Stoney River Legendary Steaks falls into the category of a small chain, with ten locations spread between here and Maryland. While there is certainly the big corporate money of O'Charley's behind the restaurants, each location prepares their own food in house and there is no commissary cooking used. You'd be hard pressed to even find a microwave in a Stoney River, which is certainly not the case at O'Chuck's. Each location is architecturally unique, but they do share decor elements like lots of stone (duh), black leather booths and chairs and at least one red canoe somewhere in the dining area.
The West End location was saddled with the footprint of Rio Bravo, which occupied the space before the current tenant moved in. This is the most urban and urbane location of the chain, and after being open six years they figured it was time for a little remodeling. The first thing they did was to remove the massive fireplace that confronted diners when they entered the front door. While it was impressive, the hearth really closed off the restaurant and hid the lively bar scene. They also removed a wall that divided the bar from the main dining room and replaced it with several clever pass-through booths that are now the most-requested dining locations in the restaurant. From these banquettes, diners can keep an eye on all the action, and general manager Michél R. Johnson can track the pace of service from his station near the front desk or at the bar. (Nice gig.)
Johnson is particularly active around the bar from 5 to 7 every evening during what they call "River Time." Diners who sit at the bar top enjoy $3 beers, $5 premium well drinks, $5 wines and appetizers ranging from $6 to $7. These apps include an interesting plate of Jack Daniel's Whiskey Shrimp and a Crunchy Ahi Tuna Roll that is a nice gateway plate for folks who aren't quite sure if they like sushi. The Saku Bloc tuna is flash-fired for 10 seconds, which is just enough to provide a wonderfully crunchy exterior and get raw fish-phobics to give it a try. It's served with the expected wasabi mayo and ginger-soy sauce that are both nice complements.
In fact, Stoney River has added a lot of nice seafood dishes to their menu. A particular standout is the sea bass. All the fish dishes are grilled and then served with your choice of several butter sauces or herb crusts. But the topping that really stood out on my recent visit was their chimichurri, specially crafted for use with fish dishes. Instead of the type of oily, garlic-laden chimichurri normally served with red meat, this particular version is more like a delightful pesto of mint, basil, parsley and chilis. I really wanted to take a pint home with me.
Of course, most folks visit Stoney River for steaks. With 12 options of sizes and cuts priced between $19.99 and $33.99, the steak selection is just as deep and probably a few bucks cheaper than any of the other steakhouses in town. The Coffee-Cured Filet Mignon with a sweet brown sugar and molasses glaze was particularly worth seeking out. Dry-aged and tender, the steak holds up well to the bitter/sweet flavors of the glaze and cure. It's really nice.
One of the pitfalls of wine by the glass in a restaurant setting is that diners can't be sure they're actually getting the bottle that's listed on the menu. While that shouldn't be an issue in most cases, wine drinkers can be a suspicious lot, plus there's always the issue as to whether you're getting a full 6 ounce. pour. Stoney River has come up with an ingenious solution. They believe that bottles should be presented tableside by servers so that there is an opportunity to inspect the bottle and ask questions about the wine. Educated drinkers are also more likely to order an extra glass too.
To ensure the quantity of the pour, they have inscribed a little canoe on the side of all their glasses at the 6-ounce level. By "floating the canoe," servers can easily provide consistent pours and diners can verify the amount. Plus it's just pretty darned cool.
If you haven't been by Stoney River lately, you might want to swing by and give them a try. Try out some of their River Time specials at the bar or plan for a leisurely dinner at a price point below some of the other steakhouses in town. I'm guessing you won't be disappointed.
Stoney River Legendary Steaks
3015 West End Ave.