New Bozeman diner adds to growing farm-to-table movement

Jack16

Many restaurants have capitalized on the popularity of the farm-to-table movement. But few can say they grow their own produce.

Little Star Diner, a new breakfast and lunch restaurant in Bozeman started by husband and wife duo Charley Graham and Lauren Reich, is one of the few.

Reich has been growing produce on a small farm for restaurants since 2009, while Graham has cut his teeth as a chef at several establishments, most recently Blackbird in downtown Bozeman.

With Little Star, which opened last month in the old Frank’s Deli lot near the corner of Babcock Street and Wallace Avenue, the pair hopes to combine their talents into a successful local eatery.

Much of the restaurant’s produce is grown by Reich on her half-acre plot, as well as in boxes on the roof of the two-story building. The rest is sourced from area farms and ranches. With Montana’s short growing season, the menu is in constant flux depending on what’s available, but Graham’s vision is to create dishes that let the quality of the meat and produce speak for itself.

Take the fried duck egg sandwich with cheddar cheese and greens on house-made bread. It would have been easy to stack the creation with a dozen different toppings, Graham said, but sometimes less is more.

“Each is a piece of the puzzle, and when you add them together they become more than the sum of their parts,” Graham said. “That’s the power of this concept.”

“From a culinary point of view it spawns creativity,” he added. “The flavor of the seasonal produce makes a huge difference.”

The space, built and leased by local contractor On Site Management, has also been carefully cultivated by the couple — with a little help from family.

Graham’s father, a longtime woodworker, built much of the diner’s furniture as his last act before retirement, while the pair’s children, Ezra, 7, and Tilden, 2, helped taste-test the menu.

While Little Star is Reich’s and Graham’s first restaurant venture, the couple is confident that the farm-to-table concept will catch on, particularly in a place with a long agricultural history like Bozeman.

“People here care about ingredients and where they’re from,” Reich said.

“It keeps our Gallatin Valley land in farms,” she added, ”and the reality is it’s really important to be able to feed ourselves throughout the year with our land and with our people.”