Anyone who spent significant time in the ‘90s following sports will remember the ill-fated attempts of the greatest basketball player ever to transition to Major League Baseball. Well, I grew up a baseball fanatic, and I also remember watching Michael Jordan flail at the ball and thinking, "Wow. He’s … pretty awful at this.’"
Now that my baseball days are behind me, I’ve dedicated my passion toward food, and yet every now and then I am dragged back through the same old experience of watching really talented minds attempt to overextend themselves. Such was the case for me when I visited Stone Mill Bakery and Café in the Greenspring Station.
I want to start by making it clear that I’ve been to Stone Mill many times in the past. I am a sucker for good bread and at Stone Mill the bread and pastry selection is second to none. Be it beautiful crispy baguettes, or buttery, flaky pastries, Stone Mill knows its way around flour and dough.
I almost never use the word “best” as it tends to spark so much backlash, but this is one time I stand behind it—Stone Mill Bakery has the best hot chocolate in town, nay, in Maryland, nay, in the galaxy. The warm, silky chocolate is rich and luscious and topped with a subtle touch of whipped cream that, when combined, creates a supernova of decadent chocolaty wonderfulness that you cannot overlook.
Now that I’ve sang my praises, it’s time for the bad news.
While I’ve always stuck to the bakery section at Stone Mill, I’ve noticed that the restaurant also features a small but very busy dining room where they serve soups, salads and sandwiches (and most recently a small brunch and dinner selection). Finally I decided to grab a table and sample some non-pastry selections from Stone Mill. Unfortunately, the experience left me wishing I had stuck to croissants and coffee.
The dining room at Stone Mill works on an order-at-the-counter-and-find-a-seat structure, which would be simple enough if the dining room weren’t packed with tables to the point where ordering entails being elbowed in the knees by some poor diner who just wants to eat his soup.
Once you do make it to the counter, you’ll be handed a paper menu, which includes a nice selection of standard soups, salads, sandwiches and even a few selections of pizzas. While there is nothing particularly daring on the menu, I will say it addresses a pretty good variety of tastes and preferences.
One thing I wasn’t too thrilled about was the prices —sandwiches clock in right around $10 and salads and panini reach as high as $15. If you’ve been to Greenspring Station, you won’t be surprised by the high price tag, but after paying nearly $17 for a chicken panini and a bottle of Deer Park, I expect one darn tasty sandwich. I was let down.
A good sandwich starts with good bread, and Stone Mill certainly delivers on that front. Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten the rest of the equation. My chicken breast was bland and rubbery, the avocado and arugula both seemed to disappear and somehow even the applewood smoked bacon had almost no flavor.
I thought my sandwich choice must have just been faulty, but as I tried more selections off the menu it was just miss after miss.
Though I seemed to find few redeeming qualities in the food at Stone Mill, the dining room does seem to always be relatively busy. I suppose this may be a case of me simply not quite seeing what others see, but I am inclined to believe it’s the other way around.
While Stone Mill is absolutely great for what it is, a devoted and talented bakery, that doesn’t mean they’re great at all things related. Just because you’re a great grape farmer doesn’t make you a master wine maker, and just because your sourdough bread is top-notch doesn’t mean you can make a perfect sandwich.
So I suppose Stone Mill will carry on with business as usual despite my best efforts on this page, but all I ask is this: Next time you eat at Stone Mill, take a second to really think about whether the sandwich you just ate was as good as you thought it would be. My bet is you’ll realize there are better options out there.
Either way, don’t forget to wash it down with some hot chocolate.