Stone's Smokehouse & BBQ Is in Brea's Backcountry But Worth the Visit
Cue the David Allan Coe...
Photos by Brian Feinzimer
The address of Stone's Smokehouse & BBQ officially says Brea, but it's actually in the area locals refer to as Carbon Canyon. More specifically, it's in the village of Olinda, a tiny, isolated hamlet tucked amongst the chaparral-covered wilderness of Chino Hills State Park. To get to it, you need to drive east on Lambert, past the oil fields and the new tract homes, until the lanes shrink to become Carbon Canyon Road, a curvy two-lane shortcut route to Chino Hills that twists and turns for 8 miles through steep canyons and narrow passes. You might spot a coyote or two on your journey.
About a third of the way into the backcountry, you'll see a mobile-home park. Take the next left. If you find yourself in a parking lot with rumbling Harley-Davidsons, you're in the right place. Stone's Smokehouse is popular with bikers, as well it should be. It's essentially a roadhouse that serves beer and down-home American food that you would expect from roadhouses of its ilk.
The restaurant is split into two parts: a dining room and a hall with long, lacquered wood tables and benches. The hall resembles a converted barn. Wagon-wheel chandeliers dangle from the ceiling; throughout the space, there are more cattle horns and saddles than you'd expect to find inside any building not located in Frontierland. A sign between two revolvers carved from wood reads, "We Don't Call 911" while another says, "Y'All Come Back Now, Y'Hear?" About the only thing missing are peanut shells on the floor and an albino playing a banjo.
Stone's has only been open since summer, replacing a Mexican joint. But if you were told it's been there forever, you'd believe it—it looks timeless. Someday soon, its owners hope to invite country-music acts to play on the hall's small riser. In the meantime, it's where they host open-mic nights and karaoke.
Though it may be tempting to go to Stone's on weekend nights to show off the roar of your own hog or wear a bolo tie, the best time to come is during Sunday brunch—and not just because daylight makes the trek less treacherous. Brunch brings the regular menu, the lunch specials and eight additional items, including a breakfast burrito that weighs about 2 pounds. If you order the burrito, cut it in half first—it's nigh impossible to finish in one sitting. It becomes obvious why when you see its cross-section: packed solid with meat—either tri tip or tender pulled pork—plus just enough scrambled eggs, cubed potatoes, cheese and chunks of avocado to fill in the rest.
If you're not a breakfast-burrito-for-brunch kind of person, the kitchen actually offers eggs Benedict (albeit with smoked salmon and chipotle in the hollandaise) and bottomless mimosas, each for $10.95. But when you're here and your waitress looks as if she's two auditions away from being the next Carrie Underwood, you feel almost obligated to order something less froufrou and Yankee—such as the Stone's Skillet, two fistfuls of tater tots served in a small cast-iron pan and smothered with good chili, melted cheese, more eggs, sour cream and chives. And to wash it down: coffee, black, in a foam cup. Best yet, you don't have to pay for the coffee—it comes free with the meal.
If you do want barbecue, the Lunch Special price for a combo—with baby backs, a quarter of a chicken, plus one side—undercuts what Lucille's charges by at least three bucks. The ribs come out pre-shellacked in the usual sticky sauce, the meat falling apart with just a tug of your teeth. The chicken, however, is an exemplary example of a barbecued bird, bursting with juice. The sides are also great, especially a cold potato salad showered with crumbled bacon and chopped scallions, as well as a refreshing coleslaw with hints of mint.
One of the best dishes you can have at Stone's is the fish and chips, which is advertised on a hand-painted sign you pass along the road if you're coming from Chino Hills. It's a whole breaded catfish filet, fried to order and served greaseless. In fact, anything that comes out of Stone's deep fryers is a guaranteed winner. The hot wings (which can be coated in Buffalo or barbecue sauce, even served half and half) are consistently crisp. The fried zucchini are as delicate as tempura. And though the kitchen might not always have Twinkies in stock to be deep-fried for its most popular dessert, you can bet when they're available, those bikers will be the first to order 'em. Stone's Smokehouse & BBQ, 150 Olinda Place, Brea, (714) 600-5026; www.stonessmokehousebbq.com. Open Tues.-Thurs., 4-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Plates, $8.95-$20.95. Beer and wine.
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