I often find myself at Stanbury in Raleigh on special occasions.
The hip, demure restaurant located in the quiet, tree-lined streets of the Mordecai downtown Raleigh neighborhood evokes the qualities as a good place for birthday and anniversary celebrations. Solid food. Great cocktails. Pricey, but not justly so. Quirky, ambiance, but not off-putting. With personality and without pretense despite the number of people clad in flannel shirts and denim cutoff shorts inside.
I recently revisited Stanbury to commemorate for one of those occasions. Many of my favorites remain on the menu, unscathed, but perhaps tweaked to reflect seasonality. Rattling off names of the dishes at Stanbury requires you to shed any semblance of daintiness and modesty to which you may profess to cling.
Crispy Pig Head a la Los Angeles’s famous restaurant Animal: like a State Fair deep-fried confection, but sophisticated. Unctuous (yes– eye roll– unctuous) pulled pork from you guessed it—the pig’s head– fried into a croquette and served over a caper palate cleanser.
Roasted Marrow: the dish that makes you feel like a ravenous Neanderthal as you glide your itty-bitty tea spoon through the glistening, gelatinous marrow and as you smear it across your crispy crostini from local baker Boulted Bread. Did it make you feel kind of oleaginous as you ate it? Yes. But, was it delicious? Hell yes.
The variations on oysters, mixed green salad, crispy sweetbreads, scallops and the homemade tagliatelle all remain on the menu.
One dish that night, though, had me jonesin’ for more.
The smoked lamp chops. The vibrant aesthetic of the dish alone commanded your attention; specifically the vivid magenta hue from the beets and goat cheese combination. Set against a perfectly-draped mint leaf and a stack of smoked lamb chops, well, frankly it was practically constructed for Instagram. Looks aside, the juicy, tenderness of the lamb inside, imbued with a pleasant smoky flavor, was a little slice of ambrosia. It was tempting not to order more. We didn’t. Plus, I had already accidentally stained my shirt (bright beet juice is not a friend to articles of light-colored clothing).
Service that night was a bit brusque, yet thankfully not obsequious. We skipped dessert but gleefully wolfed down the after-dinner chocolate from Escazu, the artisan chocolatier next door, and honestly the very reason we skipped out on sweets from Stanbury.
We departed without any reservations, knowing full and well that we’d be back soon—for life’s next big celebration.