Located on the quiet end of Hill Street, The Stocking Frame has been open since early July in the ground floor of an old brick building. The name references the 1917 building's original function as a garment factory -- a stocking frame is a mechanical knitting machine that was widely used in the textiles and garment industry.
The restaurant was opened by Jerry Aschoff, who also owns Lola Gaspar in Santa Ana. It's a massively cavernous space, more than 7,000 square feet, though it's not organized at all like a giant restaurant. Instead, a lot of space is given to everything -- the curved bar to one side, the small collection of tables in the center of the room, the eclectic decorations (like a massive antique stove filled with candles).
The Stocking Frame bills itself as a "bar and refuge," and it's clear they're hoping to become the neighborhood's best hangout. There's a small but ambitious cocktail list, a smart beer list, and a food menu that is part well-conceived drunk food and part European-influenced bites that show some real promise.
A Rittenhouse rye cocktail made with Cynar and Nux Alpina, an Austrian walnut syrup, had a beautiful smoky character, in part thanks to a hint of sea salt.
There are pork belly and octopus tacos, or you can go more straightforward with fried oyster tacos, topped with "hot sauce slaw." Grilled figs come with musky duck prosciutto and aged manchego. There's a smoked trout crostini with cream cheese and apple celery salad that will make you genuinely nostalgic for 1970s cocktail parties.
The menu is rounded out by a few heavier entrees, like a porchetta (which was a tad under-rendered and fatty) with braised beet greens. There's also pizza. Of course there is.
The restaurant claims that there is no one chef or bar manager. Both the food and cocktails are produced by "collaboration." A second bar is planned for the back room, with its own menu and vibe. That ought to be open within the next couple of months. In the meantime, the current setup feels like an art project and clubhouse that just happens to have great drinks and some pretty impressive food as well.
See also: our First Look archives.
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