Stoney's Grocery

subject: Stoney's Grocery
take-out vehicle: varied

cost: $6.51

Hiding in plain sight on Avon Street in the Belmont neighborhood, Stoney's Grocery may never be a popular Restaurant Week venue, but in how many "fancy" places in town can see a woman stare longingly at a window of food and say: "...Yeah, I'm gonna needa getta side a' wing dings, too."

It was her sweet back country drawl that really made it, though. Looking back, even though I hadn't yet ordered, I think it was then that I began to realize what Stoney's Grocery was all about—but I'll get back to that in a minute.

Stoney's, if you've never been, is primarily a small grocery store, but at lunch they have a regular crowd of take-out patrons who visit the small kitchen on the right side of the store. Since I had never ordered food there before, it took me a minute to figure out the system, but finally I found a menu and stood in the correct line.

When it was my turn to order, I chose the Stoney Burger with fries. Sure, there was a delicious-looking container of baked mac'n'cheese and piles of fried chicken, and yeah, there were five different crock pots with simmering soups, beans, and chilies, but I decided if this burger was good enough to named after the store, then it had to be something special.

Topped with a white cheese sauce (which the cook had me fetch from the microwave) and grilled onions (with optional lettuce), my burger turned out to be not quite so special. It was slightly overcooked, but I enjoyed it, though the thick cheese sauce was a bit too thick. Luckily I was at home when I ate it and the spicy brown mustard was only a refrigerator door away.

The fries, to my surprise, were actually pretty good. I'm usually not a fan of skinless, pre-cut, frozen fries from a bag, but with the seasoning salt they added, these were as good as they could have been: crisp yet tender inside, and just oily enough to retain the right amount of seasoning.

So what made me finally realize what Stoney's is all about? A few minutes after the woman left happily with her lunch and side of wing dings, I found myself standing almost exactly where she had been, staring into that glass window at all the food I didn't order. It all looked so good, but I knew I didn't need anything else. I mean, I had just ordered a huge burger with microwaved cheese sauce and french fries. It was brief inner struggle, though, and a few seconds later I heard myself say, "Uh, yeah, can I also get a side of rice pudding?"

It may not be a four-star lunch spot, but Stoney's is good for an entirely different reason: It's soul food, and it's not trying to pretend to be anything else. The closest thing you'll get to a salad is the lettuce and tomato on your burger, and closest thing you'll get to fruit is the homemade cherry pie. It's meat, cheese, potatoes, and deep fry dredging—and some days, that's exactly you need.

Speaking of which: Next time I'm there, I'm definitely trying the wing dings.

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