Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Pam Burke 

Kitchen Cache: Chef Anthony Windyboy, co-owner Boxcars Restaurant and Bar

 

August 1, 2019

Ryan Berry/Havre Daily News

Anthony Windyboy moves around the kitchen at Boxcars Restaurant and Bar with a fluid efficiency that speaks of choreography. The speed at which he brings the multiple elements of the restaurant's Western Burger together belies Windyboy's laid-back stillness while talking about the business in the dining room moments before. To be honest, the burger isn't for a waiting customer with a limited lunch hour. It's for the photographer who is shadowing Windyboy through all his motions. This speed, though, the rhythm and the pace, they are a chef's second nature and as much a part of the recipe as the ingredients. The sequence of steps started with a handful of onion slices and ends with a perfectly plated burger and fries as the final footfall.

Between them, Anthony and Ashley Windyboy, owners of Boxcars, had a combined 23 years in the food service industry before buying Boxcars in April 2018. Ashley, who runs the bar at Boxcars, had waitressed for about 10 years and Anthony had run a restaurant kitchen for 13, but they both knew that they wanted to own their own restaurant one day.

"This opportunity presented itself, and we just jumped on it," he said.

The building had housed both a bar and restaurant from the beginning, several years ago. The restaurant, though, hadn't been in operation for a few years, Windyboy said, so they had to clean it up and get everything working, and they added a second broaster for their chicken.

They also had to come up with a menu, but that was part of the fun, Windyboy said.

They started with a limited daily lunch menu and have added to it over the past year.

"There was only, I wanna say, seven or eight items when I first started because I wanted to get comfortable and see what I could do," Windyboy said. "I wanted to make it fast because I know people only have an hour for lunch."

Though their daily menu still is fairly simple with an assortment of burgers, sandwiches, salads, chicken and a kids' menu along with a handful of appetizers, Windyboy gets creative with his weekly specials and daily soups. Past special menu items have included stuffed bell peppers, pulled-pork Cubano, grilled salmon salad, chili with cornbread, chicken and wild rice soup and tomato-basil soup.

"I don't make anything fancy," he said. "It's just real good."

The Western Burger, part of Boxcars' regular menu is one of three menu items that started as specials but were continually requested so became an everyday thing.

"It was very, very popular, so I put it on the menu, and people don't get sick of it - they order it all the time," he said.

It isn't just the menu that's special about the Windyboys' approach to their restaurant and bar.

They served holiday dinners on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, and they use their internet savvy to keep customers updated about specials, on Intagram and Facebook. They also were awarded a Montana Department of Commerce grant for business improvement - one of ten grants awarded in north-central Montana to Native American businesses.

Originally, Windyboy said, they were going to use the grant for remodeling, but they got the OK to change the project so will be buying a fryer for the bar area. The restaurant portion of the business serves food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beyond those hours, he said, customers at the bar, which is open until 2 a.m. are left wanting for food choices beyond pizza.

Bartenders will be able to serve most of the appetizers from their menu, Windyboy said, once he finds a fryer, gets it installed and trains the staff on how to use it.

Right now, that is the only expansion in food services they have planned, he added. With two cooks to help staff the kitchen and extra bartenders, he said, they can be open seven days a week and still be home by 5 p.m. to spend time with their 2-year-old daughter.

"I don't want to miss her whole childhood," he said.

With the one-year anniversary of business ownership fast approaching, Windyboy said, they have transitioned to business ownership pretty smoothly - even the restaurant's signature model train is running.

"It has its ups and downs and good days and bad days but, all together, you think about it and it's our own place, so it's good. We like it," he said. "It's tiring but ... it's fun."

Anthony Windyboy said the Western Burger started out as a lunch special at Boxcars, but so many people requested it be served again that it was quickly added to their regular menu.

This hamburger is simple to make and assemble, and you can experiment with flavors with different barbecue sauces and bacons, as well as different bread crumbs for the onion pedals.

Ryan Berry/Havre Daily News

Windyboy said that he uses a cooking press, those flat-faced cast iron weights with a handle, to hold the burgers flat so they don't curl up or shrink in at the edges and swell in the center. To keep that from happening at home, he said, before putting the burger on the pan or grill, flatten it well and put a big thumb print divot in the center. Once the burger is about half-cooked go ahead and press on it firmly with your spatula a few times.

The onions are roughly sliced by starting the cut at about the center of the onion and slicing at an angle to the outside layer then turning the onion a quarter turn each slice around the onion. You also can cut a thick slice, halve it, then halve again the longer outer rings.

In the restaurant, where time is money, Windyboy gets the onion pedals and fries cooking, then starts frying the burger and bacon before assembling the rest of the plate, including toasting the bun. The onion pedals and bacon, though, can be cooked ahead and kept warm.

 

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