I tend to get into ruts as far as places I dine, always going back to my favorite couple places that are close by and I know I’ll get a good meal. I think we are all guilty of that to some degree, especially once we become a “regular” and the staff know our names and we end up getting that extra special treatment.
Every once in a while, I venture out into uncharted territory (which for this island girl is anything east of 75th Street) and try a new place. I just so happened to stumble upon a new gem of a restaurant while in town with my boyfriend one evening. I was pleasantly surprised when we decided to try the new Stone Bowl Pan-Asian Restaurant on Manatee Avenue.
Knowing this building once housed an Arby’s back in the day, I was impressed with the new interior. There was absolutely no way one could know this was once a fast food chain. The remodel went way past a fresh coat of paint, the entire dining area has been redesigned. The new tile-that-looks-like-wood floor, modern lighting with spacious booths and tables a new architecturally interesting drop ceiling creates a comfortable and inviting dining experience far removed from the buildings’ fast food origins. The sushi bar at the entrance allows diners to sit behind the glass and watch chefs prepare fresh sushi rolls that are fantastically priced, starting at just $5 for a tuna roll.
Although we sat at a booth across from the bar where it was nice to be able to watch the sushi chefs at work. We started with an appetizer of spring rolls that were obviously made fresh to order. Rather than sampling the sushi this round, we opted for the signature Stone Bowl dinners. The bowls come with rice or noodles, your choice of beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu, served in a wide variety of choices from Hibachi to an “Asian Cajun” which sounded interesting. On our first trip, we went with the Hibachi, which came with fresh veggies sautéed in hibachi seasoning. It was a lot of food for the $8-9 price tag, with the veggies cooked perfectly, still having that bit of a snap to them, not mushy and overcooked. The staff was friendly and attentive. All said and done, our meal for two, including appetizers and salad was less than $50 including a nice tip.
It wasn’t long, maybe a week…and we were back. The second time we visited I got the Thai inspired Coconut Curry, which I have to say was almost as good as the version my sister makes.
Our third visit as we walked in the door, a patron who was leaving leaned over to us smiling and said “Sorry, we ate all the sushi”. After a “Nah, just kidding”, he went on and on of how much he and his wife love the place and that they eat there at least once or twice a week. By this point we certainly understood why, since this was our third visit in a little over a month. I am pretty sure I have found a new place to get into yet another dining rut. This one isn’t too far east of 75th street, but it’s a start.
Stone Bowl has a very easy online ordering system for takeout. You can check it out at www.StoneBowlFl.com for those busy weekday evenings in between work and getting the kids to and from soccer practice. For lunch, they offer great deals on Bento Boxes, which for only $7.95 gives you a dozen main dish choices served with a California Roll, vegetable and white rice. That’s impressive since hard to get out of Subway anymore for less than $8 a head. If sushi is your lunch of choice, take advantage of the two rolls for $7.50 or 3 for 9.50 deal. The only hard part would be narrowing it down from the list of 24 different rolls to choose from. This place is a dream come true for people like me who are frugal (it just sounds better than cheap) and happen to love sushi.
Stone Bowl Pan-Asian Kitchen and Sushi is conveniently located at 5516 Manatee Ave. W. In Bradenton. You can order ahead online, call ahead at 941-761-8899 or fax your order to 941-761-8877.