The black-and-white kitchen floor tile is about all that remains of DJ’s Diner, late of South Townsend in Montrose. Known for its shiny aluminum façade (and for great burgers and malts), DJ’s has been devoured by the new Stone House restaurant, actually physically encompassed by the stone walls and heavy wooden doors of a very different dining paradigm. Owners Jack Ludwig and Jesse Cochran are now proud proprietors of a moderately pricey steak and seafood place with an ambitious menu and a welcoming, come-as-you-are atmosphere. (It reminds this reviewer of the Glenn Eyrie Restaurant inside its apple orchard on what is now the Walgreens corner, for years Montrose’s go-to place for an intimate anniversary or pre-prom prime rib.) And the links to the past don’t stop there. The Stone House’s executive chef is Chris Fairchild, who literally “grew up learning the trade” at Ouray’s iconic Bon Ton, which was founded in 1977 by Chris’ uncle John Kosh. The pasta and fish are excellent at The Stone House – try the blackened salmon ($19.95) or the flaky hazelnut-crusted mahi-mahi with a Jamaican mango relish ($24.95) – but really, you want to come for the beef. The 10 oz. prime rib ($21.95) is smoke roasted and served with a ruby port jus and tangy apple horseradish. The “baseball cut” New York Strip steak is as tall as it is wide, charbroiled with herbed garlic butter on request. The house salad comes with a sweet crunchy surprise, thin-sliced jícama soaked in grenadine. The homemade croutons and fresh cracked black pepper (if you want it) spice the salad up just right. (For $2.95, you can substitute a marinated pear salad, with shaved Parmesan and candied pecans, or a blue cheese Iceberg wedge.) The garlic-basil mashed potatoes go especially well with the baseball cut. Dessert is big at The Stone House. (Everything is generously sized.) Save room for the Key lime pie or the crème brûlée or the Lemon Italian cream cake (all, $6.95). Dessert specials pop up nightly, like the vanilla ice cream parfait ($6.95) with fresh berries, whipped cream and port wine flavored sabayon custard sauce.
NOT JUST A DINING ROOM The restaurant’s front doors open into a comfy lounge with fireplace and leather couches. The adjacent bar has just one TV screen (usually tuned to ESPN) but a rainbow choice of pints on tap, including brews from Ska, Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Alaskan Amber, and, since this is the Western Slope, Coors and Budweiser too.
NO STYLE POLICE The waiters and waitresses wear jeans and dark denim shirts; the vibe is friendly and casual. But if you wanted to dress up and make an uptown night of it, low lighting and the booths in back can be as romantic as you please.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. (10 p.m. Fri.-Sat). A Sunday breakfast buffet is served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
$$ (most entrées between $15.95 and $24.95)