By Ashley Bennett
Home cooking requires the knowledge of what makes good recipes simple, but don’t even think for a second that “simple” means “easy.” You don’t need a recipe that far surpasses your knowledge of experimentation and foreign ingredients (nor do we have the time for such experimentation) to have a dish that tastes amazing. It doesn’t matter whose momma made it, the style of home cooking when done right by a pro, is satisfying to everyone. At Stene’s Southern Kitchen it’s all about the soul food and with it, the best of simple home cookin’.
Business has been slow lately at Stene’s (perhaps because Google Maps is leading everyone astray just like it did to me on the day I decided to drive to Rialto. The place is actually on North Pepper Avenue right off of Foothill). In a small little alcove with two or three other businesses, it’s not really right in sight of the average passerby. To be honest, the inside of the restaurant isn’t anything to look at either (it’s so small that it seats less than 20 people) but Stene’s makes up for its appearance in the time and investment spent on quality food.
The place clearly reminds me of Cheers moments when a regular walks into the bar and, well, everybody knows their name. This is no bar but a few regulars did stop by just to see if owner Ruby Holmes’ famous German Chocolate Cake had been made (it hadn’t yet). Some live down the street and others drive from Moreno Valley to have dinner or order out. Holmes enjoys knowing that people get enjoyment from eating her food; it’s what makes it all worth it. Holmes’ eyes teared up when she mentioned one memorable customer who recently died from cancer. One of the last things this customer wanted was some food from Stene’s. No joke, if that doesn’t prove anything to you then I don’t know what will.
First on your list to try should be an order of Kool-Aid. Trust me; it will gladly compliment Stene’s traditional soul food item: the Chicken and Waffles. One large waffle right off the griddle crowned with two huge chicken wings. Add a bit of maple and that waffle was soon eaten out of existence. The chicken on the other hand has a thin and salty skin of golden brown; great protection to keep in that juicy and tender layer of meat beneath.
If your image of soul food is diving into a plate filled with a generous, heaping amount of food then the listed Six Hot Wings with Two Sides and a Roll is exactly what you’re looking for. This combo offers up a side of dirty rice, fresh macaroni and cheese and hot wings drenched with Holmes’ special hot wings sauce. You may find yourself indulging in the rice and deliciously cheesy mac and cheese first (you’ll see a picture of Ruby holding an entire flat of the stuff on Yelp). I recommend you try these first because the hot wings to follow will spice up your mouth; you won’t be able to taste the cheese of macaroni once it fires up. As for dessert, you might not be lucky enough to visit on a day when the cake or cobbler is available but try out the Lemon Jello Cake. This refreshingly light treat will make you feel slightly less bad about all the food digesting in your stomach.
Ruby works hard to keep her business afloat. It takes a lot of dedication (and very few days off) to keep the orders of chicken and waffles and mac and cheese steadily flowing. Stene’s is a restaurant to be noticed and one certainly to be tasted. When I find myself in Rialto again I’m going to have to stop by to see if I’m lucky enough to get a slice of that German Chocolate Cake I’ve heard so much about.
Stene’s Southern Kitchen, 883 E. Foothill Blvd., (909) 879-8101. Tues-Thurs, 10am-8pm. Fri-Sat, 10am-9pm. Sun, 10am-6pm.