Random Thoughts

Stearns & Hill Bistro

... good, good!

by Ed Boyd


You can see from the bright red awning sign on the Stearns & Hill's Bistro
that it is right next to the YMCA on Main street right here in Melrose, MA. I
had a lovely talk with Kristen Powers, General Manager of Stearns & Hill's. I
told Kristen that the Melrose Mirror has become interested in celebrating a
few of the fine restaurants that have sprung up in our city in recent years. As
we had been at a delicious lunch recently with friends at Stearns & Hill's and
as a writer for the Melrose Mirror, this would be a good place to start. I also
mentioned that my grand-daughter had her Communion breakfast with
about twenty of various relatives at Stearns & Hill's. Kristen said I had best
talk to the owner, Michael Palmer.   

A few days later I got a phone call from Michael Palmer who said he would be
glad of the publicity and would meet me at 3 pm for a talk. We met at
Stearns & Hill's and I had brought along Tom Dillon, with his camera, to take
pictures. Michael is a burly handsome man about 40 I would guess. He sat us
at a table in the back of the restaurant where we could talk. The Bistro took
over the "Victorian Restaurant," previously owned by Marc Defabritas. The
d�cor for Michael's first seven and a half years was maple floors, solid oak
bar, black chairs and wainscoting. In the summer of 2007 a failed sprinkler
head forced a complete renovation of the space. The property was not in
compliance with the new building and handicapped codes so the adjacent
"Sweet Stuff" had to be taken over. The new Stearns & Hill's Bistro, opened in
late 2008 went from a hundred seats to one hundred and thirty.

Most of Michael's staff has been with him for several years. Kristen Powers,
his general manager, has been with him all along. Michael said this was 'a
steak house' not featuring anything in particular. I said I recently had a
delicious Veal Marsala. He agreed that the veal dish was good but he
emphasized that this is a steak house; witness the menu, Entrees of
chops, steaks and prime rib. Also, the second floor was completed, recently.

When we came to Melrose in 1963, Stearns & Hill, Inc. was a family drug
store with the pharmacist waiting at the counter in back. You could buy
greeting cards and the store had a photo developing service. In about the
1980's this drug store was converted into a restaurant. The sign, Stearns &
Hill, Inc. was kept because it is embedded in white tiles over the door with a
green border and black letters that is virtually indestructible. In my
imaginings, the sign was kept for auld lang syne.  


You can feel the warmth in this restaurant from Tom Dillon's great pictures.
Notice the ceiling of the old drug store. You can see the detail like fleur de
lis. The bar is well appointed and you can also see the detail in the ceiling.
There are different arrangements for seating. Some are for groups while
others are set up for more intimate arrangements. The kitchen is small but
well lit, clean and tidy.

I wrote this several years ago and recently was taken to lunch by our son-in-
law, Bill Wightman. I don't know if the same people run Stearns and Hill
anymore, but the lobster roll was delicious, better than the fish store across
the street.

(p.s.I wrote this in 2009 so you will have to see the pictures in the archives.)   

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