Butte is now home to Montana's first Taco Bell Cantina. In fact, it's the only one of its kind in the entire Pacific Northwest region.
What distinguishes a "Cantina" from a regular Taco Bell? It features a contemporary design, open kitchen, custom menu, and alcoholic beverages.
The cantina - located on the northwest corner of Park Street and Montana Street - hosted a soft opening on Tuesday evening and, through word of mouth on social media, saw a steady stream of customers.
"It's a work in progress and we are stoked," said Michael Smith, a Taco Bell employee. "We were supposed to open in March and just with everything going on with COVID these last few years—you know, we're so excited."
Smith said the plan is to have the restaurant open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. this week before expanding operating hours to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. next week. From there, hours will expand to include breakfast and, eventually, the plan is to have the location open daily until 2 a.m.
Management wasn't sure if they'd open on Tuesday. But the beer kegs—all five beverages on tap are Montana brews—arrived just in the knick of time, and they decided to open the doors to a community that had been left to wonder when, if ever, this long-awaited spot would be open for business.
"This has been a long journey," said Operations Director Peggy Hulsey. "Thanks to the wonderful world and its craziness of a backlog of equipment and everything. It was a mad dash."
The restaurant includes a main dining area and also a VIP area that can be rented out with a private bar and seating.
Smith also said that he hopes to see the location host special events, such as trivia nights and karaoke.
"We demolished the entire interior of this building, took the floors out, took the walls out," Smith said. "We put in new tile, new copper ceilings throughout the entire building. We have this amazing artwork that was custom made just for us here out in Butte, America."
Bringing this Taco Bell Cantina to life has been an exercise in patience and a labor of love. But Tuesday's promising turnout was an indicator that this spot will likely become an integral part of Uptown Butte.
"It's fabulous," said Hulsey who spent part of the afternoon outside with a sign to draw customers in. "That just warms my heart 'cause I know we're gonna be here forever, and just making history."
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