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Open Range finds its niche

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New Bozeman restaurant offers fine food, wine

By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BOZEMAN – The term “open range” evokes a time before the invention of barbed wire, when ranchers would fence-out livestock from land already developed. It was easier than fencing the animals in.

When Jay and Mary Bentley on Sept. 30 opened the doors to a new downtown Bozeman restaurant, Open Range, they embraced this theme.

At 6,240 square feet, the eatery’s layout gives a nod to Montana’s wide-open spaces: Formerly Artcraft Printers, the building once housed a car dealership, as evidenced by the eight-inch-thick concrete floors, broad windows, and massive garage-door entry. The high ceilings, original roof trusses and open floor plan complete the ambience at Open Range, located at 241 East Main Street.

Mary did the interior design, combining earthy color schemes to mute the building’s industrial framework.

The food also melds the feel of “no boundaries” Montana, with a contemporary twist. “We wanted to keep the tradition of rustic Montana food, but bring it into the 21st century,” says Jay, who opened the Mint Bar and Café in Belgrade in 1994.

While the Bentleys serve up a mean cut of New York strip, they don’t consider Open Range a steakhouse, per se. Rather, “a restaurant with great steaks,” as Jay noted in a recent press release. “We feel our menu offers our diners a whole lot more interesting choices including appetizers, entrees and desserts unique to the Bozeman dining scene,” he said.

Jay’s cookbook, Open Range: Steaks, Chops and More from Big Sky Country, published last October, hints at some of the eclectic delicacies. Now, the Bentleys are leaving the recipes up to chef Bill Baskin, who plans to change the cuisine each month.

The debut menu features seasonal salads, a Pacific halibut, Jay’s Cast Iron Chicken and a 14-ounce grass-fed New York strip steak, along with an extensive wine list.

As vegetables and other locally and regionally sourced ingredients come into season, Baskin will bring them to the table, Mary said. “Squash is coming this month, and I think that’s cool. A lot of restaurants have great food, but you get bored. It’s exciting for us to keep things interesting.”

The former executive chef at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Baskin will cook much of the fare from scratch, Mary added.

The Bentleys held a soft opening on Sept. 28, and propped the doors open for the public on Sept. 30, changing Open Range from dream to reality.

“Both front of the house and back of the house really stepped it up [on opening night],” Mary said. “We’re off and running.”

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