Originally published by Yellowstone Public Radio on June 19, 2023 at 6:07 AM MDT
Owners Morgan Belveal and “Guisippe” or Joey Campanella of The Backporch are gathering community. In the Coalminer’s Hall, located on the corner of HW87 and Main Street in Roundup is the 2023 James Beard Foundation semifinalists for Best New Restaurant.
“The Backporch was born out of a barbecue food truck that my father had run in Mussellshell Valley for about 10 to 15 years and that was called Backporch Barbecue, and so that was sort of the birth of my passion for barbecue,” Belveal says of paying homage to his father and then his mother, who would bake cupcakes for weddings, graduations, and other celebrations.
At the Backporch, “We believe in really good food that tells a story. Our barbecue techniques and recipes were created in my father’s smoke pit, and our baking program is built on the recipes from the kitchens of my mother and grandmothers,” Belveal shares of his growing up in Roundup and now returning home. From Liege waffles, ham and cheese rolls, poppyseed cream cheese rolls and sugar cookies, The Backporch has a wide selection of savory and sweet baked goods.
The menu is available all day consisting of Pit Beef with the secret seasonings created by Belveal’s father and inspirations from Campanella’s upbringing on the East coast. The meats come with an option of six sauces: Eastern North Carolina Vinegar, Alabama White, St. Louis Sweet and Tangy, South Carolina Mustard, Backporch Classic, and Roast House Espresso.
Pulled Pork, Smoked Brats, Ribs, and Smoked Turkey are other meat options with sides of Mac & Cheese, Cowboy Beans, Slaw – freshly made to order, Roasted Beets – with yogurt and Jalapeno Cornbread.
Liege Waffles created from the partners’ time in Oakland, California are one of their signature pastry items, but the Poppyseed, Ham and Cheese, and Cinnamon rolls have become very popular.
The Backporch originally opened in the summer of 2022 in a remodeled hotel room at the Big Sky Motel and offered takeout with seating in the back. “The motel was actually built by my great grandparents, and then their daughter, my grandmother, ran it for 30 years, and so when I was ready to move back to Montana, I decided to buy it, and we’re four generations in now,” Belveal says of his grandmother, Dorothy Mccleary.
The dusting of powdered sugar puts the final touch on this Monte Cristo order at The Backporch.
Aside from the inspirations from his father’s venture into barbecue, Belveal shares, “We’re surrounded by ranches and Montana yet hasn’t made it a name for itself as barbecue capital. One of the things that started us originally thinking about what makes Montana special is the cattle and ranching industry being created by cattle drives so ranches were driving from Texas, and from everywhere in the south up to Roundup.” “They were bringing their families with them, and starting their new life so we have a pretty diverse group of people that have settled there from other regions of the country, so for us, it’s celebrating the wide world of barbecue.”
In the town of nearly 2000 people, finding employees for a restaurant venture can prove to be challenging, but, “We have slotted them in the position in the restaurant that makes them the happiest,” Belveal shares.
“From the beginning, Morgan and I both agreed that our employees are our biggest investment and our biggest opportunity. So all of our budgets, all of our financial planning was done with the idea that we have to pay people a good living wage, and they have to be excited to work there, and feel supported by us day in and day out,” Campanella tells. “We have been incredibly fortunate, through the natural processes at work, to uncover all of the amazing people in Roundup that are perfect fits for our restaurant,” Campanella continues.
Christy Wickhorst, is one of those people who now bakes goods inspired from her upbringing on the Flatwillow Hutterite Colony. She and her husband, Dave, purchased Coalminers Hall. When their ranch sold north of town, they decided to buy a building on the main drag. “We looked at every building on Main Street and this one was in the best shape,” Wickhorst says. “We knew it was a monumental task because we had to remodel it thoroughly.
After renewing the building, she opened up a bakery in June of 2022 with the name of Cattle Drive Bakery N Coffee showcasing her love baking. “I was basically in the kitchen by myself,” she shares. She hired front counter help, but found running the business challenging to shutter four months later.
When Belveal discovered the business was closing, he saw the opportunity to relocate from their takeout spot and settled in a space with a large industrial kitchen along with dine in options. The adjacent large room with possibilities for community and special events was also an asset.
“Burned out” from her many months of running a bakery by herself, Wickhorst was ready to hang her apron. Wickhorst says Belveal hinted, “Do you want me to come work for you? And he goes, that would be phenomenal.” That conversation led to Wickhorst baking three days a week, creating house made hamburger rolls from her Hutterite upbringing along with other pastries.
Local art for sale hangs on the walls of the adjacent room. Music artists such as Zechariah Peabody and Big Sky City Lights will be performing at The Backporch this summer.
For food and fun, The Backporch may be where community can be rounded up.