Two Stones Pub in Newark
Hail Stones: Two Stones Pub is clearly a place to worship beer, but its menu is far from your typical pub-grub.
At a Glance
Two Stones Pub
2 Chesmar Plaza, Newark, 294-1890, twostonespub.com
Tabasco-smoked pork, hog wings, Scottish salmon, beer
Starters and sandwiches: $5-$11
Are you guys beer drinkers? Because…we have a lot of beer.”
At Two Stones Pub, the “Are you a beer drinker?” question—posed by servers before each meal—is largely rhetorical. Proprietor Michael Stiglitz, the corporate chef behind The Pickled Pig Pub, is a bit of a beer nut, to put it Bud Light-ly, and his Two Stones pub is a literal shrine to ales and porters: “COME WORSHIP AT THE BEER TEMPLE,” reads his takeout flyer. Flung in each corner of his cozy pub are Buddha statues, content smiles played across their faces and beer bellies hanging proudly.
If you are even remotely interested in craft beer, this is your Shangri-La. There is beer memorabilia every which way: antique cans of Big Buck beer, melted glass Flying Dog bottles, growlers, crates and on and on and on. Tin shingles line the wall, corresponding to tin beer signs and adverts. There are 25 rotating craft brews on draft, another 100 or so bottles, fun one-offs and reserve bottles, a cask beer engine, and “Randall the Enamel Animal,” a Dogfish Head-engineered hop-infusing module.
Two Stones (not a euphemism, the owner swears) takes over the spot along Del. 4 previously occupied by Piece of Ireland, and Stiglitz has used the spot to germinate the ideas first introduced at Pickled Pig (as well as flagship Pig + Fish, both in Rehoboth): a relaxed gastropub vibe with a strong microbrew selection and elevated, Anglo-evoking fare. With Two Stones, he upped the ante. The goal here is destination drinking—a spot for beer geeks to gather, to quaff, and to compare en masse ABVs and IPAs; a place like Boston’s Lord Hobo or ChurchKey in Washington, D.C.
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Stiglitz’s timing couldn’t be better. One could make a strong case that beer, delicious beer, is currently Delaware’s most valuable cultural commodity. According to breweries-per-capita lists—which do evidently exist—our little state ranks among the highest in the country. Between the world-beating brewers at Iron Hill and cable TV icon Sam Calagione, not to mention the fine craftsmanship of Twin Lakes, 16 Mile, Evolution and others, the local brewing scene is for real.
And beer connoisseurs aren’t just a fringe subculture anymore. There are still those esoteric purists who pore over beers like rare vinyl, but Stiglitz and Two Stones are adept at keeping things accessible and friendly. If you don’t know a weizenbock from a Birkenstock, fear not. Stiglitz’ band of bartenders and waiters are quick with a sippable sample, occasionally without even asking. Late fall brought about Oktoberfest and pumpkin ales, and in short time I could chart and correlate Smuttynose’s Pumpkin Ale (malty, sweet and caramely like pumpkin pie) to Elysian’s Night Owl (cloudy and aromatic with vanilla notes) to Evolution’s Jacques Au Lantern (brimming with spices, particularly nutmeg and allspice).
Clearly it’s easy to get sucked in. And with beer this good, it’s equally easy to treat the menu as an afterthought. But Stiglitz, a chef who’s never been afraid to color outside the lines, took a forthright dive into corner-chip-shops Brit cuisine, a manly mix of deep-fried stuff, pork, and quite often, deep-fried pork.
But for every crunchy hog shank, Stiglitz and chef Donovan Brown unleashed their formal side, slipping a little foie gras onto a hamburger, or splashing french fries with a tangy curry vinaigrette. On the same night Randall the flavor-enhancer exploded while flavoring beer with Butterfingers candy, I enjoyed a beautifully baked filet of Scottish salmon, sided by a earthy foie gras-mushroom risotto. That of course followed my plate of mini corndogs.
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Either predilection works at Two Stones, but I found more successes among theBrit-inspired entries. The chip butty, a dish introduced at Pickled Pig, and a popular UK pub nosh, is essentially a french fry sandwich. It was not, however, the starch-n-carb loaf I expected. With the addition of crunchy house-made coleslaw, sweet peas and a creamy curry dressing, this butty shed new light on street food with finesse and flavor.
Stiglitz’ culinary calling card, his Tabasco-marinated pork tenderloin, appears at Two Stones, and it’s as good as ever. The vinegary slurry, which can destroy flavors if overused, instead lent the pork a smoldering, smoky quality, while ribbons of sage-honey sweetened the deal.
The few times the kitchen fumbled were instances of sloppy execution. Pulled pork sliders, piquant and tender as cotton candy, were burdened by the occasional unmelted globs of fat. On one NFL Sunday afternoon, the kitchen pooched the punt on a regrettable, Miami Dolphins-inspired ropa vieja pizza. Their hearts and pizza crust (which was otherwise pleasantly pliable and yeasty) were in the right place, but stacking dough with yellow rice and black beans yielded a starchy, soggy mess. Shreds of tomato-braised beef were in too short supply, denying the pizza any real moisture.
And while foie gras lent a creamy, salty note to Stiglitz’ uptown burger, the patty itself was too tightly packed, making it overly dense and hard to get through.
Still, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than with football, frosty microbrews and deep-fried hog shanks.
Beer people tend to be a religious bunch, Stiglitz told me once, and if the pious crew who stuffed themselves into the Beer Temple were any indication, he might be right. Whether they were matching Saison Dupont with curried fries or crème brûlée stout with dessert, beer kegs and pub-grub were worthy of praise. Dogfish, Smuttynose, Rodenback: hallowed be thy names. Anything less would be sacrilege.