The courtyard of the Montana Grizzly Bar. The laid-back feel is meant to reflect the bar's slogan: "Some days the bear eats you, and some days you eat the bear."
photo: Sharon Otterman
Address: Michalská 19, Bratislava Old Town
English menu: Yes
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11:00-1:00,Friday Saturday, 11:00-2:00, Sunday 11:00-24:00.
If business goes right and the Slovak authorities are willing, one day ex-pats and Slovak trendies might spend their evenings soaking in a redwood hot tub in the center of the Bratislava old town with Coronas in hand. The well-heeled will walk past on a new Old Town footpath. Dreams? Maybe. But the owner of Bratislava's newest old town bar, the laid-back Montana Grizzly Bar, definitely likes to think big.
Bratislava's newest bar hang-out is already pretty large. Located along side a spacious courtyard just above Michalská Gate, the white-painted, wood-beamed interior has enough room for more than 100 patrons inside. Outside, 20 tables now seat guests in sunshine and lamplight: and there is space for many more tables on an elevated gravel- covered platform which might one day house that fabled redwood deck and tub.
While the new bar won't exactly transport you to the Old West just yet, it does offer a friendly, relaxed, less smoky alternative to the ever-popular Irish Pub. For those patrons who love the micro-skirts and half-shirts of the Irish Pub waitresses, however, a disappointment is in store: Montana's actually allows its multi-lingual wait staff to dress modestly in T-shirts and jeans.
On a recent weekday afternoon, the outdoor beer garden was filled with a mixture of Slovak businessmen and ex-pats. A crowd of Irish and British Bratislava residents seldom seen outside the Irish Pub wandered in and gave a big hello to the owner, Montanan Ky Didier. Some former Irish Pub waitresses also walked in.
Despite the obvious challenge to the Irish Pub's business, however, owner Didier insists that he wants to work together with Bratislava's old ex-pat standby. In fact, so as not to rob the Irish Pub from business, he has decided not to offer Guinness and other Irish brews on his beer list.
"We barmen have to stick together," he said.
Didier's big dreams include serving muffins, bagels and big cups of coffee for breakfast in the future (right now the bar opens at 11:00) and serving sandwiches in the afternoon and evening. He expects to have his kitchen up and running in two or three months, he said.
For now, drinks are what you will go to Montana's for. Eight kinds of coffee for 30 Sk include some flavored varieties and come in American-style coffee mugs so big a Slovak friend exclaimed, "Great coffee, but what's wrong with the cup?" Also in keeping with the theme of American Big, Coke and juice comes in larger, near Texan sized glasses filled with ice.
While the decor leans American, the brew includes much that is Czech, with Veľkopopovický kozel headlining a roster that also includes Budvar, Pilsner Urquell, and Krušovice. Other imported brands include Corona, Becks and Heineken. The only nod to domestic producers is the Gemer lager and dark beer. The prices are a bit high, as the imported draft beers go for 40 Sk and the local beers sell for 35 Sk.
Whisky is the centerpiece of the hard-alcohol selection, with 10 kinds of Scotch whisky, six kinds of Irish, and 3 kinds of the Canadian stuff. The alcohol list also includes the vodka and the adventurous absinthe.
In stark contrast to the techno-beat at many bars, at Montana's you might find yourself listening to something really crazy...like the Beach Boys. As the waitresses walk by in their Grizzly Bar T-shirts, the light glows from the old-style lamps and reflects off the dark wood bar, I got the feeling that with a few more patrons, a little more memorabila on the walls and beer stains on the floors, this place actually might start to feel somewhat ...dare we say...American?