MISSOULA – If you’re a Northwest burger fan, there’s a good chance you know the name Frugals.
Now the chain which started on the Washington coast — and has been a favorite in the Flathead for nearly 20 years — is serving it up in Missoula.
Their new location represents not only an expansion but also an experiment.
When Frugal’s opened its first burger stand in Port Angeles, Washington over 30 years ago, the cars lined up for blocks, even blocking the driveway to an adjacent McDonald’s.
When the chain celebrated that anniversary last year, people were still creating a traffic jam — and the company’s aluminum-clad stand has been a Flathead fixture since 2000.
But now, Frugal’s is trying something different — remodeling an existing building as they take over the landmark Dairy Queen building on Brooks Street.
It’s a challenge, but also an experiment, to see if the Frugal’s brand can be expanded at a lower cost.
“Basically just relearn the entire process of what the stations are going to be and what equipment can fit in this building,” Frugal’s Business Development Manager Tyler Clifford said.
“But making sure we can still do the same quality that we’re known for, trying to keep the speed up,” he added.
Missoula represents a first among Frugal’s half-dozen locations — a walk-up window.
“We’re exploring potentially turning our pickup window into a walkup as well. And then eventually, our food truck is just down until we have the building open,” Clifford said.
“But we’re hoping to — with six-to-eight months — have a full-time food truck down here as well. They can hit the events around in Missoula.”
“Learning how to do our entire process in this little 20-square foot kitchen gave us the confidence to go out and explore new opportunities,” Clifford continued.
Frugal’s has won “Best of the Northwest” awards for a menu that’s both basic, and fun.
From cheeseburgers piled high with bacon and other toppings — to alternatives like chicken, grilled cheese and halibut — the talented crew also serves custom, and seasonal milkshakes, and french fries that rival the best you’ll ever get in a hurry.
“It’s all about value. I mean that’s the relationship of price to quality. And when you take those two, nobody matches us,” Clifford told MTN News.
“So we’re chain prices but way better quality and it’s always fresh and never frozen. And then when you add on convenience and service, there’s just nobody that matches us on all those fronts.”
The company has a long history of doing special projects for the communities where they set up shop. In just the first few days, Clifford says the response from Frugal’s fans has been amazing.
“A lot of people screaming at us. I mean we have a lot of loyal fans who love the brand and are excited that they don’t have to travel all the way up to Kalispell to get their Frugalburger now,” Clifford said.
“And that’s what really makes us love this job is seeing how excited they are and being able to bring something new to the community that they enjoy,” he added.
Frugal’s is currently hiring for the new Missoula operation. You can find info on their website or swing by the new Brooks location.
Just don’t leave a tasty spill on your job application!
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News