That is exactly what I did last week with my So Cal Lady Blogger friends at the StoneFire Grill in West Hills.
The wonderful people at StoneFire Grill invited us over for dinner to sample their newest menu items. They are so hospitable and friendly, it was like being asked over to a friend’s home for a meal. We had a whole section of the patio to ourselves. It was so nice, I wanted to stay longer.
My family enjoys eating at StoneFire all the time. We love to order barbecue and breadsticks and all the yummy sides and salads for parties. The cheesecake is to die for! Like most people I know, we try to eat healthy but we love the ease and convenience of ordering from our favorite restaurant. Since we always order our favorites, I had not looked at the menu or tried any of the new items since they were introduced. This was the perfect opportunity.
It was a special treat to meet the people behind the new menu at StoneFire. Justin Lopez was there serving us dinner and his brother, Kyle was actually doing the cooking. Everything was amazing!
Now I have some new, very healthy, favorites. The best part is they are very very yummy and just as worthy of craving as the rich meaty dishes I have grown accustomed to. I seriously have not stopped thinking of the Keen Green Salad and Grilled Shrimp. As much as I love the ribs and chicken at StoneFire, it will be easy to eat light this summer!
So, it kinda makes you wonder why and how they did it, huh? I mean, why improve a good thing, right? Everyone loves the great food at StoneFire. Why the new items? Are they going to change? I hate when new things replace the old stuff that everyone loves. New management or owners or franchisees usually make changes like that. What’s the scoop?
Well, it helps if you know the background. The way things started over at StoneFire, I would be surprised if there were big changes in the plans. I received this story from my friends who coordinated the media event:
What happens when a strict vegetarian takes his place in his family’s popular “meat & potatoes” restaurants? That was the very real dilemma recently facing Justin Lopez, whose mother, Mary Harrigan and aunt Maureen, founded Stonefire Grill in 2000. After all, the popular restaurants, with 7 locations in LA and OC, are known for large-portions of tri tip, ribs, pizzas, mac n cheese, carrot cake, etc.
To make his mark, Lopez did something risky – something that could have turned off the restaurant’s core customers and forever damaged its image. He began reshaping the menu with a sharp focus on vegetarian dishes. The result? Sales of the new items quickly outpaced many of the favorite items that had been on the menu for years and the restaurants now are attracting a broader market share including many vegetarians and vegans.
He introduced items with key ingredients like kale, quinoa, chickpeas and arugula taking center stage. Some customers had never even heard of some of these ingredients, however, they proved more than popular. For instance, the Golden State Kale with chopped kale, red cabbage, cucumbers, golden raisins, roasted chickpeas and avocado with lemon tahini dressing has emerged as one of the top selling items on the entire menu.
Lopez also introduced a simple concept that has caught on – allowing guests to take any of the 16 salads featured on the menu and having it served as a wrap.
What are his latest offerings? Since cauliflower is the “new kale” this season, Lopez has developed several dishes featuring this cruciferous veggie like the Roasted Cauliflower Pita stuffed with chopped tomatoes, green onion, lemon tahini and a spicy cilantro-Serrano pepper sauce.
Not all of the new items are vegetarian. He has also crusaded for more lean protein items like turkey and shrimp that are key ingredients in several new dishes.
From a business standpoint, retooling the menu was a risky move that could have alienated Stonefire’s loyal devotees, but that didn’t come to be. In fact, the new items have invoked new energy, new customers and higher sales overall.
Sometimes, it really is that simple. It’s not a dream, but it is a dreamy way to spend your summer nights. Try one of Justin’s creations and let me know what you think.