PHOTOS: The secret is out – Stonewalls offers top-notch food

Chef Al Landers keeps the food coming. Stonewalls restaurant at 551 South Collier Blvd. held a Grand Opening celebration Thursday afternoon, drawing a crowd by giving away many of their food items. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Chef Al Landers keeps the food coming. Stonewalls restaurant at 551 South Collier Blvd. held a Grand Opening celebration Thursday afternoon, drawing a crowd by giving away many of their food items. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

— If these walls could talk, they’d tell you it’s a restaurant. Thursday afternoon, Stonewalls tried to put any doubt on that point to rest. They held an open house/grand opening/foodapallooza event, inviting the island to come, see, and taste just what it is they do.

Stonewalls had suffered from potential customers not realizing that the former bank building was now in the food business, said Chris Curle over the din inside the dining room, but Thursday, it was clear from the press of diners the word had gotten out.

“Yeah, it’s too bad no one showed up,” chef Al Landers deadpanned as he hurried to fill another serving dish with meatballs. “We know we gotta get the locals to try us.”

So the restaurant, owned by Tom Garousi, with longtime Marco restaurant pro Landers in the head chef slot, made the island an offer it couldn’t refuse – free food.

They offered generous samples of some of their specialties. Along with the aforementioned meatballs, patrons enjoyed linguini alfredo, slices of pizza, Caesar saled, a selection of wraps, jerk pasta, and a dessert display.

Mingling with the cupcakes and tarts were a throwback to a baby boomer’s childhood, Rice Krispies treats.

“It’s been a while, but they’re good,” said Doug Nettles. There were also drink specials.

“I haven’t had the first bite of food, but the Stella is outstanding,” said Jerry Gibson. Shirley English, heading back to her table with a plate piled with wraps, insisted they weren’t all for her.

“I’ve eaten Al’s cooking for 23 years, and it seems to get better each place he lands,” said Bob Olson, in between snapping photos. “Plus, this place is easy in, easy out,” he said, and added the safe is still in the back from the facility’s days as a bank branch. The slogan on the restaurant’s menu proclaims “fine food – fast.”

“Our aim tonight was to introduce a lot of new people to Stonewalls, which was unknown to the local community till the last few days, “said manager Tim Burke. “It’s an awesome turnout – we’ve achieved our goal of packing the house.” Stonewalls is extremely reasonable by island standards, he said, with nothing on the menu priced over $10. “We’re open seven days, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hopefully, people have discovered a new hot spot.”

Mike Stapleton concurred with that assessment.

“Those mini pizzas were wonderful. I had two, and I have no idea what was on them,” he said. “I’ll definitely come back here with my wife.”

Mary and Paul Meyer brought the whole family, consisting of daughters Megan, Molly, and Maddy, and chose a table outside on the verandah.

“It’s great. We were here for dinner last night,” said Megan, gazing around at the throng as she worked on her spaghetti. “It looked nothing like this.” Indeed, a few unsuspecting folks who popped in to pick up their takeout orders appeared dazed by the crowds both inside and out.

The 50/50 raffle the restaurant held to benefit Tommie Barfield Elementary netted $190 for the school, and the same for lucky winner Sharon Perk.

“It was my five dollars” that bought the tickets, said her husband Joe. “Can I at least get my five dollars back?”

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