Stephi’s new menus

by Aviva Gat
Wednesday Jan 13, 2010

"What do people like on Sundays?" Stephanie Sokolove asked herself while working on the new specials menu for her restaurant Stephi’s on Tremont. Shepherd’s pie? That’s a Tuesday meal. Maybe coq au vin? Too Thursday. Spaghetti and meatballs? The perfect end to the weekend, Sokolove decided.
In early December, Stephi’s, located at 571 Tremont St, launched its new menus, including nightly comfort food specials ($18), a 3-course early dinner prix-fixe ($28) and a kid’s menu ($7).

"We had an amazing December," Sokolove said, adding that these new items were a response to what the South End neighborhood wants, something she has been judging since they first opened in March 2009.

"We’re a ’yes’ kind of place," she said, emphasizing the importance of catering to the customer. "If someone comes in at 3:30 and says I really want French toast, we’ll make them French toast."

Sokolove said many people are afraid to ask if they cater to children, which is why they added a special kids menu with pictures on the back for coloring.

"At our Newbury location you can see the highchairs from the front, but here they are in the back," she said. "This space is more sophisticated than Newbury, but we’re happy to do children’s food."

The children’s menu features a few items like cheeseburgers or mac and cheese, but the only difference between these and those on the main menu are portion size.

"We don’t use Kraft," said Sokolove. Stephi’s serves its same famous mac and cheese to adults and children alike. Sokolove said they go through about 200 pounds of cheese a week for this dish.

While the kids menu looks limited, Sokolove said they can make any entrée a kid’s portion and adjust the price. Sokolove said she didn’t know if more people with children were coming in, but that "parents who bring their kids are happier."

As for the other new additions, Sokolove said they are still less popular than the main menu, but they are an added bonus for diners. For example, Sokolove said in the South End most people do not have dinner until after 6:30 p.m., so the restaurant is pretty quiet before then, as opposed to the Newbury location, which is consistently busy. To motivate early diners, Sokolove added the 3-course prix-fixe from 5-6:30 pm. All the choices on the prix-fixe are on the regular menu, but if someone were to order the dishes separately, the cost would be greater.

"I’d like to believe it’s a motivator," she said. "You’ve got to be cost sensitive."

The nightly comfort specials are all items that Sokolove wished there was room for on the regular menu.

"You have to be careful with a kitchen that’s as small as ours," she said. "If all these things are on the menu it might be one sauté too many, and no one wants to wait for their food."

Terry Martel and her children Lindsay Buckner and Chris Vaughn-Martel ordered from the 3-course pre-fixe on Tuesday evening. Martel, who lives in Connecticut, said this was her favorite restaurant to go to when she visited her children in Boston.

"I like the concept that you can try three things and not be totally stuffed and not break the bank," she said, before digging into the second course.
South End residents Bret Austhof and Rick Silver decided not to order from the special menus because they offered too much food.

"We’re trying to save calories, not money," said Silver.
"Although the price tempted me," added Austhof.


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