With Yellowstone National Park 100 feet to the south and the Yellowstone River 100 feet north, K-Bar Pizza is ideally situated for a post-recreation pie.
Bison wander outside the front door while soccer, football or the Animal Channel play inside on the 80-inch flat screen TV.
Chuck Tanner bought the K-Bar about a year and a half ago. Officially named the K-Bar since 1953, the old building has been called many names and is an important landmark in Gardiner, Yellowstone’s northern gateway town.
Tanner took over the popular restaurant with an eye toward creating consistent, quality food, reliable hours and a year-round eating establishment.
“I like to do one thing and do it really well,” Tanner said. “We have an open ear to the community and value feedback.”
All the sauces pesto, Alfredo and the standard red pizza sauce are made in-house with as many local ingredients as possible.
The K-Bar windowsills and Tanner’s own garden are filled with lettuce, basil and tomato plants. What he can’t grow himself he sources locally or orders from a locally-owned grocery store.
The K-Bar features local beers on tap and wine, but doesn’t have a full bar.
“This is a true family-style establishment,” he said. “I don’t want to have to worry about drunks and bar fights.
“I like to give the kids a piece of dough to play with while I make them a really good pie.”
Tanner cares a lot about the Gardiner and Mammoth, Wyo., community. “You have to be genuine and care about what people think,” he said.
Last year, the K-Bar stayed open three days a week in the winter, something most Gardiner restaurants don’t do. This winter Tanner plans to increase his hours to five days a week.
“It’s about more than just making a buck,” Tanner said. “I have a responsibility to this small town not to shut down.” Not only does Tanner want there to be a place for people to nosh a slice and sip a beer, he wants to keep jobs in Gardiner year-round.
The K-Bar isn’t Tanner’s first rodeo.
He studied engineering in school and spent 20 years working at big box retailers, but he always did restaurant work on the side. He and his ex-wife owned three restaurants in Livingston The Rack, The Sport and Rick’s on Main.
He sold those eateries, but still is a part owner in a San Francisco restaurant.
“I’m always going 20 miles an hour and function better at a crazy level,” Tanner said.
He clearly likes to be on the move; Tanner already is envisioning another restaurant in Gardiner. This time it will be a sandwich shop.
If you go
K-Bar Pizza is on Highway 89 and Main Street in Gardiner.
This story originally appeared in The Great Falls Tribune.