Behind the Scenes at the Opening of Pangea Bar & Restaurant
Launch of first restaurant for Pangea Restaurant Group
As the name Pangea implies, the atmosphere can be described as ‘Global’ united. When you enter, the feeling is a big open bright space. Fine dining is the first impression, but the friendly staff and menu encourage a relaxed experience.
In the summer of 2019, the three partners of Liquid Planet – Scott Billadeau, Chad Morgan and Skyla Sisco – asked Riggs to join them and together they created Pangea Restaurant Group.
Pangea at 223 North Higgins, Downtown Missoula, is the dream of Liquid Planet group’s newest partner, Kyle Riggs. Riggs earned his WSET – Level 3 (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) degree from Napa Valley Wine Academy in 2016. With degree in hand and a leap of faith, Riggs landed the position of Wine Sommelier at Paws Up Resort. While there he had the opportunity to work with wine makers and celebrity chefs. But having grown up in Missoula, he knew that he really wanted to bring this experience to Missoula. He knew Missoulians were ready for a place that was an immersive beverage experience with a true focus on wine and unique cocktails.
The Upstairs Experience
The space occupied by the original Liquid Planet store was deemed to be an ideal location for two very different experiences. Upstairs would be open, clean and very family oriented with ‘global comfort’ food, with nothing over $25 on the regular menu. Riggs is able to unleash his imagination in creating innovative cocktails all with fun, unusual garnishments. You won’t find a blender or a strawberry daquiri in the place.
Every detail of Pangea’s design was carefully considered including the science behind the bar. The wells and beer taps are all equally spaced. The bar setup is streamlined for two bartenders can do the work of three or four.
The tables are spacious and cozy. The booth tables are so spacious in fact that Riggs’ wine service has been modified to accommodate the ‘reach’ across the tables. To allow upper end wine to be enjoyed by the glass, Riggs’ is using a Coravin wine pouring system that lets you pour wine without removing the cork, so they pour a glass and enjoy the rest of the bottle another day. Look for the rotating Coravin Pours on the menu.
The Barrel Room
A special wine tasting room downstairs, the Barrel Room, was created in the original location of the barrel room for the Garden City Liquor and Bottling Company when the building was built in 1896. Along came prohibition in 1920’s and Garden City was forced out of business. A fire consumed the building in 1925. The stone walls are still charred black in testament to the fire. Montgomery Wards occupied the building for a time. In 2004, Liquid Planet moved in and continued in the space until 2019 when remodeling began for Pangea. (The Liquid Planet downtown store moved just around the corner, and is open at 121 W. Broadway.) The Barrel Room is a wine maker’s ideal setting with room to accommodate up to 24 guests enabling a truly intimate true wine education and experience. The room has special barrels from Jack Daniels and Woodford. and white oak barrels from Chappellet Winery. Riggs has already scheduled winery owners from Napa Valley to host tastings.
Stave & Hoop
The other half of the basement can only be entered through an intriguing vintage wooden door in the alley. As you descend the stairs, you can’t help but notice a hand-painted signs that states, “All Nations welcome except Carrie”. The story is that Carrie Nation started the Prohibition movement and would often enter taverns with a hatchet and smash the place up. Many establishments would have a sign welcoming everyone but Carrie Nation!
A set of stairs on the left would have led you upstairs to what was possibly a brothel back in the day. Continuing downstairs reveals the new speakeasy, Stave & Hoop, where the atmosphere is rough and raw. There are no fancy, frilly libations in this speakeasy. The drinks are solid and straightforward in the tradition of taverns a century ago.
The walls are exposed brick and rock with cement patchwork. The footing that holds up the building couldn’t be removed. So, the designers incorporated into the seating with a banquette lining one wall. There is a raised stage in the back corner where a baby grand piano will soon reside. As it turns out, Billadeau is also a concert pianist. There are plans for full jazz and burlesque shows coming soon. The design on the back wall of the stage is made up of disassembled barrel ‘staves’ designed by Dick Anderson Construction. As the name alludes, the ‘stave’ is the wood of the barrel and the metal ‘hoop’ is what holds the barrel together.
Every item has a story; the bar is made from 120 year old eucalyptus from western Australia. The wood was used in a mine in Kellogg, Idaho to run carts on to reduce sparks. The beer tap system is a custom designed 6” steel water pipe straight out of the yard. With its nicks and chipped paint, it looks like it belongs there. The face of the bar is composed of repurposed original ceiling rafters that were removed during the remodel.
Weekly, Stave & Hoop will feature a hand selected ‘break even’ bottle. One shot per customer of very high-end liquor will be served at the house’s cost until the bottle is empty, to give customers a chance to sample libations that they otherwise might not try.
Pangea has contracted with the Missoula company Jack’s Clean Team to clean and sanitize nightly to maintain clean, new bar smell and feel.
When asked about future plans for multiple locations, Riggs expressed they will surely develop more innovative places as opportunities are identified, evaluated and pursued. Pangea has already worked out to be a home-run for the ownership group. Pangea Restaurant Group recently had bid to run the food and beverage concession at the renovated Missoula International Airport, only to have the board award the contract to an out-of-state New Jersey company. That was an unanticipated setback, but the successful opening of Pangea and Stave & Hoop has been nothing but positive, and they look forward to continued momentum looking ahead. If you looking for something new in Downtown Missoula suitable for get-togethers with family and friends, add Pangea for a truly unique experience.
Tuesday 5/26 kicked off Pangea’s new weekly “Bison Prime Rib Night”, featuring slow roasted prime rib of bison with rosemary au jus, smashed potatoes & roasted vegetables, paired with house-suggested wine, beer and spirits options. Music and entertainment will be announced soon on the Facebook page as they’re confirmed.