Stone Soup Bistro
In the lower level of the Salem Public Library is a cafe called Stone Soup Bistro. It's a great destination for anyone who is visiting the library or works downtown and enjoys a little walk through the lovely downtown area. (My stroll takes me along the Pringle Creek and under most of the roadways, past the water feature, and through City Hall.)
The little corner cafe was bustling during the lunch hour on Thursday. There's seating for a dozen people perhaps, with fast turnover, and a lot of people were ordering for carry away. I'd "met" owner Roxie over Twitter, and listened to her updates about the project coming to fruition. This was my first visit since she opened last month. She'd worked at Queen of Tarts, previously in that same location, and through some process I'm not aware of and/or don't understand, Queen of Tarts left, the area was empty for a while, and then Roxie brought her vision of Stone Soup Bistro to fruition.
My friend and I plopped down at a little table in the corner. The diner-style laminated menu between the salt/pepper shakers and napkin holder had a suprising variety of soups, salads, cold sandwiches, warm grilled paninis and even toasted cheese varieties. I marveled for a moment at how much could come out of the tiny kitchen you can see from the service desk.
Table service was quick and friendly, bringing my dining partner's Greek Panini which came with a lovely fresh side salad and my special: Mama's Mac and Cheese along with a side of soup; I'd chosen the tomato cheese tortellini.
I'll get to the point: hands down best Mac and Cheese I've ever had. (Grub Shack, yours is the best in the category of Mac and Cheese w/ Meat. *grin*) Plump large ribbed elbow pasta, a smooth and creamy cheddar sauce, and a well baked topping. Moist but not runny, hearty in flavor and filling. The soup was simple; yummy cheese tortellini floating in a thin herbed tomato sauce with diced tomatoes. Simple, and good for a summer afternoon. Part of me was wanting a little piece of bread on the side, but given the carb coma I went into shortly thereafter, it's probably best there wasn't one. My advice is to get a side salad with this, and not a soup... or at least not a soup with pasta. But I wanted what I wanted, you know?
There's no good way to plate mac and cheese. If it's a thinner casserole, it oozes and looks like crap. If it's thick and firm, it just stands there starkly. Whatever. I gave up on judging the visual appeal of mac and cheese. The only way to make it LOOK good is individual serving size ramekins.
My dining partner's Greek Panini looked great, with fresh toppings. She was pleased with the flavor. We both agreed that for real fresh food, the price was good; ours were each $8.75. We left full but not overly so.
I walked away with a peanut butter cookie for later on that afternoon. It was yummy -- moist with a dark roasted peanut flavor.
Give it a go next time you're downtown. I'll be taking that stroll again soon!
You can follow Stone Soup Bistro on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/stonesoupbistro or friend Stone Soup on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stonesoupbistro for weekly specials and menus.
More information on her blog as well.
http://www.stonesoupbistrobakery.blogspot.com/ Lots of information, but font choice can make reading it difficult sometimes.