Stone Castle Inn - March 2011 (dt)

5.58 – 6.5, 6, 6, 5, 5, 5 (two absent)

-closed early 2013  
Stone Castle Inn not only continued our close-to-home picks but also marked another local restaurant opening. SCI has held an aura of mystique ever since it closed over a decade ago when it was the Stone Tower (how much further back, we could not decide). The stone tower and stone facade, with large windows facing the road, is an eye-catcher that lures the drivers-by.
               And, we were pleased to see another local eatery off to a good start. (We had tested The Saloon two months ago.) We wish the best to the new ventures.
               A major attraction of SCI is ambiance. The exterior needs no more explanation.
               One opens the heavy door that leads into the circular vestibule that is the stone tower silo, which then requires opening another castle-like door that empties into the dining area. A knight’s armor stands stiffly on the left, fronted by a flat TV screen on the wall and several high and low tables.
               On the right is another dining space, holding a dozen-ish tables, in company with the large windows facing the road. (It should be noted that the Teators scouted the night before and enjoyed a table by the windows – a definite plus!).
               In front, center, is a handsome wood-rimmed, right-angle bar,  with a half-dozen seats left-center, and another three or four seats curving around right center. Unable to be ignored is the landing and stairs leading to the second floor, encouraging soon-to-be-diners to crane their necks upward, revealing an Irish-castle feel with wood timbers stretching eave-to-peak, with eight or so feet of gray-ish plaster in between.
               On the second floor level is perched another suit of armor against the stone tower, while the very soft lighting burnishes the richness of wood throughout.
               We climbed to our reserved table, and found two tables of black-dark marbled tops, centered with a lit candle cup, with six places of fork and steak knife pre-wrapped in a green paper napkin
               It’s coy and warm and inviting.
               The menu is mostly on the light side, with a half-dozen entrées added to the dinner menu. In addition, several appetizers, a few salads, and about a dozen sandwiches and wraps fill out the sheet.
               This evening’s food started with salads: Both Chay and Deb K selected the Caesar salad while Deb T and Ken chose the house salad. All were deemed competent (Deb K thought it the highlight of her meal!).
               The entrée round included: chicken wings (Ken, the mild, and a bit hot for him; Chay, the hot, and satisfyingly hot for him; taste of chili pepper or something else, Deb thought); the ‘chicken’ fajita (Deb K, good, she couldn’t tell if it was beef or chicken, and it was grease-drippy); the strip steak (Kriss, medium-well, boiled potatoes although she asked for smashed potatoes, ok); cod strips (Deb T, satisfactory, pieces of fried cod, with fries, coleslaw); and the Asian salad (Don, satisfactory, a spring mix with onions, wasabi peas, watercress, and more).
               The dessert round beckoned: the very warm chocolate lava cake (Don, soul-satisfying; Kriss, very good); the Key Lime cheesecake (Deb K, good, presentation could be improved); and the Key Lime pie (Deb T, good, as it was the night before).
               Although there is no wine list currently, Stone Castle Inn carries a generic red and white assortment of varietals, and we ordered a full carafe, and a half-carafe, of the house cabernet sauvignon, which we later learned was from Stone Cellars. Two diet sodas rounded out the drink order.
               Service was provided from former student and former teaching colleague (and nice person, we want to add) Aileen, who was attentive and pleasant and cheerful. Thanks, Aileen (and good luck with the new teaching job, and, of course, with finding a permanent one).
               With most prices ranging $6-$8 for salads, $10-$13 for sandwiches and most entrées (the steak was slightly more), we foresaw an inexpensive evening. The final bill, with tax, drinks, and tip came to $53 per couple, a reasonably fair price, and one that will keep the diners coming in who want a nice, but lighter, evening. Still, a sandwich or burger for eleven, twelve bucks seems a tad strong.
               I think we were a bit forgiving this evening, wanting so decidedly to want a local venture to do well that we shrugged our shoulders at a few shortcomings that we hope might be addressed in the near future. The second floor collects heat and we came prepared with light clothing but were glad it was not warmer. Errors marred the delivery of a couple plates (boiled potatoes instead of smashed; beef fajita instead of chicken). More glaring was the announcement that three entrées were sold out and, when the menu only has a half-dozen to start with, the choices became quite limited really fast, and, in two cases, led to chicken wings for the main course selection. It seemed the restaurant was about one wait-staff short, with Aileen trying to juggle too big a load. The spacing of rounds was lengthy, and this group (if I have judged them well) would have bitched if we had been at a different place (eighty minutes from seating to entrée, with only the salad in between; and if no salad, nothing for eighty minutes). It was nearly 10 p.m. by the time we arrived home. And, Ken would have liked more coffee!
               In spite of the last paragraph, we all recognized the potential, and know we shall revisit a charming, romantic “castle” that should do well in Cairo.

The evening had started at the Karnes’ house, glad to see each other (EXCEPT the Adamses were absent, taking the month in Florida and other environs; we missed ya!) and just as pleased with the very spring-like weather we had mid-week.
               Deb had prepared a pepper-jelly covered cream cheese dish; a plate of orange peppers, carrots and celery; a basket of crackers; and a bowl of guacamole dip. Meanwhile, Chay unparched our throats with a soda, Sierra Nevada Glissade, and Thirsty Owl 2006 Pinot Noir. Thank you!
               Discussions: Tsunami, of course! What unfathomable destruction.
               Other topics were about school cuts, retirements, Tim & Judy’s whereabouts, recent trips and visitors, the Teators’ new Fusion, Ken’s birthday..., work, weather & spring, Chay & baseball, the Karnes’ trip to Kentucky, spring break and lying, and more.