A food essay about Pinky's Cafe Livingston, Montana by James Bonner

Discover Pinky's Café: A Montana Gem Serving Up Local Flavor

On the windy Main Street of one of Montana’s most picturesque landscapes, in the charming little town of Livingston; where you'll find breathtaking views of the Yellowstone River and the Absaroka Mountain Range, and one of the best culinary scenes in Montana; including Anthony Bourdain Favorite, The Second Street Bistro, and a New York Times America’s Best Restaurants 2023Campione Roman Restaurant—is Pinky’s Café. As a local favorite, Pinky’s Cafe holds its own among America’s best.

Pinky’s Café is almost exclusively a breakfast joint, opening at seven-thirty every morning and closing at twelve-thirty in the afternoon, if you are unable to get there before nine you are very likely going to be waiting a little while for a table. I walked in early, a few minutes after they opened, and that was a great time to get there because the restaurant filled quickly.

Pinky’s Café has a modern Montana atmosphere: the dining area is comfortable and neat; there is a row of two tops along the left wall and a built-in wood bench along the length of the dining room. To the right, is a short row of booths, and the tables and booths are underneath a small gallery of local wildlife and outdoor photographs displayed on the restaurant walls.

I sat in the rear of the restaurant, on a stool nearest to the door of five bar stools facing the prep area, where I ogled as the staff hand-squeezed every glass of orange juice ordered, which was surprisingly captivating. The most notable thing about eating at Pinky’s was how friendly the staff was, everyone was incredibly outgoing and open, and it genuinely felt good to be there.

Pinky’s Café has been known in the community for its quirky owners and one or two of their famous dishes (the chef aka, “Pinky,” sold Pinky’s Café in 2014, and today the menu is no longer cluttered with peculiar dishes). Although those days at Pinky’s are in the past, remain, for the time being anyway, warm memories of longtime Livingston residents.

The restaurant continues to be a favorite for locals and tourists alike. Pinky's now famous dishes are Eggs Benedict (The Classic), Florentine, and the Waffle and West Coast Benny’s. I had the Florentine, and it was good, everything that Eggs Florentine should be, but I should have gotten a modified version of the Waffle Benny—the hard part for me is thinking about asking for the altered options.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day because beyond breakfast equipping us with all of the possibilities of the encroaching day, there is something warm and romantic about the morning that allows breakfast to bridge the space between our routines and the dreamlike. It is difficult for me to find a breakfast spot that I might frequent.

Not only do I not eat pork (most breakfast joints, and Pinky’s Café is no exception, love to offer your choice of meat between bacon, sausage, and ham (pork, pork, and pork[1]), but breakfast breads are a short term solution to an all-day problem, they give the illusion of being filling while also being heavy in sugars, and along with pork, bread[2] found a niche in breakfast. So, I have to be creative; but Pinky’s Café makes every effort to accommodate, unfortunately, it is not always possible.

My favorite thing about Pinky’s Café, they source ingredients locally, and their commitment to farm-to-table foods will make or break a local spot for me. Pinky’s menu highlights Montana’s seasonal produce and locally raised meats, and what truly sets Pinky’s Café apart is its commitment to the community and its dedication to ensuring each guest feels like family every visit.

Pinky’s Café in Livingston, Montana is a gem that has captured the heart and soul of Montana through its cuisine, every dish is a testament to Montana’s rich culinary traditions and their devotedness to using local, fresh ingredients. Anthony Bourdain also visited Pinky’s Café during his first trip to Montana highlighted on his show No Reservations (season 5, episode 17).

Bourdain was lucky enough to meet Pinky and explore the celebrated dishes no longer on Pinky’s Café menu. Although things change, and Pinky’s Café may not be the quirky Montana hangout it once was, you can still feel the presence of the rustic Montana experience the locals talk about. The tourists explore when they are sitting at the café and near locals telling stories about their favorite fishing spots and in the evening, they wrestle a bear.

Whether you are looking for a warm, welcoming atmosphere or a taste of authentic Montana, Pinky’s Café has it. If you are spending a few days in town, make it a point to stop by and enjoy what only Pinky’s Café can offer on your next visit to this beautiful part of the world.


[1] There are, too, perfectly adequate alternatives to pork meats. Turkey bacon is better than it sounds, and beef and chicken sausages are better than pork sausages, but for whatever reason few restaurants make the effort.

[2] Ah, the abundance of breakfast bread! There are of course, muffins, scones, cinnamon buns, toast, orange rolls, strudels, butter biscuits, doughnuts, coffee cakes, streusel, French toast, morning buns, English muffins, etc., etc., etc.

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