The menu at Stoney Lonen cites an old Irish quote: "...when in Ireland, You are always close to the sea." Well, the menu is certainly loaded with seafood dishes, steaks and Irish goodies, and the proximity to the sea goes without saying. The restaurant occupies a colorful, yet unassuming building on Second St. at the corner of Wilmington Ave. in Rehoboth Beach where the original Ann Marie's Italian joint used to be many years ago. They moved out onto the highway into the building that's now occupied by Saketumi.
OK. To the point: The unquestioned star of the appetizer menu is the Guinness Stout Braised Short Ribs [pictured, right]. Deeply savory, and only mildly redolent of the beer, the serving of boneless beef is quite generous and could even be a main course. A softly sweet molasses sauce is drizzled sparingly so as not to overpower the taste of the meat. This dish is a sure thing.
The Smoked Whiskey & Fennel Irish "Bangers" [pictured, left] run a very close second to the ribs. A very mild Dijon sauce accompanies the little slices, and the taste is quite good. The hint of sweet licorice that the fennel brings to the dish works perfectly with the grilled meat. We also had the Baked Brie appetizer, and, again, we were surprised by the generous portion. It is simply presented with a bit of fruit and some crackers and makes a great chaser for those beer-braised ribs.
I was a little disappointed in the Grilled Brown bread appetizer [pictured, below right]. The bread is indeed fresh and delicious, but the promised crushed red pepper aoli just tasted like plain mayo. This dish needs the kick of the peppers to work, or else it's just toast slathered with mayo. If they cut back on the spice to appease the wimps, they went too far.
Stoney Lonen does a very nice job with their crab cakes [pictured, left]. They were on special on our last visit, and worth every penny of the $14.95 ticket. They call it Jumbo Lump, and that's exactly what it is. I usually avoid close-up photos of food (sometimes it just doesn't look right) but I have included a closeup [pictured, below right] of the inside of one of these so you can see for yourself how much crabmeat is in there. Another tasty and crabby entree is the Crab Stuffed Ravioli. The little surprise here is the lemon cream sauce delicately laced with thyme. What a nice touch-- and it also works well with the asparagus.
Speaking of asparagus, at the time of this writing, it is in season and accompanies pretty much every dish. This is NOT a bad thing! If they blanche 'em at all, it is only for a millisecond, and then the firm and dark green spears are lightly grilled. It appeared on several dishes during our visits, and was perfectly done every time. Stoney Lonen is quite proud of their Irish Ale Battered Fish and Chips entree [pictured, left], and justly so. Though the actual taste of any beer in the batter escaped me, it has a great salt 'n' pepper taste and is lightly crunchy. I HATE oily and limp fried fish, and Stoney Lonen does it right. The cole slaw was creamy, but crunchy.
On our last visit I had the Shepherd's Pie [pictured, below right]. On the positive side, this one is made with lamb, and the mashed potatoes are delightfully golden from the broiler. On the negative side, I wish the sauce that the lamb was in had been more aggressively spiced. There is another establishment in town that also specializes in this dish, and theirs certainly gets your attention. I'm not talking about "hot" spicy--just more meaty depth. The Stoney Lonen version is attractively presented (note the ubiquitous asparagus), but the filling let me down. Seems a waste to not do that lean and generous portion of lamb justice with a bright and more acidic sauce.
The Mahi special [pictured, left] is properly cooked and is also timidly seasoned. This is really a great piece of fish and it deserves a little more kick, as far as I'm concerned. That being the case, however, I wanted to let you see what was returned to the kitchen after the Mahi was eaten [pictured, bottom right]. The Asiago Crusted Florida Grouper is one of the high points at Stoney Lonen. The thin crust of cheese lends a nice crunch to the filet, but leaves the interior moist. Add the mashed sweet potatoes and, of course, that great asparagus, and all is well with the world.
Last, and certainly not least, is the Grilled Gaelic Herb Chicken Breast. The creamy cheese sauce gives the chicken a great texture, and if the accompanying wild rice (a signature side) happens to get mixed up with the sauce, all the better.
Owner Bryan Lookup should be commended for continuing to offer good values on his specials even in the high season. That notwithstanding, most of the main courses are still under $20, and the ones that are more are worth it. Because of their location near Christian Street, parking is rarely a problem, even in the summer. Those spaces, though metered, rarely fill up on weeknights.
Do note that the dining room on the Wilmington Avenue side can be quite noisy because of the shape of the ceiling; especially in the summer with little kids. This IS the beach, after all, and you pretty much have to expect that, but we can also hope that parents will step up to the plate to control their children in such a small room. It might take a village to raise kids, but it doesn't necessarily require a dining room full of innocent victims.
Stoney Lonen has recently opened a second location in Long Neck, in the shopping center by the Harris Teeter at Rt. 24 just west Long Neck Road. Word from the locals is that it is just as good. In fact, the daughter of a local celebrity might even wait on you. Such a deal!
The Rehoboth location has an active happy hour (4-7 every day) with TVs and lots of people standing around enjoying themselves. Click here for a look at their dinner menu. They open at 4 every day in season. (D., Bar) Price range: Moderate +.