It was a beautiful summer night—mercifully without rain or high humidity—so we were mulling over places to dine al fresco when Russ suggested the “new place” in Newtown. Recently opened in mid-April of 2018, The Grey Stone, (formerly known as Lavender Hall or 552 Restaurant), has been renovated with a redesigned interior to give it a modern look that maintains the historic charm and presents an upscale casual dining experience.
The 300-seat, full-service restaurant includes a reception area with a grand staircase, the main dining room with 70 seats, a bar and lounge area with fireplace and comfortable seating, a second smaller bar area and two private dining rooms, one on the main floor and an 80-seat room upstairs. Not to mention a ginormous outdoor patio with untold capacity for seating.
Before we left the house, I googled The Grey Stone to read reviewers comments on their experiences. The responses ran the gamut, from “the food is great,” “it took forever to get our meal” to “don’t bother wasting your time or money.” So we did harbor some concern but figured maybe they had worked the kinks out since the opening over three months prior.
When we pulled into the large circular driveway with valet parking, it was packed (a good sign) and cars were spilling out onto the main road giving us hesitation, but one glance at the half-filled patio made us think we had a chance of getting seated. Once inside, the hostess asked if we had reservations and when we responded “no, but we want to sit outside” she looked doubtful (a bad sign) and commented that she’d have to see if there was any availability. What? There were clearly at least 20 available tables out there…
Stock photo of the unoccupied inner dining area.
The band, center, plays some bluesy music in the large patio area.
But the crisis was averted when a younger hostess guided us through the filled-to-capacity inner dining room to a pleasant outdoor four-top along a wrought-iron fence far enough away from the live band for quiet conversation, yet close enough to see them perform. And I have to commend them on table placement, at least outside, where the tables are very generously spaced apart giving patrons breathing room and waitstaff plenty of serving room.
At its bar, The Grey Stone features 33 taps for craft beer, wine and mixed cocktails. In addition, they have cold brew coffee and cold brew latte on draft. We ordered a bottle of red from a semi-lengthy list of varying-priced wines, while perusing the fixed and specials menus.
Their offerings are an eclectic mix of comfort foods featuring modern and classic dishes that seem to highlight every American ethnicity. Selections include everything from chicken, fish and seafood to veal, pork, beef and vegan dishes. Apparently they start you with a bread basket, but we never experienced one. The “bread-women” came by three times, the first to ask if we wanted bread, and then twice more to say she’ll be right out with it—but it never happened. Not that we needed the carbs, but we feared it set the tone for the evening.
Uncharacteristically, I was in the mood to try one of their burgers (something I rarely choose when eating out); while Russ had a similar mind-bent and went for a pork sandwich, both of which came with a choice of homemade potato chips, hand-cut fries, or you could substitute a cup of soup for a nominal fee. Since the soup-of-the-day was a Manhattan Crab Chowder, that’s what we intended on getting. But wouldn’t you know it, they were already out of it by the time we ordered, so we both went with the hand-cut fries.
The band (I think they were called Two Plus One) was off to a good start, playing some bluesy Eric Clapton among other artists. But as the evening wore on, many of the tunes sounded the same and it got a bit monotonous. The evening did wear on indeed because it took nearly one hour and fifteen minutes to get our sandwiches! Although Russ did get his cup of Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, shown below, in a timely manner.
And as suspected, my burger was more well-done than I had ordered… but I wasn’t about to send it back and wait for another… For some reason bacon does not agree with me and I should have asked them to put it on the side. As it was, I gave most of it to Russ, but because it was quite dark out, I unknowingly ate some of it and suffered later on that night. I also pretty much tossed the bun aside because it was too much bread for me. (Probably a good thing “bread-women” forgot us.)
Lynn’s loaded Fireball Burger was made with certified Angus beef and topped with ghost pepper cheese, two cream cheese stuffed jalapeño poppers, jalapeño bacon, a guacamole-stuffed onion ring, with a schmear of sriracha aioli on a brioche bun. Yes, it was good, but I probably wouldn’t get it again. And those fries were delicious at first, but not so much as they cooled down—like most fries, I guess.
There definitely were some missteps that night, but we’re willing to give it another shot, mainly because it’s close to home and we really love the outdoor dining area. Next visit, we’ll concentrate on some of the entrées and keep our fingers crossed that the food is not only well-prepared, but served in a timely manner to boot!
Fast forward several weeks, we again dine at The Grey Stone, this time on Sunday night of Labor Day weekend. It was decidedly much less crowded, and again we opted to eat out on the expansive patio—us and only two other couples, and no band. Thank goodness the service was much more attentive, although there were still some missteps.
We put in a food order at the same time as our beverage choice, a dry rosé, just in case there was going to be a long lag time, which mercifully there wasn’t. We even got bread right away—and the seasoned dipping oil was fantastic! The bread however was more like a warm hamburger bun, instead of a chewy crusty loaf, which would have been preferable.
Russ started with a small bowl of their homemade Broccoli and Cheddar Soup. I commented that it looked a bit “thin” but he said that’s how he likes it, and when I took a small taste, it was full of flavor.
The night’s special menu contained three additional appetizers and three more entrées, one of which, the Grilled NY Strip Steak Chimichurri accompanied with roasted potatoes and Mexican street corn was my first choice. But then I was told that they were already out of it. How could that be when it was still relatively early and there were many empty tables (at least outside)?
Oh well, always have a Plan B, which was the Cayo Hueso Crab Cakes, the very same meal that Russ decided to order. Our dinners came within minutes of Russ finishing his soup. Two good-sized cakes came plated sitting atop a schmear of key lime remoulade (we asked for more) with sides of Spanish rice and jalapeño bacon Brussels sprouts adorned with sweet baby corn shoots and micro-greens.
All components of the meal were quite tasty and the patties were filled with a lot of lump crab, although I would have preferred that they weren’t so crisp on the exterior. Russ was the recipient of my bacon pieces from the sprouts because it usually doesn’t sit well with me for some reason, and I had not-so-fond memories of the bacon reaction from my past burger. With no room for dessert, and a doggie bag for me, we sauntered out into the night to retrieve our car from their free valet service.
The Grey Stone is conveniently located on Route 532 between Newtown and Washington Crossing and within easy access to Interstate 95.