappointment to learn that, nowadays, the most dangerous thing in the Dirty Shame Saloon is Double Haul IPA.
I was on my summer cycling trip to Kootenai Country, and one of our long routes went right by the Dirty Shame. We were actually advised not to stop there, but obviously by somebody who hadn’t been there lately. Undeterred, we parked our bicycles out back, and after reading the sign on the door about checking my guns, boldly went where not many cyclists have gone before.
I didn’t see a raucous crowd throwing beer bottles or involved in knife fights. In fact, even though it was 5 pm on Wednesday night, I only saw one other person at the bar, a local contractor, and friendly one at that.
We sat our helmets and water bottles on the bar, almost disappointed at the quiet, quaint atmosphere.
Behind the bar was the new owner Don Belcher, who turned out to be quite the character. My cycling buddy was whining about getting too old for these long bike rides, and Don jumped right in with, “How old do you think I am?”
Always wary of that question, I figured he might be 70, so I said “65.”
“Ha,” he said. “Just turned 81.”
Then we found out he was also an Episcopal Priest who had recently bought the saloon and, I suspect, been responsible for toning down the crowd.
Now, Don and Gloria, his wife of 25 years and retired investment counselor, co-manage the place. Don tends bar and Gloria cooks, does the books, and plays classical jazz on the piano for evening entertainment. On their website, they describes the new Dirty Shame as “an attractive bistro,” and it seems to fit.
My mild disappointment didn’t last long. I ordered up a Dirty Shame Burger and an IPA, followed shortly by a huckleberry sundae. I suppose it might have something to do with just riding a hundred miles on my bicycle, but all three were so tasty, I considered doing it again.
We had to go, though. Still 37 miles to ride to get back to Libby before dark, but we made a pact to return next year, this time staying overnight at the cabin’s next door, also owned by the Belchers.
That’ll leave me enough time for risk having another of those notorious IPAs.
To read a companion article on Cycling Kootenai Country, click here.