Starky's Authentic Americana
More Than Just a Neighborhood Favorite
Ashlee Yerrick | Thursday Feb. 27th, 2014
Glen and Kathy Stark, the husband - wife team and proud owners of Starky’s, have a “party” everyday. Contrary to what you might be thinking, the kind of party I’m referencing is not your typical beer pong and keg stand competition type of gathering that often goes on in small college towns such as our beloved Bozeman. I’m talking about the kind of party that brings the local community together, in a food-centric sort of way. When I sat down and asked Kathy how the food business was going and if it was everything she’d imagined it would be, she looked at me and replied, “It’s like we throw a party everyday.”
So I’m guilty…I admit it. Until recently, I had only been to Starky’s for their daily 4-6pm happy hour. Can you believe it? I know, neither can I. In my defense, it can be quite a challenge to beat a $2.50 price tag on a local microbrew, let alone the highly-addictive sweet potato fries for a mere $2. Oh, and when the $4 calamari used to be the bomb.com (back before the breading became thicker and almost tempura-style), you could find me there during happy hour, eating an entire order of the big, meaty and lightly breaded calamari chunks all by myself. Well, since those epic calamari days are behind us, I figured I’d visit Starky’s during lunchtime, in hopes of maybe finding my “calamari alternative,” and I suppose you could say I succeeded.
After being delightfully welcomed by the owner herself, I was directed to a cozy little table for one and was looking forward to my leisurely, solo lunch. A very attentive and sweet gal immediately brought water and a lunch menu to me, and I was on to perusing all my options before candidly deciding on a “staff favorite.” Before I made my final decision though, I was a little on the fence about as to whether I wanted to try the “Starky’s Take 2 Special” for $9.95, which comes with any ½ sandwich and a cup of soup or house salad option, or something else entirely different such as the lamb gyros or SoCal tacos.
Because I’m a huge fan of a good, belly-warming bowl of clam chowder, I asked my server if I may have a tiny sample of the chowder, as opposed to committing 100%, and she accommodatingly brought me a little taster right out. Put plain and simply, I didn’t care for the clam chowder. It tasted like tomato basil meets clam chowder, almost as is a little dollop from the chowder kettle had been added to a little dollop from the tomato basil kettle and swirled together in an effort to pass it off as an unordinary spin on a traditional clam chowder. On the positive side, there were actual clams in there, and I give ‘em extra points for the addition of corn, but the potatoes and tomato-flavor had a semi-overpowering effect on those tiny and delicate bivalve mollusks.
Holy pastrami…I knew I had definitely made the right decision before ever taking my first sumptuous bite. “Mike’s Art” comes with your choice of meat: Corned beef, pastrami, both of which are made in-house, turkey or ham, or you can make it vegetarian-friendly by choosing either portabella mushroom or grilled veggies. The piping hot and huge heaping of pastrami (I love pastrami that is made with love) came on house made, grilled rye bread and was topped with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and a dollop of crisp Cole slaw. I love everything about this sandwich. You could decipher the tiny morsels of the crispy, almost charred pieces of the pastrami present throughout the rest of the juicy and delicately tender slices in every single bite. The rye was delicately soft but toasty and was easily able to withstand the fortitude of all that pastrami goodness and cole slaw that makes “Mike’s Art” well, an “art.” If I could change only one thing about this offering, it would be to add a tad more of that delicious cole slaw. I felt like the pastrami to cole slaw ratio was a bit heavier on the pastrami side of the house, but this is only a minor detail, and I could’ve and should’ve asked for a tiny side of the cool cabbage. The sweet potato fries were cooked to perfection; they were crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. The “fry sauce” that they come with is pretty standard – think Frank’s RedHot sauce married ranch dressing, and ketchup and sweet potato fries have a tendency to be overly sweet when paired together. Therefore, I just went with my go-to side of just some good old, plain yellow mustard, although it’d be nice to see a creamy, garlicky aioli offering on the menu.
Overall, I can honestly say that Starky’s serves up one heck of a fabulous lunch. Dinner options at Starky’s abound, and there will be several new menu items added to both the lunch and dinner menus within the next few weeks. Pizzas and pastas are a mainstay on the menu, and the chef makes all the fresh pasta and pizza doughs daily from scratch. Any place that makes pasta from eggs, salt, flour and water instead of tearing open a store-bought bag and throwing little hard pasta noodles into a huge kettle of boiling water immediately has my attention. What would be an all-day event for me in the comfort of my own kitchen at home, takes the head chef less than 15 minutes to whip out enough pasta for the entire evening during the dinner rush – impressive. His creativity is remarkably evident in the food dishes that he constructs on a daily basis, and he has this inherent ability to really showcase the local ingredients and other subtleties in an entrée so that they’re representative of the dish overall.
Starky’s has definitely had its ups and downs in the past decade. They first opened their Bozeman delicatessen doors in 2004 on Main Street where the current gap in buildings still lies after the March 2009 explosion. The explosion made their building unsafe and forced them to close down and relocate to their current location on the west end of the parking garage. It hasn’t always felt like a “party”, but because of the community support from local patrons, family and friends, the doors were opened once again, and Starky’s has reinvented itself to be that kind of establishment that is neighborhood friendly to both the loyalist and the holiday traveler. The Stark’s persistence and perseverance have allowed them to celebrate their first 10-year milestone, which will have been reached by the time this article hits the press, and I’d be willing to bet that all the “parties” are far from coming to an end.
24 N Tracy
Bozeman, MT 59715
Food Style: Old World “Meets” New World Delicatessen-Style
Drinks: Beer, Wine, Beer &
Sun & Mon 11am – 4pm;
Tues – Sat 11am – 9pm
(Lunch Daily 11am – 4pm; Happy Hour Daily 4 – 6pm)
Prices: $ - $$
Vibe: Friendly, Artistic & Bright
Outdoor Patio (Summer)
Food – 4.5
Prices – 4.5
Atmosphere – 4.5
Service – 5