Deno Stanley’s Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille adds Greek family flavors to pub food favorites.
When Deno Stanley moved back to his hometown of Charleston in 2000, he purchased and quickly turned around a struggling auto repair business on the city’s East End. It’s somewhat of a family tradition. Like so many go-getter immigrants, Stanley’s family are serial entrepreneurs. His Greek-born grandparents were longtime restaurateurs, and his late father, Spyro, was the “parking lot king” of Charleston who also owned a car wash and numerous restaurants and bars. It’s no surprise Stanley smelled an opportunity eight years ago and opened his own bar and grille in the heart of downtown: Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille. 218 Capitol Street, Charleston, 304.343.5551, adelphiasportsbar.com
There was no place to eat downtown. After 6 o’clock, Capitol Street was a ghost town because it was all law firms, PR firms, and accounting firms. I kept saying if somebody would put a restaurant in downtown they’d probably do good.
I spent about four months on the building process and built the kitchen first so I could work on my menus and things. I was working on my recipes every night after I sent everybody home. My friend Doug Miller, who is an executive chef, helped me with my first menu. Plus he turned me on to food suppliers. He helped me with more upscale products. I didn’t want to do watered-down chain items. My position was, if it doesn’t work, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, but at least I’m going to eat good for a year.
I don’t have many heroes but, business-wise, Colonel Sanders is one of my heroes. I thought, I have to be like KFC—I have to have my “11 herbs and spices.” I have to have something you can’t get anywhere else.
One of them was my Adelphia Sauce, my wing sauce, which will be bottled. You can go online and order it, or you can buy it in-house. My salad dressing, Ya Ya’s Dressing, is my grandmother’s recipe. I’m gonna bottle that, too.
When my dad was still alive and I was working on the menu, he was my guinea pig. When I would cook my grape leaf rolls, I’d be like, “Are these like your mother’s?” And he’d say, “no.” And I’d be like, “Dad, this is her recipe. I watched her make them a thousand times.” Nothing was going to taste like his mother’s. My brother lived with my grandmother forever, and she cooked every day. I gave them to my brother and he said, “I haven’t tasted that in years! You’re on it.”
The deep fried feta was a lucky, happy accident. I couldn’t find any onion rings I liked, so I was going to make my own. I had Doug come down from Columbus. I was working on the seasoned batter, we had feta there, and he said, “Let’s deep fry some feta in this batter.” It wouldn’t really hold—you’d batter up your feta and throw it in the fryer, and it would blow out. We worked with it a little bit to solidify it. There’s two little tricks we did to make it stay solid in the batter. Then we put it on a piece of pita, we put on some diced onions and tomatoes, we put some Ya Ya’s drizzle on it, and topped it off with some kalamata olives.
The first time I knew I was onto something was, I had been open about three months. I was standing out front, and some girl comes running up the street. It was like 11:30 at night. She had this crazy look in her eye. She says “Are you all still open?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “Can I get that cheese stuff?!” I thought maybe something was wrong with the poor girl—but she was just jonesing for that cheese.