Stone balloon is the newest reincarnation of a gastropub/brewery restaurant on that spot. It used to be 16 Mile Brewery, and before that, something I do not remember – I have only lived here for 2 years. I almost dined at 16 Mile once, except that the hostess for that night turned down the few of us who just finished a 5k by citing that they were all reserved that night. I guess we get the last laugh. I was never bitter at them; however, that experience became a thought at the back of my mind to always assume that I need to call in advance to get a table there. This resulted in us never visiting that place again. And this habit continued into Stone Balloon, which recently opened in the spring of 2015. (Why the name you asked, well, I quoted a quick history of the restaurant all the way at the end of this article.)
I did not have any plans to visit them until I grabbed a random magazine (Out & About) which shown a picture of a designer burger in a sophisticated setting. That image sold me and I decided to give them a chance. From the outside, Stone Balloon has the wooden trendy “Chipotle-look” found in casual restaurants all across America in 2015 so it was going to be hard to convince anybody to come with me with the restaurant’s expensive look. An opportunity arises on a warm spring Saturday noontime and the campus was packed with visiting high school students and their families. Normally, I would have evaded Main Street since they would be flooded by “tourists”, but since you got to be at least 21 years old to sit at the bar in Delaware, I went straight to Stone Balloon.
Bingo. The place was buzzing but the bar was empty. It was closer to 1pm by now and I assumed that there would be a slight wait on my order, so I did something I rarely done – walked around the restaurant to appreciate the interior design. This is a very charming restaurant with a rustic flavor. I placed an order of the craftwich – crow farmed beef burger (Medium done) loaded & stacked with braised short rib, candied bacon, cheddar cheese and mango jalapeno BBQ sauce, with a side salad. Besides the cloth wrapped menu lied the list of drinks currently on tap, and I got the Brooklyn Summer Ale. It is summer time, Baby!
The restaurant is huge and spacious. I counted 6 different dining settings, including one located on the second floor for a larger group. There are a couple of guitars hung by the stairwells with labels such as Bruce Springsteen. I thought that was just some imitation until I found out that he played once here in Newark and probably signed (or touched) that guitar. Unlike many bars around the area, the bar area has a very generous table space designed for diners rather than for drinkers – I appreciated that thought. Instead of a server, the bartender for the morning was a young lad who served and chatted with me while busy serving alcohol to others. With so many people in the restaurant, it was kind of surprising how quiet the place was. I have to give credits to the owner because he managed to make a nice gastropub on campus.
As promised to me from the picture I saw on the magazine, my burger looked very inviting. Instead of a cup of fries, I got salad with some dressing with the burger instead. The salad was served on the same plate which surprised me a little as I was expecting a seperate plate or bowl. Quality wise, the salad had a variety of vegetables and I was glad I made the healthier choice (I have a marathon to run next week and that’s why the salad). The burger was halved with lettuce and tomatoes on one bun while patty and cheese on the other. Beneath the melted cheese hides the compressed short rib but I did not spot either the bacon or the sauce. They were probably somewhere in the thick mix of toppings. The buns and even the patty were very thick, something I’m not used to anymore. For a long time I love thicker burgers but they seemed to be out of trend these days.
You might know me as a huge burger fan and indeed I love my burgers. This, sadly, is not one of them. The patty was too well done and too thick, totally discounting the essence of a burger. To make the matter worse, the hard buns turned the burger into a loaf of dense bread and made chewing a tedious process. As I continue to gnaw, there was something even harder and that stupefied me. It turned out to be the bacon, which would had been amazing except it just made the entire construct impenetrable. With all that said, the BBQ sauce was solid and spiced up the rather blend burger. Well, except it did not give any hint of Jalapeno hotness. I did not taste any flavor or texture from the short ribs, which made me wondered why purpose did these serve?
You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Stone Balloon’s good-looking burger had been struck out of my list of burgers. No offense, but I will continue to stick to Hockensin’s RedFire Grill or Jake’s Wayback. I’m planning to come back more often, though. There are a plethora of eye-catching dishes on the menu and I can’t wait to try them out. Best of all, Tuesday is all you can eat Fried Chicken night. Game on.
Address: 115 E. Main St. Newark 19711, DE
Visited: April 18th 2015 at 1pm for lunch.
The Stone Balloon Story
The Stone Balloon Tavern and Concert Hall opened its doors in 1972 and rapidly became, as Playboy magazine once noted, “One of the 100 Top College Bars in America”. Delaware’s premier live music venue, “The Balloon” hosted such iconic American bands as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, The Allman Brothers, The Dave Matthews Band, and Metallica, as well as local favorite George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers.