Once Upon a Stove, 325 Third Avenue (between 24th and 25th St.) is one of the most unusual-yet nicest-places you’ll visit. Imagine a restaurant and antique shop combined, where the very chair you sit in can be sold from under you or the table from in front of you. Imagine falling in love with a Tiffany lamp overhead and deciding you’d like it for dessert instead of one of the delectable eatables on the menu. Really! There are bird cages, portraits, instruments, a 150-year-old printing press, old washing machines, stoves and countless other items, all of which are for sale.
Divided into four dining rooms, Once Upon a Stove is rare indeed. From the street you enter the “Front Room” where you are easily deceived that this is the entire place because of its size. There you’ll find the 1905 Glenwood stove that owner Hank Sgrosso purchased many years ago, an investment that sparked the name of his strange venture. There are many chandeliers centered over round and square oak tables, a long bar at one side and innumerable artifacts lined along the floor, the walls and mantles.
If you venture further, past the kitchen, you’ll come upon a rather sober, quaint room with nothing more in it than half a dozen small tables, which in this otherwise crowded place, is in its own way startling — as if you’d chanced upon a totally different restaurant.
At the end of a backyard passageway you’ll find the dual-leveled “Victorian Room” (formerly an old church), where private parties of all sizes are held.
Behind a bookcase is a hidden stairway leading to the “Valentine Room,” where on weekends the waiters and waitresses entertain a packed dinner crowd. Twice weekly other entertainment is featured, but dinner is served here on weekends only.
Food at Once Upon a Stove is flavorful and eclectic; keeping with the trend, there is no skimping here. Both the luncheon and dinner menus are extensive, but a few examples of entrées from each are: Luncheon — Mushroom and Fine Herbs Omelet [$3.50]; Crêpe of Seafoods [$4.75]; and Stuffed Baked Clams en Casserole [$4.25]. Dinner – Baked Seafood Provençal [shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, touch of garlic butler, trickle of wine, topped with marinara] [$7.95]; Boeuf au Fromage [Sirloin sautéed with a sauce of Roquefort and Parmesan cheeses] [$7.75], and Breast of Chicken Cordon Bleu [ham, cheese and Sherry sauce] [$6.25].
As an appetizer, we tried Ratatoulli Crêpe Parmigiana [eggplant, zucchini, green peppers and tomatoes] [$1.95] and Seafood Crêpe Parmesan [$2.95] and found each just cheesy and delicious enough 10 leave us with that wish-we-had-another-bite feeling. All of the seafood dishes were very good, with thick scallops and large chunks of shrimp and crabmeat. [If the menu said if was filled with fish, it was filled with fish.] Mussel lovers weren’t slighted either; the ones in these dishes were both plump and tasty.
There is a list of desserts for sweet tooth cravers and those we tried were quite good. Some possibilities: Chocolate Mousse [$1.50], Pecan Pie [$1.75], hot Apple Crumb Crêpe with Cinnamon [$1.60], Homemade Walnut Cheesecake [$1.75]. One other, Cheese Pudding with Blueberry Sauce [$1.50], won out as my favorite. It’s made with small sweet blueberries and has a cheesecake flavor. Do sample it if you can find the room.
It should be noted also that Once Upon a Stove offers daily gourmet specialties, such as Chicken and Shrimp Parmesan or Chicken Topped with Crab meat with Hollandaise sauce. Check with your waiter before making a final choice. Wines can be purchased by the glass, carafe or bottle; prices range from $1.50 to $6.
Whether really hungry or just seeking a quick bite, Once Upon a Stove is an eatery you should try. The food will delight taste buds and the atmosphere will intrigue. Lunch — 11 noon-p.m. — Monday to Friday, Dinner — 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. — Sunday to Thursdays — 5 p.m.- 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday — midnight