Moonstones’ grand opening set for Tuesday, May 20 By Kevin Zimmerman
The bar may be in the same spot, but take one step into the new restaurant on Chelmsford Street and one thing is abundantly clear: this is not the Ground Round.
Inside the design leans toward earth tones including dark wood tables. Chairs and banquettes finished in taupe leather and a marble bar with highly polished silver light fixtures overhead.
Custom-made carpeting has swirls of blue, silver and gold replicating the designs of the moonstone oyster from the shores of Rhode Island.
Additional windows in the bar area bring much-needed sunlight to what was once dark corner of the building.
A large sliding glass and wood door separates the main dining room with its fireplace from the lounge area.
It’s chic, urban and hip without feeling hopelessly out of place deep in the suburbs.
And that’s what co-owners and couple Scott and Kathy Plath hoped to create with their new eatery.
“We worked to create a unique concept that would be a timeless design,” said Scott Plath. “Restaurants are no longer a stop-off for the evening. They are the evening.”
Booths are bigger so more friends can settle in for the night. Menu offerings focus on small plates, which were created for sharing. And specialty beers from around the globe are served in their own unique glassware.
So it’s dinner and a show without the performers.
“People are sick of the same old, same old,” said Kim Mello, head bartender. “This whole concept is new to the area. And it’s fun.”
The concept may be new to the area, but the Plaths are not.
They opened Cobblestones in the heart of Lowell’s historic district 14 years ago. There, the two capitalized on the traditional roots of the community but always tried to raise the bar, said Plath.
“We didn’t want to be to unique,” he said. “So with the filet we served jalapeno butter instead of béarnaise. Today, you can have it with either jalapeno butter or béarnaise.”
While it would have been easy to open Cobblestones II five miles away in Chelmsford, that didn’t interest the Plaths.
For Plath, Cobblestones, right down to its name, represents a rock solid foundation steeped into history. The second location needed to form its own identity, said Plath. So naturally the moon came to mind, he said.
“It’s up in the air, way up there,” said Plath. “We felt it would be great to use that metaphoric representation.”
They settled on Moonstone, which besides bringing to mind rocks from Earth’s natural satellite, just happens to be a New England oyster.
It’s sort of like reaching for the cosmos while staying grounded and close to home.
The menu also happens to set its sights pretty high with dishes from around the world but with a Moonstones twist.
Both head chef, Manny Besana, and sous/pastry chef Tracey Marchetti, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, the premier cooking school in the country are coming from Cobblestones but each has a new agenda, said Scott.
“Where Cobblestones is more traditional, Moonstones is more progressive,” said Plath. “But we’re trying to stay true to the ethnic foundation of each dish.”
Tandoori, a traditional Indian-style of roasting in usually served with chicken or lamb. Moonstones’ kitchen prepares it with salmon and offers spinach saag and potato dosa on the side.
Pork carnitas are slow roasted and served with cumin dusted yucca, queso blanco and guacamole. Twin filet mignon comes with Yorkshire lobster bread pudding, lobster butter and gravy.
Entrees run between $15 and $32.
The small plates, or Tapas, cost between $3 and $7 and include such offerings as fried buffalo calamari with crumbled minted gremolata.
And in a tip o its hat to “the iconic Ground Round, peanuts on the floor and pay what you weigh,” the menu includes a basket of Cajun-rubbed chicken wings for $10.
“For us, this is about being creative and a little different,” said Plath. “We’re not too serious. We’re serious about doing it right, but we want to have a good time.”
Moonstones, located at 185 Chelmsford St., opens Tuesday, May 2 It will serve lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 10 pm. Food will be available in the bar until 11 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. Closed Sunday.