The Stone Balloon. Ten years ago these words would immediately pop into my head when I heard this phrase: dirty, cheap, mug night. Everything an undergrad could want. You could go in and order a beer for $1 in your pre-purchased mug (I still have one of the old original glass mugs) at one of the seven bars strategically placed throughout the dark and winding space. You could hang out in the front to people watch or join the bouncing bodies at the stage as Burnt Sienna or The Zone sang covers.
A few years ago I heard The Balloon was closing, and I was sad, but I was mature enough to realize that it was the end of an era, and it was probably violating hundreds of safety codes anyway. (See? Maturity.) I was shocked to find out that it had been re-opened, with the same name, as a schwanky wine bar that has a decent wine list and good food. As my friend Hilary and I took the train down to Delaware last weekend, I was excited to see how the establishment could pull off schwanky, especially knowing the years (about 165 years, to be exact) of dirt and grime and smoke (and vomit) it would have to erase to make it at all enjoyable and palatable. Then Katie told me they had razed the building to build the wine bar and I had a moment of clarity.
When you walk in, you see a cute sitting area with wine available for purchase:
The bar is fun with light streaming in from the large front windows (notice Katie with her modernized, plastic version of the mug):
The wine list is extensive–about 14 pages long with over 60 wines by the glass (price range $2-$15) and reasonable 2 oz. flights.
Since we were really just going for a pre-drinking and eating celebration, we each limited ourselves to one drink and a shared appetizer:
We ordered the seasonal fruit (apricots) and fresh goat cheese with fresh local Honey Comb, Grilled Bread, and Back Yard Parsley. For $7 it was delicious, but we were ready to move on to more substantial (and cheaper) grub (see my Deer Park post).
The Stone Balloon used to invoke images of sticky floors and a smoky haze, but the new wine bar is classy and cozy with an admirable attempt at upscale dining in small-town Newark. Nice job. I’ll be back.