BrownStones sets new standard for local dining

It's clear that stepping into BrownStones, a moderately priced restaurant located in the Finch/Wellington plaza once occupied by an Esso gas station/convenience store and the now-defunct Puck Around sports bar, you've found something entirely different from most restaurants in the area.

And that's exactly what owner John Willis has intended.

The concept, which Willis created from ideas he's both developed and absorbed in a career that began as a 14-year-old dishwasher all the way through his most recent experience at Boston Pizza, is astoundingly simple yet elegant in the way the details have come together.

Both a sports bar and casual dining establishment, BrownStones got its name at least in part from a box of Crayola crayons that Willis' wife Holly suggested he turn to for ideas.

"They (Crayola) have some great names for their crayons," said Willis. "When I came across the simple 'Brown' the rest of it just came to me and I felt it had just the right feel for what I wanted to achieve."

Indeed, Willis could hardly sleep that night, coming up with more and more ideas for what may in fact be the first of a series of BrownStones restaurants.

But first things first.

Once the business plan for BrownStones was crafted and the financing was put together, it took Willis and his team a remarkably short three months to build the facility.

In the area closest to Finch (west for those who are not compass-challenged), visitors enter the sports bar part of BrownStones, which includes a spectacular 10-foot by 6-foot video wall, computer controlled and made up of separate high-def monitors that appear nearly seamless in their configuration.

High tables nicely configured to allow for multiple groups and surrounded by booths along the interior walls are part of the well-thought-out design.

On the other side of BrownStones, seating at "conventional" tables is available, along with a view of the kitchen, the style of which should be familiar to anyone having watched Gordon Ramsay's TV escapades.

There's also a nicely separated area that Willis expects to be very popular for special groups.

Pointing to the unique graphic image that's on both the outside of the building and throughout the interior, Willis explains:

"The pillars are a reference to what we believe is at the heart of BrownStones–Quality, Service and Atmosphere."

BrownStones is open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to midnight.

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