WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Stanley is the crossbreeding 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. With its highly visible location on Jackson Square, it is among the best and most popular casual breakfast places in the French Quarter. You can get breakfast any time, but there’s a lot of lunch here, too. Poor boys and hamburgers, salads and gumbo.
Although scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes push their way onto the menu, the brunch-style poached egg dishes are what you came for. The eggs and the sauces are perfect, as are the layers under the eggs (notably the boudin cakes). The use of French bread as a foundation is interesting but makes the eating messy. Let it. The hamburger is excellent but the fried oyster or soft-shell crab poor boys are better. They make their own ice cream, sodas, and malts, but for all that work they’re not especially superior.
Stanley was the germ of an idea for a new convenience eatery in the mind of Chef Scott Boswell when Katrina struck. Boswell is the owner-genius at Stella!, one of the most credible contestants for Best Restaurant In New Orleans. Stella! was unable to reopen right after the storm, so Boswell fired up a charcoal grill in the courtyard and cooked what he could. After a few weeks in emergency mode, he extended what he began calling Stanley (after, of course, the character in A Streetcar Named Desire) into the building in back of Stella!. It served the hamburgers he had been thinking about, along with offbeat breakfast dishes–notably eggs Benedict poor boys. Boswell shut Stanley to reopen Stella!, but he intended to revive the cafe–perhaps as a chain. The opportunity arose to get the former La Madeleine in the historic Lower Pontalba building. After beating Starbucks in the negotiations for the space, Boswell opened Stanley in 2008.
The L-shaped space is heavily windowed, taking full advantage of this historic site in the very heart of the French Quarter. A soda fountain with a long marble counter dominates the interior, with the open kitchen just behind it. Tables line up along the windows. Service staff are agreeable and as snappy as they can be, although things bog down on weekend mornings or any other time the place gets very busy.
»Eggs Stanley (fried oysters, Canadian bacon, hollandaise)
»Eggs Stella (fried soft-shell crab, Canadian bacon, hollandaise)
»Eggs Benedict poor boy
»Breaux Bridge Benedict (boudin, ham, cheese, poached eggs, hollandaise
Scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes
Corned beef and pastrami hash, poached eggs, hollandaise
Pancakes, ice cream, cane syrup; bananas, walnuts, or blueberries optional
»Bananas Foster French toast
Korean barbecue beef poor boy
»Pepperoni pizza Caesar salad poor boy
Omelet sandwich (ham, bacon, cheese, grilled onions)
»Fried soft-shell crab remoulade poor boy
»Fried oyster poor boy
Poor boy sliders
Salads, Gumbo, And Sides
Romaine salad, pesto crostini, chipotle Caesar dressing
Mixed baby greens, raspberry champagne vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onions, pine nuts
Grilled chicken or fried oysters can be added to salads
Shrimp, oyster, andouille sausage, and chicken gumbo
Creole breakfast potatoes
»House-made ice creams
FOR BEST RESULTS
Any time of the day or night, your best bet here is likely to be breakfast, even if that’s not what was on your mind. Better poor boys and seafood are to be had elsewhere in the neighborhood.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Throughout the menu are dishes that sound much better than they are. The Korean barbecue poor boy, the gumbo, the fresh-cut fries and onion rings all are disappointing. The kitchen sparkles but the dining room is unkempt. Every time I go there I want to grab a broom.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value -1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Good view
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- No reservations
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
During the past few years, a surge of interest in the simplest dishes in the restaurant repertoire has had the best chefs in town cooking meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, pizza–and breakfast. In Stanley, we have a major local star chef cooking ham and eggs, pancakes, and the rest of the standard diner breakfast. All day long. And hamburgers for those who don’t eat breakfast save at breakfast.
The place is also a credible competitor to the Cafe Du Monde for the light-snack business on Jackson Square. The food is so appealing that Stanley has gathered, in addition to the expected tourists, a greater number of local regulars than any other restaurant in the 160-year-old history of the Pontalbas.