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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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The Big M-T
Beverly Ridge, Breaking Away (But Just a Few Steps from Main Street)

May is southwest Montana’s most uncouth of months, but this year it’s produced lap after lap of winning days. Sure, half of those words may be enough to catapult our calendar’s rueful stepchild into fits of white snowballs and broken branches, but not on this recent evening.

I haven’t overlooked the significance of this particular week, either. It is, as all should know and take full advantage of, National Bike-to-Work Week. Which is part of the inspiration for the pair of us tooling down to Starky’s patio propelled by nothing more than pedal-power. Lilac in the air, cottonwood seedlings abound, it may have been a short trip, but it was a feast for the senses.

Before the green flag even drops, visitors to Starky’s will notice the patio. It’s among the biggest downtown, a permanent fixture on North Tracy Avenue, and the generous exposure to the west is a season-stretcher to be sure. Despite a fine, skin-tantalizing evening, the pair of us had little trouble getting an open seat.

As we faced west and all but opened our arms to the long tail of a Montana sunset, the glassy façade of the restaurant warmed our backs. Unlike many of the establishments in Bozeman’s historic downtown, Starky’s is in an entirely new building, conveniently and somehow unobtrusively conjoined with the downtown parking garage (so the fancy college-types can park their gas guzzlers just steps away for the other 51 weeks of the year).

The venue inside may lack the quaint, hand-tooled masonry of other downtown establishments, but that's about all they’re missing. Open and airy, naturally lit, contemporary in design, Starky’s Authentic Americana is both inviting and, as the name suggests, unique. You’ll find no faux-Tuscan or "Kangaroo Xing" signs here.

Fans and stalkers alike may recall that I did a write-up of Starky’s as a part of my inaugural review for the Magpie, way back in May of 2010. So, why is this my first return to a restaurant? There’s three good reasons, one of which I’ve just explained—the patio. My prediction in 2010 that it’d be “the hottest seat in town once summer hits”… Nailed it.

The second reason is value. Kathy and Glen Stark deserve applause for their renewed efforts to win over the moochers out there (my people). Happy hour is where this is most apparent. Presently available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Starky’s made a decisive move to become the best happy hour venue around. Quality, regionally sourced brews from 4pm to 6pm cost just $2, and the wine flows for $2 off your favorite glass. Nice, right? But the appetizers are the kicker: the Wisconsin mac and cheese is savory, but so are the reuben sliders, sweet potato French fries, calamari (the list goes on). All are tasty, can feed a working-class appetite, and at half-price ($3-4), a steal.

This special used to include Fridays and Saturdays as well (Starky’s is closed on Mondays). While I’m fearful that the values offered will be further impinged in the future, for now this really is the best deal downtown. Surprisingly, the venue is not that crowded during those hours, either, saving for a few known entities and knowledgeable insiders. Our town’s “cutters,” if you’ll will.

The third reason for the sequel is the renovations to the house menu. Kathy and Glen have really departed from their sandwich shop/East Main Street roots. Notable is a new fixture on the menu, a truly homegrown salad with the most local of origins. Though my BFF and I agreed the price of $12 was too steep a cut for a small plate of greens, I do appreciate the effort to promote Gallatin-Valley-sourced agriculture. I’m also sure that some will be quick to dismiss my remark about the price. I hear you, “That’s the true cost of produce!” What, a dollar per leaf? I don’t think so, and I am concerned about the message this sends to those who want to support local farmers.

Also note a few of the interesting items under the heading “Blue Plate Specials.” At $15 a pop and $3 more for a side of soup or salad, these should not be confused with Kmart’s famous “blue-light” bargains of 70s fame. Nonetheless, I’ve sampled the meatloaf, the beef stroganoff and the memorable chicken and waffles dish, too. All good, but the SoCal tacos with cod is the strongest of all entries.

Regarding the selection of entrees, I will recommend just one, but it’s the fair-haired child, definitely. The wild mushroom and asparagus polenta is a winner, reason enough for the aspiring Italians out there to hum a few bars from "Katerina."

The burger selection is lengthy and pretty much what you’d expect, neither distancing themselves nor falling behind the downtown field. And while I’d recommend passing on the pulled pork sandwich—the barbeque lacks punch and tastes watered-down—the gyros are buoyant enough to raise the mono-brow of your Adriatic friend, priced competitively, and sufficiently hearty that I’ll often take one (of the two) home for a future lunch.

And that sets up the most strategic move of the night—dessert! Starky’s didn’t win the Magpie’s 2011 Bozeman’s Best Dessert by piddling around the track. Same now as it was then, the key lime pie is the runaway champ, but any of the others are worth a hooting victory lap, trust me.


Beverly Ridge is the area's first regularly featured restaurant reviewer.  A native of the valley and a veteran of the food service industry, she's a virtuoso on all things epicurean.  She's also made it a personal mission to protect Montana diners from the fleecing imposters, the lazy sourpusses, and the just plain rotten.

Read More Magpie:  Bev kicked up a little dust with last month's review of the Blackbird Kitchen in Bozeman.

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