Review: Stonepepper’s Grill

I’m not sure how I feel about Stonepepper’s Grill (the second location, in Mars). I read about the place months ago and tossed it up on my Urbanspoon wishlist. I’m all but certain it came to my attention via a Post-Gazette article about the founders, but I can’t seem to find that article now. My memory of the article presented the owners as former Carnegie Mellon police officers but, it’s likely I’m confusing Stonepepper’s with another place. In fact, now that I’ve actually made a trip out there for dinner, I’m almost sure I have the wrong back-story. The place just feels way too over-developed to be a recent upstart. It feels far more like a national chain than a local upstart.

If anyone can think of which place actually deserves the former CMU police backstory, let me know.

Stonepepper's Grill

Stonepepper’s Grill ($13-17 entree)
Route 228 300 Adams Shoppes
Adams Twp, PA 16046
(724) 591-5132

Stonepepper's Grill (Butler) on Urbanspoon

Stonepepper’s is huge. According to the signs out front, they just recently opened, so the first might be slightly smaller. Located in a strip mall a few doors down from a McGinnis Sisters, the place feels wide-open and even a little overdone. Again, the place just feels like a big chain. That said, Stonepepper’s is a local establishment (as far as I know). It’s clear, however, that the facility was by no means started on a shoestring budget; someone took on some debt.

A bar and multiple large rooms inside are augmented by a large patio out the side door. Both the bar and dining rooms are bursting with unnecessary flat screen televisions (a rising trend that is quickly starting to become annoying). The food is only fair; it’s certainly not flawed but somewhat disappointing at times. As for beer, you’ll find better-than-nothing macro-brews but nothing noteworthy. Overall, I find myself asking: “what’s the point?”

Lots of space without any people. In addition to being huge, the look and feel was…a little empty: lacking sufficient diners to fill up more than a few tables (say 15%). I’m guessing I just picked the wrong time (6:00pm on a Thursday night—admittedly a little early), and the size may have also contributed to the sparse population.

Empty Booths and Flat Screen TVs

The waitstaff: friendly enough, but unmotivated? For the waitstaff component, our server was friendly enough but seemed just a little uninterested after taking our order. She kept a slight distance and lacked much in the way of enthusiasm. That said, I had no problems getting dinner in a timely manner and even had to ask for more time the first few times she stopped by to take our order. I’m assuming the lack of back and forth later in our meal was a consequence of the ongoing conversation at the table and not any problems with wait staff. Even so, I never built up that positive rapport I value so much.

On the menu: pizza…plus everything else. The main attraction seems to be pizza. They serve up a number of specialty options along with the standard build-your own option. Some of them sound quite tasty, but none of them really strike me as tremendously innovative. Then again, it’s pizza. They also offered up a number of salads and salads. Really, the menu is huge, so you’re best bet is to check it out online to scope out your options.

The food? Nothing to write home about. My dining companion and I decided to share a three-mushroom pizza and a Cobb salad. Actually, we weren’t super hungry and probably didn’t need the salad, but I am keenly interested in how well various places pull off a salad. How did they far? Both pizza and salad were decent enough, but they were really lacking anything noteworthy.

Three Mushroom Pizza

Three Mushroom Pizza: Looking for depth and not finding it. The three mushroom pizza was supposed to be a white pizza with three different mushrooms: white, crimini, shitake. All three may have been present, but they didn’t seem to contribute any noteworthy flavor or texture. Let’s be honest, white and crimini are nothing noteworthy, so the only outlier was shitake. In any case, there weren’t nearly enough mushrooms (of any kind) to call this a “three mushroom” pizza. The crust was also just decent—somewhat thin, but not tremendously crunchy. The cheese was actually the strongest player: just enough to add some flavor without going overboard. Overall, it’s safe to say that a “white pizza with mushrooms” label may be more accurate; this one didn’t stack up to the “three mushroom” name.

The Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad: Unripe avacodo, bland oversized chicken. Given that we weren’t hugely hungry, so I only took a small stab at the salad. It looked pleasant: that aspect was done well; however, the looks were about the end of it. Avacados are always an exciting addition to a salad, but these were particularly unripe. The avacado texture was a little hard, and the lack of ripeness lead to very little flavor. Word to the kitchen: give those guys a chance to ripen. The chicken was…chicken (enormous pieces of it).  Each more-than-bite-sized piece wasn’t particularly well-seasoned—they all just seemed big, bland and flavorless.

Beer: Decent, but unexciting. Stonepepper’s seems to have completely missed the boat on craft beer; I’m not sure why. They seem to have stocked up on the more interesting side of the large scale breweries, but don’t offer up anything that could be called “craft.” Sure, there’s Sam Adams, but everyone can do that these days. Still, given the lack of options I started with the Sam Adams Octoberfest (a fine beer, mind you…just not noteworthy). Jeff Bearer, from over at Craft Beer Radio, thinks they have have Great Lakes Burning River on Wednesdays. Other than that, it’s slim pickings.

Would I go there again? Maybe to the other location. Short of being near my office, there’s just no reason for me to go back to the Mars location. It’s a decent enough place to visit, but nothing seems to stand out. Even the pizza, supposedly their specialty, was decent but not noteworthy. Throw a lackluster salad on top and I’m unlikely to go back. Just keep in mind that, to some extant, that’s my always brimming queue of new places talking. If Stonepepper’s is conveniently located for you, then go for it; you could do far worse. That said, I certainly don’t recommend going too far out of your way for a visit.

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8 Responses to “Review: Stonepepper’s Grill”

  1. mike Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    One of my amazing readers knows exactly which PG review I’m talking about in the first few paragraphs.

    Post-Gazette: “Brothers catering to restaurant crowd

    The restaurant is “Good To Go” in Finleyville.

  2. BE Says:
    September 13th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    We ate at the Stonepeppers near the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon on Rte 19 last Feb. and it was terrible!My pizza was nothing special at all and when I got home I was sick to my stomach and spent the evening in the bathroom. It’s too small inside, staff was not that great… just completely disappointing. We haven’t been back & we don’t plan to go back. Ever.

  3. Fillippelli the (Wannabe) Cook Says:
    October 6th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    It’s been open for a while. Why they continue to keep the sign up is a mystery. Took my kids here probably about 2 months after it opened. Awful. And, aside from the TVs, I came away thinking the inside was really quite cheaply done and dingy.

    As I said in my Urbanspoon review of this place, if you’re up Mars/Cranberry way again, go to Yama Sushi. Good service, good sushi by Pittsburgh standards, and what we’ve had of the entrees are also well prepared.

    Azzeria in Wexford in the new Village at Pine plaza is also good if you’re dining up this way.

  4. mike Says:
    October 6th, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for the suggestions, Fillippelli.

    As luck would have it, I had just set up a lunch-time trip to Yama Sushi for next week. I’ll be sure to report back once I’ve checked them out. I actually work up in Cranberry, so it’s pretty easy for me to check out both places.

    Keep the suggestions coming!

  5. Bob Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Stonepeper is owned by a local person who has had other restauranats and bars. Had one in market square.
    Food is very average and noisy. My kids were not thrilled with the Pizza. Not as good as Azzeria.

  6. mike Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Thanks Bob. It’s always refreshing to hear that my reviews aren’t too far off base.

    Regarding Azzeria, I’m still meaning to check out them out one of these days. I’ve heard more than a few positive comments on this site and elsewhere.

  7. Gilberto Says:
    February 9th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    To be fair, I think the reviewer should have eaten at the place more than once before writing a review on it. I understand that a lot can be learned on the first trip, but many of the experiences that were reviewed (service, food quality, etc.) cannot be accurately judged without a little repetition. No one wants to go back to a restaurant that they didn’t enjoy the first time through, but that should be something that an actual reviewer of foods goes through.

    That said, the review is still not that far off. Not bad for someone who only got a pizza and salad then whipped up a review for the entire restaurant.

    I first went to ‘Pep’s about a month after they opened. My first impression was that the restaurant was so large, but everything is separated. On one end, you have a family-oriented section with tables and booths, the other end is a hip(per) section that includes the bar and some more risque decor. I think the owner is trying to combine a family style restaurant with a youthful bar scene. Imagine karaoke and shotskis at Olive Garden.

    The menu, like the layout of the restaurant, is also radical. They try to specialize in salads, pizzas, burgers and of course pasta (they have a pasta bar). Instead of trying to build their menu around one really great dish, they inundate you with mediocre everything.

    If you want to eat a great burger, salad, pasta or pizza, you’re not going to to here. You’re going to go to a place that specializes in one of these dishes.

    If you have a group of friends, and everyone wants something different, and you’re not concerned about top quality dishes, this place will work.

    My first time eating there, my wife and I were seated in a pub style table that had stools that were too short for the table. They weren’t even stools with backs, they were just stools, so I had nowhere to put our jackets. I asked our waiter if there was a coat hook somewhere, and he said no. I was puzzled that he didn’t try to accommodate our needs, so I left my jacket on during the meal while my wife sat on hers and put her purse on the floor.

    The only person who could eat pasta at one of those tables would be Manute Bol. Maybe Shaq. The stools are so low that the table was above my nipples. Having to use silverware for anything at that height would be embarrassingly difficult (as my wife would discover). I wanted to try a pasta, but ended up getting pizza because of this handicap.

    When I tasted the pizza, the first thing I thought was – Tony’s. It tastes just like a plain boxed pizza from the grocery store. Nothing special about the sauce, cheese or dough. I was happy with my salad as they used spring mix rather than cheap iceberg.

    I got wings which you have to order in odd quantities – 8, 20 and 50. I got eight. Note to owner: Change to the 1/2 doz, doz, 2xdoz, etc quantities. There is a reason 95% of other restaurants do it this way. Your way is not better. If I want a small portion of wings (1/2 doz) at your restaurant, I cannot be pleased. If I want a decent number of wings (like a doz), I have to be under satisfied and go with eight or gluttonous and go with 20.

    The waiter we had the first time there was clumsy. I can put about 50% of his incompetence on it being a new place, but he’s going to have to take credit for some. Note to my waiter: While I’m impressed by servers who memorize orders, it’s not necessary at Stone Pepper’s Grille. We’re not eating at the Moulin de la Vierge in Paris. This is Mars. Adams Twp., specifically. Any credibility you had as a top-notch server was thrown out the door when I saw your fingernails. If you want to memorize my order, fine, but don’t come back two minutes later to ask what kind of salad dressing I wanted, then still bring my wife ranch when she asked for balsamic.

    As for the prices – meh. Not really worth what you get. Decent selection of beer, but as the reviewer said – nothing special.

    We have gone back a couple more times, and while the service was a lot better, the food quality was about the same. I got a grilled chicken pasta that tasted mushy, kinda like a Stouffers or Michelina’s. We also went back for a happy hour night where they had karaoke at the bar and some food specials. This was actually worth it because they had 1/2 off appetizers and like $4 pizzas. This is a pretty good deal if you have a small group of friends to go hang out with.

  8. mike Says:
    February 9th, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    And GIlberto’s input just about tops mine in detail. Thanks! I’m sure that will be very useful to my readers.

    Regarding hitting up a place multiple times, you’ll need to cut me some slack. For me, reviewing restaurants is a hobby. Many of the places are review are places I’m familiar with and have been to a few times. Others, I’ve only visited once. If I hit up a place 3 times before I posted a review…then I wouldn’t have too many reviews!

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