But what really drives the wheel of success in one of Missoula’s favorite haunts is owner Tami Ursich who opened the original restaurant 15 years ago in the Old Railroad Depot just a few blocks from its currant location. The idea was to pair up with Bayern Brewing and offer a tasting room for the local brewery’s German style lagers. Thus the designation “Brew Pub.” “We wanted to stay in the depot but it was too expensive to lease and I wanted my own space to work with. I had a vision of what this place could be and I went for it,” explains Ursich. That was 11 years ago and she hasn’t looked back, expanding her current location four different times since then. “Hey if you’re not changing, if you’re not putting fresh paint on the wall or offering new menu items, then your restaurant stagnates and that spells death in this business.”
Over the last 16 years Ursich has reached somewhat of rock star status in the town of Missoula. Just watch her work the room and you can see stories build with knowing smiles and laughs. She can’t walk five steps without someone yelling , “Hey Tami! Tami come over here.” And she does, she always does, “Hey, you got to be passionate about what you do. You got to love the business you’re in or why bother,” Tami says cheerfully. Just then someone yells across the room, “Hey Tami!” She waves at them and says, “They come here every Thursday night. I could tell you each one of their orders. I know them by heart.”
The Iron Horse has the ability to be many things to its customers. For example, at lunch you will see a sprinkling of wide-eyed tourists mixed in with the white-collar workers. Around five or so, the after-work crowd converges on the restaurant; then come the happy metro martini sippers. A little later, family groups gather at some of the restaurant’s larger tables to take advantage of the huge portions and smoke-free dining area. As night falls, the Iron Horse changes gears one final time as college crowds appear.
Several waitresses come by to whisper things in Tami’s ear as we talk. Tami nods and then gives out brief sage advice, “Most of my staff have been with me for five years, some seven years. I am dedicated to them. I know their needs; some are in college and need time off for classes and we allow that. I have some single mothers that work.”