Stonehouse like eatery in Oroville, not Yountville

The plan for reopening the Stonehouse as the venue for the county’s youth training program will be presented to the Nevada City Council on Wednesday.

Here’s some interesting background: The program, which starts June 1, is modeled after a successful youth training program in Oroville, at a popular Italian restaurant restaurant called Checkers. The Web site is here.

The program started nine years ago, and Checkers has grown into a *self-sustaining business* and is popular with the locals.

“A great stop is Checkers,” according to a review on CNET’s Chowhound food and restaurant site. “OK, the wait staff is kids, but it’s for a good cause, and the food is great at a cheap price.”

Another added: “Checkers has the best food in Oroville.” (Chowhound is a food site worth bookmarking).

Checker’s lunch menu shows lunch entrees for just $4.25, including Chicken Vesuvio (roasted chicken thigh with white wine and artichoke sauce with a side of roasted potatoes) and Fettuccini Alfredo.

The county program here will target youths between 16 and 24 years of age for hospitality training. Unlike Checkers, The Stonehouse *only* will provide food service and meeting space for private parties and special events, at least for now.

I’m sure some local residents will turn up their noses, preferring that Stonehouse is a “destination restaurant” like one in Yountville or Sonoma.

“OK Skippy,” is my retort. That’s just not happening. The building has sat vacant for months. It has been vacant in previous times too. One longstanding drawback: the freeway stands between the restaurant and the busier side of the downtown.

There definitely is downside risk to this venture: the youths not behaving or not doing what they should, close to public parks and trails. Sure, I worry about that. But that’s up to the supervisors to, well, supervise the youths.

Its also up to our community service offers to do their jobs.

Bottom line: I think this is a pragmatic solution that addresses the realities of our towns (not the fantasies) — a government lease that gets paid on time; training our ranks of rural “at-risk” youth, putting them to work and building self esteem; and a chance to build a self-sustaining business across from the main part of downtown.

I call that a “win-win-win.” Maybe Thomas Keller will come here one day and create a Michelin-rated restaurant such as the “French Laundry” in the Stonehouse, an elegant building for sure. But for now, this is a practical plan.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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