Monday, January 26, 2015

Stonetown, January 24, 2015

When the event at which I presented in Cleveland this past weekend was over on Saturday, we had the luxury of another night in town. We'd made arrangements to meet with friends, Mike & Donna, who are also interested in good and interesting food. We asked where they might like to eat and they suggested Stonetown Southern Fusion, just across the street from the denominational headquarters where the event was held. It was so much fun to be in the Gateway District again and to see how very lively the streets are at night. People poured down the street Friday night for the Cavs game and Saturday night for the Monsters hockey game. Lots of folks came into Stonetown, too. I'd never heard of it. It opened after we moved away and had somehow never made it onto my radar. Man, am I glad they suggested it!

Stonetown is all clean lines and words from various quotes, strung together and painted onto the walls as a sort of manifesto for good living. The combining of the messages (and the mis-spelling of one of the names) is a little confusing, but the overall message is really positive. The colors are vibrant and the fireplace cozy. It looks like they have a nice sidewalk patio in summer and the big windows are great for people-watching as the crowds flow by in the street. Our waiter was incredibly patient with our slowness to decide. The staff and patrons remained relaxed in the face of a quick, enthusiastic outburst of commentary on recent racial tensions by a couple of young men on their way out the door after a birthday celebration, who yelled "Black lives matter!" a couple of times before exiting. Nobody became alarmed, although I imagine it sparked some good conversation at some of the tables, in this city that so recently experienced the shooting death of a 12-year-old boy by police who mistakenly thought he had a real gun. The whole place felt much more like a comfortable neighborhood gathering spot than a fancy, fine-dining establishment.

The food wasn't fancy, either, but it was delicious! We started with the soul rolls and an order of fried green tomatoes. I know you all have probably ordered fried green tomatoes that arrived sodden and floppy and falling out of their batter. I know I have. They can be a dicey thing to order. At Stonetown, they are small and crisp and perfectly firm. Not greasy at all, they are a bit tart, as they should be, and just superbly executed. The spicy remoulade that comes alongside is more spicy than I'd expected, and less creamy, but a great foil for the dish. The same sauce is yummy with the soul rolls. I was a little skeptical about ordering them, thinking they'd be the same old thing as the Southwestern Eggrolls at Chili's. However, they were worlds apart from that. I'm so glad Mike ordered them. They're filled with chicken, greens, black beans, roasted corn, and cheese. They were not at all blah, as I'd feared they might be, but were velvety smooth and full of flavor. I found myself sorry we didn't have more.

However, it's a good thing I didn't overstuff myself on the appetizers, because dinner was very generous. I ordered the buttermilk fried yardbird, white meat, which came with beautifully creamy, tasty grits and another side. I chose mac & cheese, which turned out to be a disappointment. I am picky about mac & cheese and love mine, with extra-sharp cheddar that clings to the noodles without being overly saucy, the best. This version didn't have enough zing to it, with hunks of mild cheese adhering to, but not coating, the noodles, kind of like cheese tossed in with noodles and stirred. I imagine it would be fabulous to most people, though. The chicken, on the other hand, was terrific, with a crunchy, delicious coating and beautifully juicy meat. I had way more than I could eat, so half of it went home with Mike & Donna. If I'd had a refrigerator in my hotel room, I'd never have surrendered it, though. Jeannene couldn't eat more than half of hers, either. She opted for the version that came with mini red velvet waffles and those were stellar! Mike and Donna said their blackened chicken and blackened catfish were excellent, as well.

We shared the peach cobbler for dessert, but did not finish, not only from restraint imposed by all the other good foods that went before, but because it just wasn't that great. It was more like a slice of peach pie that had fallen apart between the pie plate and the dessert plate than like any cobbler I've had. It was fine, but not worth the calories to finish and I wouldn't bother ordering it again. However, I would definitely bother going back. There were a bunch of things on the menu that I really wanted to try. Next time, the catfish, I believe.

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