Convention has, until now, dictated that it would be undesirable to view the severed shoulder of a cow while eating a steak sandwich. At Grass and Bone, these conventions collapse. The restaurant pushes the limits of what a farm to table restaurant, or a farm to butcher to table restaurant can do, restoring our authentic relationship with food that has become distant over time.
Guests are drawn toward the front counter where they can purchase freshly butchered meat to take home, or order a meal. Attached to the counter is a glass case that displays certified organic pork, pasture-raised ground beef, NY strip steak, and ribeye, and behind it, chicken turns in the auburn light of the rotisserie oven. Also on display is that butchered cow shoulder or a side of ribs, organically raw and pink in the tasteful glow of a glass refrigerator. It is situated behind the high-top tables, and as I chewed my food I surveyed its contents. There is nothing grotesque about it. Guests know exactly where their meat comes from, from its literal placement in the butcher shop to information on the local farm where it was raised.
I sipped a glass of Sangiovesi, their house red wine, as I savored my rotisserie chicken on a stylish metal tray, softly lit by candles — fine dining meets a casual atmosphere at Grass and Bone. The deep green wall paper is patterned with blades of grass and wheat, giving the space a cozy feel, and the countertops line the perimeter of the seating area so guests can look out into Mystic or over the counter at the staff in action. The hardwood floors, thick wood tables, vintage ceiling lamps, and traditional butcher table displaying a few books gives it a friendly atmosphere; a familiar feel for locals and tourists alike.
I had the pleasure of tasting two of the staple entrées on the menu, the Rotisserie Chicken; hormone and antibiotic free, free-range chickens from a Mennonite farm called Free Bird (Frederickburg, PA), and the Hand Carved Roast Beef Sandwich; with roast beef from Beriah Lewis Farm (North Stonington, CT), Melville Cheese from Mystic Cheese Co. (Lebanon, CT), raw onion, pickles, and garlic mayo, all layered between fresh, fragrant focaccia bread from Farm to Hearth bakery (Haddam, CT). I was tempted to put down my utensils and use my hands to get every morsel of the rotisserie chicken. Salted and slow roasted in thyme, paprika, and garlic, it is moist and flavorful, and several homemade sauces are available for dipping — my favorite being their signature garlic mayo. The roast beef sandwich is a mouthful in the best way possible, where every ingredient, because it is so fresh, has its own distinct taste. The 21-day, dry aged roast beef matched with the Melville Cheese is unreal. Perfectly dressed in garlic mayo, the onions give it some crunch and the focaccia bread is the ideal amount of bread in such a beefy (no pun intended) sandwich. In simplest terms, everything was savory and flavorful, down to the pickle.
Entrée sides aren’t just ordinary sides, where the usual options in delis or sandwich shops are a bag of chips or coleslaw, but range from Fat Roasted Potatoes to Heirloom Apples with Autumn Spices. This is both indicative of the hard work and care that goes on behind the counter, and the natural undulation of produce availability that is inevitable when a chef chooses local food and cannot rely on imported products. What’s served is what’s available, and Grass and Bone not only adjusts to this, it embraces it.
A staple side on their menu is Whit’s Corn Bread with Maple Butter, which is arguably the best corn bread in New England, and unquestionably the cornbread with the most integrity. It is made from cornmeal from Davis Farm (Pawcatuck, CT), first established in 1654 and now in the hands of its eleventh generation of farmers. It’s difficult to find the real stuff anymore, but Grass and Bone found it, and it is heavenly; the maple butter melted on top sweetens every bite.
To highlight one last, but important point, Grass and Bone doesn’t only serve local products, they sell them as well. In the same way that customers can purchase meat, they can also buy bread from Farm to Hearth, or produce from Stone Acres Farm (Stonington, CT). The restaurant reaps the benefit of local abundance and makes it available, bringing it together for the customer in a tasteful, practical way.
Grass and Bone: Open daily 9am to 9pm / grassandbonect.com / 860.245.4814 / 24 East Main Street, Mystic, CT