WHO’S IN CHARGE There was a 30-minute wait for a table for three when we arrived at Nobility Hill Tavern in Stoneham on a recent Saturday night around 8:30 p.m. Two large parties had caused an unusual squeeze.
“We’re a small place,” said owner John Henaghan. “One hundred and ten seats. We’re new, and everyone wants to try us out.”
The place jammed with rock music. Couples and friends with couples, mostly in jeans, crowded into high-top booths or stood near the bar, drinks in hand.
Nobility Hill, named for the district in which it’s located, opened with a limited menu the night before Thanksgiving. When we dined, the full menu had only one week in the hands of executive chef Jamirse De La Rosa, but from the looks of it, the bar business — with craft cocktails, craft beers, and wine — was already established.
Henaghan (pronounced Heenahan with a silent “g”) is a successful restaurateur. A year out of college he bought Whitney’s Café in Harvard Square after bartending there during school. He made such a go of it, he and his wife, Megan, raised four kids in Stoneham. They still own it.
The Henaghans noticed the dearth of family-friendly neighborhood eateries in Stoneham, so they created one.
THE LOCALE Nobility Hill Tavern occupies the building where Felicia’s Italian restaurant once operated in Stoneham Square, a few doors from the Greater Boston Stage Company.
The building was gutted and transformed into a contemporary tavern with gray plank floors, tiled walls that emulate brick, and rustic-style lanterns. Henaghan relocated the bar to the upper level and set a row of high-top booths opposite the bar. A few stairs down, there’s a smaller (quieter) dining area with more booths, tables, and a banquette.
A woman with her hair pulled back stopped to apologize for the wait. “It’s not normally like this,” she said. This was Megan Henaghan. The hostess was their daughter, Caitlin. Their other two daughters, Kerry and Michaela, skirted the crowd eating ice cream sandwiches. Normally, their son, John “Jack” Christopher Jr. would be busing tables, but he was off with the varsity Stoneham hockey team.
When we settled in to order, it turned out that Megan’s sister, Kerry Day, was our server, pitching in for the night.
ON THE MENU Nobility Hill Tavern’s menu reads like American favorites (flatbreads, salads, wings, burger, fish, and chicken) with modest prices. We devoured the Parmesan fries ($6.50) — hot, crispy, and tender tossed in crumbled Parm and parsley, with herb aioli for dipping. The grilled flatbread with roasted tomato, basil, and mozzarella ($9.50) was adored by some and thought undercooked by others. We also sampled the mac and cheese ($12).
De La Rosa, a former garde manger at 22 Bowen’s in Newport, R.I., and a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, has already made her mark.The baby back ribs ($12/half rack; $20/full rack) come with house-made sweet-n-spicy barbecue sauce, baked beans, house pickles, and tender warm corn bread. The simple yet satisfying Budda Bowl ($12) is a salad of kale, avocado, quinoa, roasted beets, carrot, beans, and whipped goat cheese with ginger-carrot dressing.
Hearsay has it there’s a chocolate mousse worth returning for (it was sold out) and a young budding chef to keep an eye on.
Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to closing, and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nobility Hill Tavern, 423 Main St., Stoneham, 781-435-4002; nobilityhilltavern.com.