Published: 12:00 AM, Wed June, 14 2017
What: StoneBridge Grille & Tavern
Where: 1415 Niles-Cortland Road SE, Howland
Hours: Sunday - Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Let’s start at the end, and then we can circle back to the beginning. Our last question was relatively straightforward: “So what do you want to be known for here at Stonebridge?” Ron Zenko, one of the proprietors of the relatively new Howland restaurant, answered without much hesitation, “All things to all people.”
“Shoot,” responded the young doctor, “I can barely make one person happy in the course of my day.”
And there you have it, that’s how our wonderful meal at Stonebridge concluded, high aspirations along with a bit of reality.
Stonebridge opened up on Route 46 in Howland in November. This is a sister location to a restaurant that has been a fixture on Boardman’s Route 224 for years. Though the Howland location has similar features and menu, clearly the owners were looking to take advantage of having a new building.
A wine room greets you upon entrance, a nice focal feature under the watchful eye of Chookie Alberini, Wine & Beverage director. There is a sizable banquet room to accommodate 65 with a private patio. There’s also a main patio with a fire pit. Given the summer season is upon us, it’s hard to imagine not enjoying a meal outside.
After a short tour with Managing Partner Nick Kale, Ron sat down with us and outlined some dishes that were being prepared by Chef Mike Theodore.
Our meal began with the restaurant’s signature appetizer, the Stonebridge Sampler. This dish has something for everyone: house-made hot peppers and oil with pita wedges, garlicky Italian greens made with escarole, hand-breaded fried provolone with Pomodoro sauce and sausage-stuffed Hungarian wax peppers topped with provolone.
For us, this is a plate of Valley favorites. Every component was prepared well. The stuffed pepper was spicy but not too hot. The greens were tender and flavorful. This offering could easily be ordered as an entr e. A promising start.
We then moved on to a few of Stonebridge’s more popular appetizers. First up was the Ahi Tuna. Chef Theodore takes sushi-grade tuna and coats it in black and white sesame seeds. Then it’s seared on all sides while keeping the center perfectly rare as this quality of fish should be served. Accompanied by a ponzu sauce (soy-based sauce with citrus) and wasabi, this was a light and satisfying app.
Our last starter was the Nola Shrimp. Chef takes wild-caught Argentinian Red shrimp and saut s them with peppers, onions and Roma tomatoes. This is served in a Cajun cream sauce with grilled ciabatta bread. The shrimp were plump and tender. The sauce had a slight hint of spice. The tomatoes added nice texture, and the toast points were perfect for sopping up the sauce. A delicious dish.
If you’ve ever been to Stonebridge, you know their salads are outstanding. We tried one we haven’t had before, the Rustic Chicken Caprese. Grilled chicken, oven-roasted tomatoes and small balls of fresh mozzarella served over a generous bed of arugula and topped with a bit of basil pesto and balsamic glaze. This salad had a great balance of flavors. Peppery arugula, grill flavor from the chicken, sweetness from the glaze and tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and an herb flavor from the pesto. A superb salad.
As Ron discussed some entrees we should try, the Charcoal Seasoned Ribeye caught our eye. This is one of their most popular steaks and, coincidentally, our favorite cut. Ron explained that they use only certified Angus beef. The ribeye is wet-aged for 28 days to concentrate the flavor. The steak is seasoned with charcoal seasoning, a mixture of herbs, granulated garlic, salt and activated charcoal. The key to this dish is that it is cooked on a 1,200-degree blackening plate. This allows for a nice crust on the meat while still cooking the steak to temperature. Our medium-rare ribeye came out cooked perfectly. It comes with a very imposing-looking steak knife but you could cut it with a butter knife. Great char flavor, high-quality meat cooked perfectly to order. A fantastic entr e.
Next up was another of Stonebridge’s more popular entrees, baby back ribs. Ron explained that the ribs are coated in a house-made rub, smoked using apple wood low and slow for two hours, then cooked in the oven on low temp for two hours. This gives them some smoke flavor without being overpowering. They are then grilled to order with their housemade barbecue sauce. The sauce is a brown sugar and ketchup-based sauce that is slightly sweet. The ribs have a mild smoke flavor and are falling off the bone.
We finished up our meal with one of Stonebridge’s fish dishes, the Parmesan Crusted Grouper. A generous filet of grouper is crusted with a mixture of parmesan cheese, cracker crumbs and herbs. This is saut ed then finished under the broiler and topped with a chive creme fraiche. A nice melange of flavors and textures.
And so there you have it friends, a menu replete with offerings for most (if not every) taste you might desire. Nice portions, good value, all in a warm, accommodating atmosphere. Stonebridge is grounded, but aims high.