Sticks and stones as fries and meatballs. On one hand, it’s silly, but on the other, it’s really fun. These classic comfort food staples are usually side dishes, but at Sticks & Stones, they're the main course.
If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I would be writing a traditional food review, describing service, restaurant ambience and other in-person aspects of eating out — but in 2020, everything is different. Despite these changes, Sticks & Stones is winning the takeout game with their simple but ingenious concept. Its motto of being “comfort food for trying times” definitely delivers.
The eatery opened Oct. 13 on East 11th Ave. and Oak St. Its strange logo is a bunch of meatballs smushed together to make a skull and two crossed fries as the bones, rightly showing how these humble foods can quickly reduce you to a food-comatose state.
You can pick your “stones” from four choices: beef and pork blend, chicken and turkey blend, lamb or vegetarian. All the meatballs are delicious — juicy, hearty sized and well-seasoned. The idea of a vegetarian meatball might seem weird, but theirs is reminiscent of falafel: with a slightly crispy crust yet a soft inside.
Each selection of a “stone” comes with a sauce, and among the five choices, you can’t go wrong. The most common issue with any saucey dish is being too salty, but Sticks & Stones doesn’t have this issue. The carrot hazelnut is almost a thick and creamy soup, with a nutty and soft flavor. Its heirloom tomato is a thick tomato sauce, more mild than marinara, while pecorino and pepper is a wonderfully smoky, nutty cheese sauce.
I would only caution that peanut curry is basically a thin white curry. For those that love spice, don’t get your hopes too high — it’s got just enough to leave you wanting more. The most disappointing, though still delicious, is the salsa verde. You would think it would be mildly spiced and saucy, but it’s more of an oily pesto than a typical salsa. Not to say it isn’t delicious, but don’t expect it to be akin to real salsa verde.
The most fun item on the menu is the poutine. Who doesn’t like the idea of crunchy, thick cut fries drenched in gravy and topped with squeaky cheese curds? Even if you’re not a big fan of cheese it’s an enjoyable dish. The gravy is a lighter, mild brown sauce, which pairs well with the plentiful, smoky and sharp cheese curds on top.
There are additions that include sherry mushrooms, a flurry of foie gras and maple duck confit. They add extra depth and texture to the poutine if you’re looking to elevate it, but at the end of the day it’s still delicious with or without them.
To be honest, I skipped out on the desserts and the salads. In my opinion, if you’ve got a hankering for a carb load, fully commit to it. I don’t doubt their desserts are decent, but after a hearty meal of meatballs and fries, you’ll probably be too stuffed for them. If you really want a side of veggies, I recommend the broccoli.
You can order by calling in or using their website’s online order form. Currently, Sticks & Stones doesn’t deliver, only offering curbside pickups and scheduled orders.
Whatever option you choose, your food will be tasty regardless of how much time has passed. Those fries hold up their crunch (though the cheese does goop up) and the meatballs remain warm and juicy even when you accidentally come to pick up your order an hour later than expected. If this was pre-pandemic, I would be more lenient on this particular takeout experience because of how few people would probably be ordering poutine to go. But that lenience is now gone, replaced with an extraordinarily (and unrealistically) high standard of replicating an exact restaurant experience in a few takeout boxes.
So when you place your order, be generous with your tip. A new restaurant providing great service and food that hits the spot each and every time even in the midst of the pandemic deserves our support and will surely have a loyal fanbase soon — if no one else, they’ve won me.
Sticks & Stones is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and is at 60 East 11th Ave.