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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.