A couple blocks off the main drag of Missoula, you’ll see a theater-esque sign that says “Double Front Chicken.” Since 1909, the restaurant had two entrances (one in the front, one in the back), but we go in the front. These days, the dining room can be a little empty in the lull between lunch and dinner, but normally there’s a line out the door for fried chicken that’s always made to order and takes at least a half hour to make.
This of course includes when you order takeout, which we did. We went with the “lunch time special,” which is quite the deal: a huge piece of tender fried chicken sitting atop a pile of hot French fries and slim pickle chips, all for $6. The chicken breading is crisp and light, not too thick. The meat inside is juicy and tender. The fries are thick-cut and salty.
We also get the Cordon Bleu sandwich, which is honestly less guilt-inducing than I thought it might be. It’s more like a grilled chicken sandwich with a slice of honey-rimmed ham, lightly breaded fried chicken, a thin bit of a cheese, lettuce and tomato.
Finally, or, if we ate this in the “proper order,” firstly, there’s the appetizer sampler. Another bargain: a basket of fried delights piled high on a piece of black-and-white gingham paper. There’s gooey mac-and-cheese triangles, slightly spicy buffalo bites, mozzarella ‘fence posts,’ and, my favorite: onion rings. They’re just crisp enough, with a thin slice of onion. Dipped in ranch, it’s the perfect bite every time.
The dining room at Double Front is nothing special, but you can tell it’s well-loved and gets busy when there’s not a pandemic in full swing. Double Front had stints as a pool hall and residence (with rumored bootlegging) prior to becoming a restaurant in 1935, and has since been managed by a variety of locals. Though the appearance may have changed, the quality of the chicken—“always fresh, never frozen”—has not, and still takes 30 minutes to prepare, no matter what.
For those who are thirsty, the underground bar is a hidden gem, and no doubt serving many a strong drink to those waiting for their chicken.