STONE’S OF STILLWATER is a casual-upscale-contemporary “bigger-is-better” eatery straight out of central casting. It is attractively upholstered in tawny hues, but not particularly memorable—except that it may remind you of the days when your parents took you out to a nice-but-not-too-fancy restaurant in the hope that you might learn some table manners. The feeling is partly the effect of the menu, which features lots of retro classics like braised pot roast and walleye almondine. But it is also the scale of Stone’s. As the boisterous crowd spills out from the massive, stone-filled patio, the restaurant seems practically a metropolis unto itself.
It took a village to open the place. The proprietor, Michael Stone, collaborated with consulting chef Tobie Nidetz (of Copper Bleu and the late Coco Lezzone) and some of the area’s most successful and respected restaurateurs: Charlie Burroughs (Axel’s), Chip Isaacson (Ike’s and the former Pickled Parrot), and Josh Thoma (La Belle Vie and Solera). Together they’ve created a product that seems focus-grouped in the best possible sense: a menu of tasty, popular, accessible dishes delivered by a crack staff. Stone’s isn’t about the whims of foodie fashion or the artistic temperament of a visionary chef. It’s about giving diners what they want—and plenty of it.
But is there such a thing, so to speak, as too many consulting chefs in the kitchen? Not when it comes to the jumbo lump crab cakes, cheekily deconstructed to a simple mound of crabmeat in a light tartar sauce. Perhaps a poll helped the kitchen avoid typical crab-cake pitfalls: without overdoing the bread crumbs and mayonnaise, this dish put the sweet flavor and delicate texture of the shellfish in the spotlight. The light, crunchy calamari dodged the all-too-common complaints as well, with nary a hint of toughness or grease.
But when we started in on our entrÃ©es, we missed the obsessive care of the solo chef-owner. We might have enjoyed the prime rib and 20-ounce rib eye “cowboy steak” more if they’d been cooked as ordered. A cloying Marsala reduction that we despised in a broiled portobello mushroom appetizer re-appeared to ruin an otherwise fine walleye fillet. In fact, all the entrÃ©es were upstaged by their sides: sinful fried onions, poppy-seed mashed potatoes, and creamed corn with Gouda cheese.
Stone’s “bigger is better” mantra worked best when it came to desserts. In a remarkable display of lily-gilding, the baked Alaska meringue was splashed with rum and set ablaze. A cinnamon-scented fruit crisp was large enough to feed a family of four. As was the fat slice of classic cheesecake, served with mixed-berry compote.
When we tumbled out of Stone’s after our long, lavish evening, we were uniformly stuffed and contented. Stone’s may not broaden your horizons but it certainly could widen your waistline.
Stone’s Restaurant & Lounge
324 S. Main St.
Lunch and dinner served daily.
Appetizers $5-$13; entrÃ©es $10-$40