of restaurants near New Orleans’ Jackson Square. There are three that try to attract the tourist crowd about which at least one on-line commenter remarks “Worst Restaurant Ever.” There is an upscale white table cloth restaurant which invites leisurely dining--not for someone in a hurry. And then there is Stanley Restaurant.
“Stanley is the brainchild of Chef Scott Boswell. Since opening his flagship fine-dining restaurant, Stella! in 2001, he entertained the idea of a more casual counterpart. Even before he had a location, Chef Boswell imagined a menu—a menu of traditional American comfort food with a twist...Chef Boswell could hardly wait to unveil Stanley to New Orleans” (stanleyrestaurant.com).
But like so many restaurants, Stanley Restaurant’s story is one of Katrina. “Proving the truth of the adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ in the days following Katrina, when the Quarter was an isolated island of intrepid survivors determined to carry on regardless, and few, if any, places to eat were open (in New Orleans, that's how you know a disaster has hit), the chef-owner of Stella! began serving sandwiches and grilling burgers on the sidewalk. He ended up serving 3,000 meals in 9 days…” (frommers.com).
“Since Stanley was the first restaurant in the city to offer made-to-order food, it was an instant hit. Serving more than five hundred burgers a day to emergency workers and media was Stanley's way of supporting the city's valiant attempt to nurse itself back to life. With neither utilities nor a constant source of supplies, it was hard to keep up—but Chef Boswell and his team persisted non-stop...” (stanleyrestaurant.com)
Stanley Restaurant was the first new restaurant to open in New Orleans post-Katrina and occupies the space in one of the two Pontalba Apartment buildings (The oldest apartment buildings in the United States. Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba built the buildings in the 1840’s when Jackson Square was called "Place D'armes.") that once housed La Madeleine. Through the tall windows, one is afforded a glimpse of the activity on Chartre and Saint Ann Streets and on the plaza fronting the Cathedral.
“A chef's imprint is clear on Stanley's menu, from the ephemeral, buttery froth of Creole hollandaise over poached egg dishes to the cross-cultural oddity of the Korean barbecued beef po-boy. One reason Stanley works so well is that the culinary flourishes do not overshadow its primary role as a short-order eatery” (Ian McNulty at bestofneworleans.com).
Or, as described at nomenu. com: “Stan-ley is the cross-breeding of a poor boy shop and a Sunday brunch place. Like the mule and the moulard duck, it has qualities that its parents lack, but it is not likely to have offspring…You can get breakfast any time, but there's a lot of lunch here, too.”
So we find ourselves at Stanley Restaurant one evening for dinner before another Cathedral concert. The menu contains a number of breakfast options and some interesting twists on more familiar items: the French bread pizza with pepperoni, provolone, and mozzarella cheeses, basil pesto, romaine lettuce, and house-made spicy chipotle Caesar dressing; the omelet sandwich with eggs, smoked ham, smoked bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, and spicy mayonnaise on toasted whole grain bread; the soft-shell crab poor boy with cole slaw and spicy remoulade and Creole cocktail sauces on toasted French bread; poor boy sliders—smaller individual versions of the oyster poor boy, Korean barbeque beef poor boy, and club Stanley sandwich.
But I was here for the item that piqued my interest when I reviewed Stanley’s menu on-line—the Korean barbeque beef poor boy with marinated beef tenderloin, sweet and tangy Korean barbeque sauce and house kimchee on toasted French bread. Our server warned me that this would be a “coldish” sandwich since the beef is cooked rare to medium-rare and then topped with the kimchee. No problem!
This sandwich was—to quote Guy Fieri—“off the hook.” Tender and fat and gristle-free strips of meat were seasoned with a sauce that tasted of garlic, soy, and some form of sweet Asian sauce. And the kimchee was appro-priately spicy, but not as spicy as some kimchees I have eaten. (Kimchee is a traditional Korean dish of spicy fermented seasoned cabbage and is considered to be the national dish of Korea.) The downer was the bread from a French Quarter bakery on which the sandwich was served. The top half was too fluffy and the bottom crust proved to be resistant to cutting with knife and fork.
Chuck went to the breakfast menu and ordered the Bananas Foster French Toast which was made French bread, sliced bananas, house-made Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, and toasted walnuts with Foster sauce. The dish contained five slices of French bread swimming in a pool of a sweet brown sugar sauce/syrup served with liberal slices of banana and toasted walnut pieces. This could substitute for dessert—but who would want to substitute dessert?
He also ordered a side of breakfast potatoes made with bits of onion, green pepper, and scallion rings and
“kissed” with just a hint of cayenne pepper for interest.
We checked our watches and decided that yes—we had time for dessert. We considered the banana split. We considered the Stella Uptown with three scoops of rum raisin ice cream, carrot cake, sweet cream cheese sauce, whipped cream, toasted walnuts, and a cherry, but we chose the Stanley Split with three scoops of chunky Chartres ice cream on a banana, fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), chocolate sauce, whipped cream, toasted walnuts, and a cherry.
We so enjoyed our dinner that we returned a few mornings later for breakfast. I know that Chuck really wanted to order the French toast again but, in the name of culinary diversity, decided to order the Stanley Classic with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, Creole breakfast potatoes, and toast. While everything was of the highest quality and impeccably prepared, it was still bacon and eggs.
I vacillated between the Eggs Stanley (cornmeal-crusted oysters, poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and Creole hollandaise on a toasted English muffin); Breaux Bridge Benedict (Charlie T’s boudin, smoked ham, American cheese, poached eggs, and Creole hollandaise); and Eggs Stella (cornmeal-crusted soft-shell crab, poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and Creole hollandaise on a toasted English muffin).
It wasn’t until the server came that I made my decision—the Breaux Bridge (named for a city near Lafayette, LA) Benedict. Almost all parts of this dish were perfect. The eggs were poached medium firm. The hollandaise was rich and smooth and bright with lemon. And the boudin was the best I have eaten with a meat to rice ratio that favored the meat and with shreds and chunks of pork rather than ground pork. (We will be spending three months in close proximity to Charlie T’s store and I plan to be a frequent visitor.)
The only downside was again the bread. Just as with my poor boy, I had trouble cutting the bottom crust.
I would love to give Stanley Restaurant 5.0 Addies but I just can’t get past the bread. So 4.5 Addies it will be.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.