People who love to eat there, others who love to work there, those who love to hang out there and Pencis, who loves to see the look on people's faces when they walk in, sit down to eat and enjoy the entire Stanley's experience.
Even when the closely guarded barbecue technique and recipe is mentioned his comment is not about ingredients or only using pecan wood in the smoker — but rather the care and commitment a place like Stanley's requires.
“The main ingredient in all of the recipes is love,” Pencis said, half-joking but still serious. “You have to really love doing this. Barbecue is a lifestyle and sometimes a really tough gig.”
And the love for Stanley's is multiplying as word spreads about new hours, expanded seating, bigger smoker and plans for the menu. The limited lunch serve from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. is a thing of the past. Stanley's is now open for breakfast from Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then for lunch and dinner from Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. They will also be open until midnight on Fridays with live music and a full bar and closed on Sundays.
“Being open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. has really limited the ability for people to come and see what we are doing. That has gotten more push back from people than selling out of food,” Pencis said.
Located at 525 S. Beckham, Stanley's has been open for nearly 60 years and was started by J.D. Stanley who ran the operation until 2000. In the six years since Pencis assumed management he has been proud to carry on its legacy and garnered national attention for his efforts.
“I wanted a place that felt like a joint, a feel good destination that brought people together. And I felt that the first time I walked in here. I felt that energy here. It was a no-brainer for me,” Pencis said.
Once everyone settles into the new schedule Pencis and his chef, Taylor Richey will be rolling out some new items for the dinner menu that combine Pencis' smoking expertise and Richey's chef techniques.
“I am pushing the meat and the smoker, driving the temp and watching the airflow and then Taylor is coming along behind me with butter, fresh rosemary and other things and using chef's techniques to pull together some really insanely good dishes,” Pencis said.
Things like prime rib, steaks and rib-eyes are just a few of the items they are experimenting with for nightly dinner specials.
A new bar menu is also being created for and smoked poblano queso. happy hour and includes smoked wings, smoked stuffed peppers
Complimenting the bar menu is a full bar where mixed drinks, a selection of bourbons and Texas beers are available. Designer cocktails are also being created with ingredients like smoked sugarcane and salt.
All of the menus will be seasonal and local as different fruits and vegetables become available.
“We've been just a barbecue joint for a while and now were ready to turn the corner and push some new boundaries. We'll still keep it old school but also bring in some new and unique things,” Pencis said.
When it comes to creating a unique dining experience, customer service is at the top of Pencis' priority list
“It's all about one person at a time. Every customer matters. I've wanted every person who left here to go and tell someone else about it and that's how we've built on it – one person at a time.”
I can't tell you that we won't 86 ribs at lunch but we are getting better at not selling out.”
A new pit has been custom-fabricated to increase their smoking capabilities and ensure that menu items are always available.
“The thing is a monstrosity,” Pencis said, referring to the new smoker. “You can't write a manual for barbecue and even if you did it can't be the same every single day. We are constantly trying different ways to tame the beast. It's all about the inside temperature, outside temperature, humidity, wind, rain, sleet, snow, meat condition, weight, where it came from – it's an impossible amount of variables that you are trying to control.”
Pencis knows that Stanley's is putting out great food, but saying it's the best is subjective to the complete atmosphere of the dining experience and not just the barbecue.
“Who knows what's the best burger or the best barbecue. Maybe something is your favorite because you used to eat it with your Grandpa or that was how the place where you grew up did it. It's a memory of that food that makes you happy. That's all part of it. It's not just the food,” Pencis said. “It's the whole experience and I try to think about that in everything we are doing. We have to have great food, the service has to be outstanding but it's also the way you're feeling as you sit at the table and take a bite. What you are seeing, feeling and hearing along with the tasting – it's a full sensory perception that completes the experience.”
“No matter who you are, we want everyone to come here and be comfortable. Stanley's is about barbecue, live music, having fun and being cool to each other. It's that simple,” Pencis said.
Stanley’s Pulled Pork Layer Dip
1 – 2 pound pork roast
Salt, pepper, garlic powder
1 cup water
1 cup Stanley’s BBQ Sauce
1 yellow onion
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
Oil for frying
2 cups mashed potatoes
8 ounces sour cream
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
Rub the pork with salt, pepper and garlic powder and place in a slow cooker. Add water and cook on low for four to six hours until meat is tender and can be shredded with two forks. Finely shred all of the meat and stir in the barbecue sauce. Cut the onion in half, from end to end, peel and thinly slice. In a bowl large enough for the onion slices, stir together the egg and milk. Spread the flour onto a dinner plate. In a skillet, heat ½ inch of oil. Place the onions in the egg mixture and thoroughly coat. Pick up a handful of onions, shake off the excess liquid, toss in the flour and add to the oil. Repeat until all onions are coated and fried. Remove the fried onions to a plate that is lined with a paper towel. In a 9 x 13 baking dish spread the mashed potatoes on the bottom, top with the meat, then the sour cream and cheese. Top with the fried onions and serve with sturdy chips. For testing purposes, Frito Scoops were used.
Recipes by Christine Gardner