Hubby and I headed up to Markleeville in Alpine County for a few days of hiking, star-gazing and hot springs therapy at Grover Hot Springs State Park. We were camping and mostly cooked ourselves, but since it was H's birthday I wanted to take him out for one dinner...I had heard the tiny town of Markleeville had a new chef-owned restaurant, with a wood oven no less, so off we went..we didn't have an exact address, but I knew it was on Main Street. In Markleeville, that is more than enough information to find any business in town (Main Street is about two and a half blocks long). We had made a reservation and I was glad we did: the place was small, but hopping on a Sunday night. We overhead some folks at a neighboring table say they drove over from South Tahoe (about 40 miles over a mountain pass to the west) to eat there. The word is out.
Stonefly is only open weekends, at least for now (Friday through Sunday). Dinner only.
We arrived at seven and were seated at a lovely quiet table under a shade umbrella, at the front of the patio, where one can watch the town comings and goings on Main Street (such as they are: population of Markleeville per the 2010 census is just over 200 persons).
Yes, 200 persons. and that includes Woodfords, about seven miles down the road. And yet, they have a restaurant that beats the pants off of anything in my now home town of Merced. Sigh. Stonefly is a worthy stop or destination for anyone who visits this quiet corner of California.
Given the wood oven, it is not surprising that pizza is dominant on the limited menu. We ordered one pizza, with house-made fennel sausage and tomato. Very good, even though hubby loves pizza and I am not as much of a fan (even of good pizza, but it was his birthday after all, so I let him choose our dinner menu). The crust was a bit less done than I prefer; those who like a bit more char might have been a bit disappointed in the crust, though I doubt anyone would fault the delicious sausage.
For a first course, hubby had a caesar style salad (no anchovies) that was perfectly dressed and delicious. I had fresh, plump prawns, marinated in herbs, roasted in the wood oven, and then served on a bed of arugula, with bits of corn and a few other veggies (can't recall all of the components, but it all worked). The prawns were perfectly cooked and very sweet, and the portion size was generous. The salads were served with a mini-loaf of house-baked bread.
In addition to the pizza, we had a ribeye (hubby's favorite),roasted in the wood oven, served with a light sauce, and polenta and grilled asparagus. Hubby ordered the steak medium rare, took a bite and realized it was done to medium. Before we could get the server's attention, she rushed over, apologized, told us she had brought out the wrong plate, and it was replaced with a perfectly cooked and obviously freshly fired new steak. Hubby was one very happy camper with that steak. Even with more than a bit of help from me, he couldn't finish it. Breakfast in our camp the next morning was leftover pizza and steak and eggs, a great way to continue the birthday celebration!
There were three desserts on offer, all house made. We were fairly full, but since it was hubby's birthday dinner we felt something sweet was in order to end the meal and decided to split one dessert. Again, I let him choose. I was secretly gravitating towards the stone fruit crisp with house made strawberry ice cream, but hubby, who is a big cheesecake fan, couldn't resist the Meyer lemon cheese cake (made with organic lemons from a farm in Davis, CA, which for some reason hubby found to be both amusing and enticing. I guess Davis seemed very far away...)
The cheese cake was light and not too sweet, served with a bit of creme fraiche and fresh strawberry sauce. Nice play of strawberry and lemon flavors. Hubby also had a french press coffee.
We each had wine (one glass of white for me, two of red for hubby, since I was driving)...and indeed, that was my only real ding on Stonefly: pours were generous, but the wine list wasn't particularly interesting and even less so by the glass. Then again, not sure how great a list one could expect at such a small place that is open only three nights a week...they do have a few decent beers, however, and a nice selection of non-alcoholic drinks.
Service was excellent. Granted, our server made a mistake with the steak, but she fixed it almost immediately, and appropriately (by firing a new steak)...and otherwise the meal was very well paced.
Total with three glasses of wine, one coffee, one dessert, one pizza, two apps and one main, with tax and 20% tip was $117. Dress is casual, plenty of folks in shorts and t shirts.
Highly recommended when visiting the northeastern Sierra.