The Great Northern

Following US‑2 through wide-open spaces is guaranteed to bring new meaning to the expression “getting away from it all.”


Just north of the Missouri River, a dozen miles east of the Montana line, Williston (pop. 18,532) has always been a boom or bust kind of place, and in recent years it has been thoroughly enjoying the recent boom in its primary industries—wheat-growing and oil-pumping—so much so that by some measures it is the fastest-growing small town in the USA. Motels are often booked up by “fracking Bakken” oil field workers, but the downtown area is still an all-American scene straight out of Our Town.

Apart from filling the tank before a trip to Fort Union or farther afield, one more good thing to do in Williston is eat: Responding to an impromptu breakfast poll, locals will likely recommend Big Willy’s (3701 W. 4th Ave., 701/577-3703) as the eatery of choice. It’s famous for its “Frack Attack”: a double-height grilled cheese sandwich split by a full one-pound burger, all yours for $25. (You get a chance at a free T-Shirt if you finish it off with a smile on your face.)

Big Willy’s (3701 W. 4th Ave.)