Columbia Loves 44 Stone

A traditional, British pub tempered by contemporary American intuition has rocketed one local restaurant past expectations, both geographically and gastronomically. The proof is in the numbers. Columbians nominated 44 Stone Public House for nine of Inside Columbia magazine’s Best of Columbia 2013 awards — the most nominations garnered by any nominee in this year’s competition.

Located more than 4,000 miles from the public-house motherlands of the British Isles, Australia and India, 44 Stone offers creative yet traditional pub-friendly fare. Removed from the pressurized, downtown Columbia dining scene, the restaurant at 3910 Peachtree Drive features curved walls set against mixed natural elements of stone and wood with high ceilings and sleek, comfortable furnishings throughout its large rooms.

Nine isn’t the only number to carry weight with the British-inspired pub; the name weighs in pretty heavily as well. When using an old English unit of weight, one “stone” is equal to 14 pounds in currency terms. Owners Mark Sulltrop and Dave Faron had 44 stones between them when they opened 44 Stone Public House on Feb. 15, 2011.

“Columbia was perfect for a gastro pub,” Faron says. “No restaurant fit the model exactly that was here in town.”

Executive chef Mark Sulltrop and front-of-house chief Dave Faron met while working together at Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar in Columbia. Sulltrop, then executive chef at Bleu, hired Faron to be his sous chef. Inspired by Faron’s familial ties to the British Isles and the duo’s lifelong commitment to cooking in a warm, enjoyable atmosphere, Faron and Sulltrop opened 44 Stone where they collaborate on menu ideas and oversee their close-knit staff.

The co-owners work in tandem, complementing each other’s skills. Fayette native Sulltrop runs the kitchen. A self-taught chef, he has worked at Les Bourgeois Vineyards, Bleu, The Tiger Hotel and Upper Crust Bakery and Café.

Faron oversees the bar and front-of-house. The St. Louis native attended DePaul University and the University of Missouri. He has cooked in Italian and French restaurants in St. Louis and Chicago; in Columbia, he was sous chef at Bleu and executive chef at Jack’s Gourmet Restaurant.

The two take inspiration from all manner of world cuisine, saying they “embrace food with big bold flavors, using approachable ingredients in a nonpretentious manner.”

In the two years since opening, 44 Stone is growing into itself. The quality-driven core menu remains, but changes seasonally, and the restaurant’s demographic has grown, “allowing more diverse ingredients and cuts of meat,” Faron says.

“The beer menu has changed dramatically,” he adds, “and the beer focus has shifted from an emphasis on English/Scottish/Irish beers to the most exotic and high-end domestic and imported craft beers available.”

With 12 beers always on tap and a rotating selection of more than 90 types of bottles and cans, Faron says, “we believe we have become the premier craft-beer destination in town.” Imperial India pale ales and Belgian-style beers are the bar’s most popular drinks.

The whiskey selection, ranging from Irish to Scotch to bourbon, has tripled. The restaurant also boasts a small, but high-quality wine list. The pub’s most popular food item is the 44 Stone Burger. For traditionalists, the fish and chips are always hot, fresh and in demand.

Faron says he hopes diners leave 44 Stone feeling full and satisfied, having tasted something new. “And if they’re slurring their words a little from the high-octane beer and whiskey,” he adds, “I hope they say they’re gonna call Taxi Terry.”

The service is as important as the food, Faron says. “Our service staff interacts with the guests in a very convivial way; no formality here,” he says. “Our regulars have become friends with staff members. Guests tell me that they can tell my staff enjoys working here, so that is reflected in the service.”