A Farm-to-Table Menu and Modern Design in Bozeman

A star is born in Montana
Little Star Diner Kit

In classic diner style, the open kitchen is clad in stainless steel. The counter is made of two book-matched lengths of hickory and was crafted by owner-chef Charley Graham’s father. Joe Graham is a noted woodworker and he also made the restaurant’s tables and chairs. Photos by Audrey Hall.

The Little Star Diner came to be through synchronicity. First there was Lauren Reich and her husband, Charley Graham. Lauren and Charley grew up in families that ran small businesses, and after time spent working in other people’s restaurants and on farms, “we were ready to be our own bosses,” Charley says.

At about the same time, OSM Construction, a general contracting firm, was looking to buy Bozeman property where they could expand their office space and create a mixed-use development. Among the options were adjacent lots near Main Street that included a sandwich shop located in an older home—a spot that Charley and Lauren were eyeing for their eatery.

Little Star Diner Ext

Steel-framed windows, fiber cement panels and light-stained cedar lend an urban contemporary appeal to the diner’s architecture, by Pearson Design Group in Bozeman.

The two parties met and a deal was made where OSM would build and lease the restaurant space to Charley and Lauren. Pearson Design Group principal and architect Josh Barr was tasked with converting the former sandwich shop into a two-story restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating areas and a rooftop garden where Reich grows herbs used in the kitchen. “We wanted to take ad- vantage of the summer weather and nice views of the Bridger Mountains and downtown Bozeman,” Barr says of the upstairs space.

Little Star Diner Down Stair

The restaurant’s main dining room and distinctive furnishings, seen from the staircase.

The Pearson design included taking the building down to its foundation and starting over to create an urban contemporary building with a light-filled dining room offering seating at tables or the counter facing the open kitchen, and a wide staircase leading to the second level.

Little Star Diner Overall

Hickory floors add warmth to the restaurant’s interior, while a garage-style door opens to the outdoors. A wide staircase with views to the street leads to the rooftop dining area.

Among the restaurant’s distinctive architectural features is the two-story steel-framed wall of windows in the front through which you can see the diner’s staircase. The building is clad in light-stained cedar siding and fiber cement panels. Steel also encases the perimeter of the second-story dining deck.

“Downstairs, the idea was to keep an exposed kitchen in true diner style so guests can watch their food being prepared,” Barr adds. Charley Graham says the exposed stainless-steel-clad kitchen is one of his favorite parts of the restaurant.

Little Star Diner Inside Table

Joe Graham of Lenox Workshops created the restaurant’s furniture using the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban, which chars the wood and creates a charcoal black finish.

The Little Star Diner is a family affair: Reich grows the vegetables and herbs; Charley Graham creates the menus and runs the kitchen. Charley’s father, Joe Graham, designed and handcrafted the furniture for the popular restaurant. Charley is proud when diners compliment his dad’s handiwork, created as a last project before the award-winning woodworker retired from furniture-making. “People comment on how comfortable and beautiful the chairs are,” Graham says. “They add a simple luxury.”

Little Star Diner Ext Corner

Just a block off Bozeman’s Main Street, the restaurant is pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

Offering a fresh-daily menu of items with ingredients sourced from area farms and ranches, the couple’s vision for a modern diner is to serve food that manages to be both accessible and elevated and a menu changing to reflect what’s in season. Just about everything is made from scratch, from the breads and pastas to the butter, jam and ketchup.

Little Star Diner Outside Table

Seating for about 30 guests is available on the Little Star Diner’s rooftop patio. Raised garden beds next to the dining area (not shown) are used for growing herbs.

Little Star Diner Outside Sail

A striped canopy and umbrellas offer shade from the summer sun on the rooftop dining deck, which is bordered in steel and boasts views of the Bridger Mountains.

OSM will be moving into their new office space this fall, a five-story, mixed-used building next door. Peter Belschwender, CEO of OSM, is a big fan of the diner and its mushroom toast. “They make it with local mushrooms and serve it with an egg, on bread that’s made in-house. It’s delicious,” he says, and one of the many benefits of moving next door to the Little Star Diner.

Note: At the time of publication, Little Star Diner is open with social distancing.

As seen in the September/October 2020 issue

Categories: High-Country Communities