You know you are in comfort food heaven when there’s a whole section of the menu devoted to fries. At Stones Common House in Stoneham, you can order these hand-cut, golden-brown beauties straight up, topped just with salt and some herbs, with a side of aioli for dipping, or with an imaginative —and ever-changing—array of toppings. A recent evening offered “French Onion Soup Fries,” sailing out of the kitchen bearing an unlikely combination of rich, slow-cooked onions, gruyere cheese, and day-old sourdough bread made into broth-soaked croutons. So strange—yet it was no surprise that it was also so delicious, as it was the brainchild of chef/co-owner Patrick Campbell, formerly the executive chef at No. 9 Park, Barbara Lynch’s creative flagship restaurant in Boston.
The fry menu changes quickly and with little warning: You might find a topping called “El Scorcho,” with ranchero sauce, chipotle aioli, and avocado. Or maybe “Frankie Says Relax & Eat Some Fries,” topped with smoked chicken breast, buffalo sauce, bleu cheese dressing, and celery.
Lest you think elevated pub grub is all you’ll find at Stones, think again. The specials menu might, as it did on a recent night, include oysters from Island Creek or a Terrine of Hudson Valley Foie Gras—luscious with green gage plums and toasted brioche, offering up a luxe appetizer in a fun, casual setting. Chef also specializes in charcuterie, so you might also find some house-made cured meats on the menu.
With all this indulgent food on offer, it is delightful to find just as much attention paid to vegetables, starting with the Preserved Lemon Hummus & Tzatziki, an appetizer with a bounty of carrots, radish, and cucumber alongside marinated olives, flatbread and two house-made dips, a fluffy, lemony hummus and a garlicky tzatziki. Salads are just as fresh and enticing. The Italian Chopped Salad, while not diced in the way one might expect from the name, was a crisp mix of lettuce with Pecorino, sweet and hot peppers, marinated tomatoes, olives, and provolone, topped with generous slices of prosciutto, cured coppa, and Genoa salami.
The long association with No. 9 Park has given Campbell access to and appreciation of some of the best local food purveyors around. In addition to working closely with Island Creek, he sources meat from Chickering Chicks in New Hampshire, preferring to do in-house butchering when he can. Vegetables are sourced locally whenever possible and Sparrow Arc Farms in Vermont provides the potatoes for house-made potato chips.
That Lynch Collective influence is also evident in the house-made pasta, crafted fresh daily. The menu changes frequently, but a recent offering included Burrata Cappellacci—a pasta dumpling stuffed with burrata and ricotta, topped with wild mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano in a deeply flavorful red-wine beef reduction.
Chef Campbell owns the restaurant with Stoneham native Lisa Beattie and her husband, James. Campbell and Lisa Beattie met while working in a restaurant—albeit a Boston Market—at age 14. They’ve come a long way, with Campbell in the kitchen and Lisa developing the bar menu, which is heavy on fresh purées and interesting liquors. Try the Thyme for Bourbon, a refreshing combo of Rough Rider, honey, lemon, and thyme, or maybe the Hibiscus Manhattan, made with Bulleit Bourbon, hibiscus, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Beer drinkers will find a lot to like on their craft brew list.
The three really wanted to bring elevated pub food to Stoneham, and they’ve succeeded right down to the tasty sandwich selection, which includes a classic Fried Chicken topped with a hot sauce aioli, which is a far cry from what you’d find elsewhere.
The Warm Skillet Cookie, which arrives tableside aromatic and melty, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, is the only constant dessert on the menu, but there are always specials to entice. If that isn’t enough, most Thursday through Saturday nights, Stones features live music starting at 8:30 p.m.—it is hard to overstate how nice it is to finish an evening listening to a talented performer in person after months and months without. Especially with a bourbon cocktail in hand and a giant pile of fries.
THE MENU Preserved Lemon Hummus & Tzatziki $16, French Onion Soup Fries $16, Italian Chopped Salad $17, Burrata Cappellacci $28, Fried Chicken Sandwich $13, Warm Skillet Cookie $10
The Stones Common House & Kitchen, 380 Main St., Stoneham, 781-435-1344, thestonescommonhouse.com