Debi and I visited 44 Stone on Sunday for their “Soft Opening”. For those of you who do not know, a Soft Opening is to allow the kitchen to actually cook to order, shake down any nuances that a restaurant may have and to hone the service level of the wait staff.
So with those considerations…here I go.
As of the Sunday, the interior still looks and feels like Hemmingway’s. The biggest plus was the removal of the Steel Bead Curtain separating the Bar area from the rest of the restaurant. This was an eyesore from word go…and I’m glad to see it gone. Another improvement was the removal of the couch seating in the bar, and to raise the tables up. I really liked that.
Dominating the wall that used to separate the dining area from the store front used to be “Candy Glass” windows…this has now been replaced by a HUGE Chalkboard with all the beers and whisky (whiskey) available. I must say that the list IS Impressive and diverse. In fact, at least three of the breweries represented are local and are covered in an upcoming project of mine, the Missouri Brew Tour.
While there, I sampled -
- Belhaven “Twisted Thistle” IPA- I loved the twist of having this passed though Nitrogen – Very Creamy
- Fuller’s ESB – A good staple, especially on Draft.
- Kelpie Seaweed Ale – Will need a second sample. I liked it – Debi didn’t, said it tasted like Low Tide
- Young’s Chocolate Stout – For a can, excellent. I would love to find a place that has this on Draft. The hints of Chocolate were perfect.
- Belhaven “Wee Heavy” – Had this before in Amsterdam and Debi got it for Nostalgia sake…I still like it and would buy again.
Debi noticed that there was no Guinness and was quite dismayed. It turns out, everything they have in stock is not reflected on the board…so you will have to ask.
This leads to probably the toughest call for me, which is the education of the staff. It was very apparent that the waitress didn’t know the beer list or hadn’t sampled any of the beers yet. It’s early, I get that…but if the guys at 44 Stone take any advice from me…hold a Beer Tasting and let the staff learn a little. This is a fairly common mistake, even Flat Branch has this issue and they have been established forever. People are going to come in and ask for recommendations…so a prepared staff will go a long way.
Missing from the Whiskey Menu was Connemara, and when speaking with Dave…I totally get why. In the distributor world, there is some little troll that sits behind a screen somewhere and decides how much of X goes to State Y. You can order all you want, but that is not going to affect the outcome…you get what you get. Connemara is sadly on this list. I knew this from the Tinderbox, and I had hoped this had been rectified. Sadly it hasn’t and it shouldn’t reflect on the Pub.
The food was OK in my opinion (Debi wasn’t impressed). There were obvious shortcomings and mistakes, plus service was a little slow as the staff learned their way around.
I personally liked the homemade ketchup (made with PBR) and the Fish for the Fish and Chips was spot on. Also, with the English Breakfast, the sausage was some of the best I had. For disclosure, I am focusing on the positive here, as again…this was a shakedown day.
To me, the highlight was just a twist of fate…whereas one of the Owners (Dave’s) parents ended up sitting with us. We had great conversation and I got a feel for the vision of the restaurant, some idea of the influences on the menu and was able to observe Management interaction with the staff.
I can honestly say that everything we pointed out as an issue, Dave addressed with staff and I also viewed his attention to detail which will hopefully trickle down to the rest of the staff. Of all things, this was very encouraging.
The staff is very friendly and spoke very glowing of Management as well, which is also an indicator that there is a good course set…they just need time to work out the kinks.
Overall, I enjoyed the beers and liked the bar setting. The struggle I foresee is that 44 Stone has very big shoes to fill with Hemmingway’s. Hemmingway’s was a very fine dining restaurant and some customers (my wife included) might come in and be expecting that again. As long as proper expectations are set, and once clientele become comfortable with the menu set, I think 44Stone will become very successful.