When Zeus Gallery Café closed its doors, we all wondered what would take the place of the neighborhood gem that had been tucked on Belmont Avenue since 1991. After a yearlong renovation, we finally found out when The Stables at Belmont opened last week. Stephen Gooch, who also owns The Franklin Inn, took over the spot, but The Stables is quite a different atmosphere from the homey, Cheers-like casual Franklin Inn.
The new Museum District restaurant is light, bright, and upscale with new floors and a larger bar with 10 stools for snacking and sipping. The kitchen is long, skinny and open, allowing chef Evan Campbell to prep, cook, deliver dishes, and speak fluidly with tables in a small space. Campbell’s menu is high-end New American with Southern, French and Cajun influences. The bar features an elegant craft cocktail selection alongside an extensive wine list. Keep your eye out for wine dinners in the future.
We stopped in for happy hour (yes, deals already!). From 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, guests can enjoy $2 off small plates, $2 off craft cocktails, $1 off wines by the glass, and $1 off draft beers. Heck yes!
After a long day at work, the Appaloosa called to me. Appaloosa is an American horse breed known for its colorful spotted coat pattern. And the drink was a pretty shade of pink-orange from a combination of Sailor Jerry rum, grapefruit juice and lime juice. Shaken until frothy, then dotted with Angostura bitters to provide the spotting on the coat. The beverage was smooth, bright, light, and easy to drink.
Next we sampled the Hitch and Hop, named for the moment when one horse in a pair momentarily breaks its trotting stride to realign its gait to trot in synchronization with the other horse, creating a harmonized pair. The combination of Absolut vodka, fresh pear puree, lime juice, and ginger beer, was indeed spicy and harmonious providing a nice twist on a classic cocktail.
Lastly, we also got the Haflinger, named for a honey-colored horse breed, featuring a smooth blend of Bulleit Rye, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, Angostura bitters, and a touch of honey. This drink was also all too easy to sip.
For food, since it was happy hour after all, we chose a selection of small plates. First up was Southern scallops served over braised collard greens with a crispy herbed polenta cake drizzled with bacon beurre. When the bartender put this dish in front of us, she proclaimed the greens the best around, and I must say, she had a point. The greens were rich and flavorfully cooked without being mushy and the chunks of crispy bacon throughout didn’t hurt one bit. In addition, the polenta cake—a menu item that can be fantastic or a waste based on execution—left us fighting over the last bite. The texture was dead on—crisp on the outside, but dense and cake-like in the middle, making for delectable bite after bite when combined with the tender scallop and lightly textured greens.
Up next, we ordered the beef tartare, featuring tender chunks of beef mixed with zesty Dijon mustard, cornichons, capers, fresh lemon and parsley, topped with a quail egg and served over a bed of arugula with toasted crostini. The key here was the tenderness of the beef—it practically melted in my mouth and the flavor from the delicate Dijon seasoning stood out from other takes on tartare I’ve tasted.
We also had to sample the restaurant’s signature shrimp and “gritscuits.” This dish is basically your traditional shrimp and grits, but the grits are replaced by a biscuit and everything is topped with a spicy, peppery Cajun gravy that took me back to the flavors I’ve tasted on visits to New Orleans.
We also went for the baked brie, which was another twist on tradition, featuring two pieces of toasted crostini layered with warm, gooey brie, and topped with a flaky, savory pastry round. The whole dish was sprinkled with delicious rosemary-infused balsamic-strawberry compote. The little chunks of strawberry goodness made the dish—just the right amount of vinegar added complexity without overwhelming the sweetness from the fruit.
Like we needed it, we also decided to sample one dessert—the bourbon chocolate mousse. Mousse is another of those desserts that can feel like a waste if not done right, but when it’s good, it’s really, really good. When we contemplated ordering this dish, a lady next to us at the bar informed us she was going to wait until we received ours to decide if she wanted an order for herself. Being the amazing bar mates we are, we offered her a spoonful of our dessert. One taste, and she ordered her own. Over on our side of things, we practically spoon fought over every scoop of that silky, dense, chocolatey concoction with just the right hint of bourbon on the finish. I am proud to say I did not lick the bowl despite the obvious temptation. My boyfriend did, however, joke that after dropping me off post-dinner he was going back for another bowl he didn’t have to share. It is unconfirmed whether or not that actually happened.
As of now, The Stables is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. until midnight and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Stables at Belmont is also serving brunch on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., which I can’t wait to try. Pro tip: there are ten parking spaces tucked behind the restaurant for those who hate street parking.