By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When Mesa reception venue Stonebridge Manor took over its food and beverage division four years ago, the move opened the doors to a sea of creativity. Owner Michael Mills, a Gilbert resident, envisioned a lunch bistro, new dishes and, perhaps, a stand-alone restaurant.

All of that came to fruition, with the 4-year-old Bistro à la Mode folding into the new dining destination Board & Batten. The gray- and white-hued restaurant opened in mid-November at the party and wedding space.

“We had the opportunity to have our own chefs and our own staff during the day when we weren’t having events,” Mills said. “In the summer, when it was slow, I still had to employ chefs and servers. We came up with the little lunch bistro, a place we could run during the week. Hence, Bistro à la Mode was born.”

Known for its grown-up grilled cheese and French-inspired menu, Bistro à la Mode was successful, but it was limited to lunch. Mills explained the restaurant didn’t work at night because patrons would have to share restrooms with guests in the mansion.

“This (Board & Batten) all came about because I needed a couple of restrooms,” he said.

Board & Batten focuses on “American iconic food with a little bit of a twist,” Mills described. “It’s very approachable, very comfortable food.”

Starters range from a charcuterie board ($18) to roasted beets ($11). Salads ($15-$17) are topped with interesting ingredients like maple dressing, candied pepitas and basil ranch. Among the entrees are fried chicken ($19), short ribs ($24), duck breast with mushroom duxelle, roasted sweet potatoes and almond green beans ($22) and a pork chop ($24), of which Mills is particularly proud.

“I decided I wanted a pork chop, so I poured through my wife’s cookbooks and found one I needed to try,” he said. “I bought one from the butcher, did a taste test with my family, decided which sauce and brought it back to the kitchen. I said, ‘I want this on the menu – exactly like this.’”

The two chefs, Greg Tompkins and Matthew Brotnov, made the necessary modifications and now the marinated porkchop features caramelized apples, lemon caper sauce, roasted carrots and borsin mashed potatoes.

The pistachio-encrusted basa, or white fish ($20), is another of Mills’ favorite dishes. Bolstered by couscous, roasted seasonal vegetable and raisin chutney, the fish will appeal to seafood lovers and others.

“I do not eat fish,” he said. “But I can’t get enough of (the basa). It does not taste like fish. It’s delicious.”

To top off the meal, Board & Batten offers Italian wedding cake (white coconut cake with cream cheese frosting and raspberry coulis), beignets à la mode, chocolate torte and a salted caramel bar. All of those are $9.

A Mountain View High School graduate, Mills described the Stonebridge Manor operation as having “good synergy.” He hopes that feeling extends to the customers. Board & Batten’s staff prides itself on having top-notch customer service. Mills’ journey has been a fruitful one and he hopes to continue it with Board & Batten.

“We know there are a lot of places people can go and eat,” he said. “We want them to choose Board & Batten.”