When the boyfriend told me he had to make a reservation for The Stanley a couple weeks in advance, my brows raised in anticipation of the cuisine that was to come. I'd heard rumblings about the newest addition to the Elizabeth community but hadn't done much research on it. Now that we had a reservation, it was time to check out the menu and prep for another Queen City date night.
After the loss of some of the local nightlife flavor, such as Philosopher's Stone and Kennedy's, my hope for a solid night out as an Elizabethan faded. I would walk past the new Pet Supplies Plus and tattered Dollar General and sigh. I'd hoped the newest apartment complex would introduce ground-level commercial space, but when the structure was finally completed that hope also faded away.
However, my optimism was restored when I noticed renovations to the Dollar General shopping center and heard whispers of new nightlife spots and/or restaurants being added to the old Heroes Aren't Hard to Find and Crisp locations. *insert emoji praise hands* One of those spots, of course, was The Stanley, a "farm-driven" restaurant concept opened by James Beard-nominated chef Paul Verica and his sous chef son, Alex.
While the space is small — my boyfriend and I counted about 10 small tables and a handful of stools at the bar — let me tell you, the menu packs quite a punch. Before I get into the menu, let me start by saying, our mouths dropped when our waitress informed us that the menu changed six times in the first week it opened in late May.
We perused the menu and decided against the entrees. I've told you before, we don't eat very much in one sitting, and you can't get a good grasp on the true capabilities of a chef if you don't try more than one thing on the menu. Again, #notaselfidentifiedfoodblogger, however, I'll fill you in later on how Chef Verica gave us the ultimate pat on our backs and that's why I don't care what y'all think.
But I digress. We settled on a few small plates, which included:
Beef tartare, radishes, greens, hard-boiled quail eggs, capers, flat bread - $15
Asparagus: as many ways as we could think of - $11
Scallop, fennel, apple, pork belly, lemon, herbs - $15
Peas, carrots, pork belly - $12
Sweetbreads, hot sauce, carrots, celery, blue cheese - $14
Strawberry shortcake (wasn't listed on the menu)
Just so you know, sweetbreads are not actually sweet pieces of bread. They are the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb (according to Wikipedia). DO NOT be surprised. My sweetheart carefully recreated every single dish on our personal plates. I know, I know, heart be still. And I can promise you, every single dish, including the sweetbreads, was phenomenal. I mean, seriously how the actual F do you prepare asparagus three different ways and make it taste good each time?! How do you create carrot foam and make it mouthwatering?! We relished in the moment of the short journey we took with every bite.
And when it was all said and done, you won't believe what happened. As we were wrapping up dessert, Chef Verica stopped by our table and ever so sweetly bent over with his bag over his shoulder and a couple books and said, "I wish every person who came here would eat the way you did." Shocked, we didn't really know how to respond so we just smiled. But um, what?! I wanted to slap my momma I felt so good about that compliment.
Two weeks later, after riding a scooter around Elizabeth and Plaza Midwood for three hours, I donned a pair of boots, threw on a "nice" jacket and walked to The Stanley. For what you may ask? Um, I wanted their perfectly cooked scallops again. No joke, I took a trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, and ended up dreaming about those scallops last weekend. I made it my mission to get scallops for dinner while we were there, but alas, it wasn't the same.
You may be wondering why I thought I could go there on a whim. Just who do I think I am? If we had to wait a couple weeks to get a reservation, why did I think I could just walk in and eat scallops whenever I damn well please?
Well, you're not mistaken in asking that question. You do need a reservation if you're sitting down for date night. However, you can walk in if you can snag a spot at the bar. To my dismay, I took too long getting there and they'd stopped taking walk-ins because they were running out of food for those with reservations (I guess everyone figured out the key to tasting the menu pretty early).
Next time, Stan.