A taste of Philadelphia and South Jersey is coming to the Fan, courtesy of a pair of local restaurateurs.
James Kohler and Mike Epps are preparing to open Stanley’s RVA in the former Robin Inn space at 2601 Park Ave.
Kohler was once beverage manager at the recently closed Saison in Jackson Ward and more recently was co-owner of Brenner Pass and Black Lodge in Scott’s Addition. Epps, meanwhile, is a co-owner of Church Hill burger joint Cobra Burger.
Stanley’s menu will include hoagies, cheesesteaks, chicken cutlet sandwiches and other dishes associated with Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. The restaurant is named for Kohler’s grandfather, who immigrated from Poland to the Northeast.
“I grew up going to delis and I lived in Philly for a while,” Kohler said. “That’s where I fell in love with this stuff – the hoagie versus subs and sandwich. (Epps and I) were like, ‘It’s tough to find that exact thing in Richmond that’s doing it the way you could find there.’”
In addition to plenty of hoagies, Kohler said Stanley’s will also offer tomato pie, a pizza-adjacent dish that he said is mostly found only in Philadelphia.
“It’s like focaccia in its consistency, but it has a thickened red sauce on it. It’s a lot thicker than what you’d find on a Neapolitan or New York-style pizza,” Kohler said. “Traditionally it’s served at room temperature with no cheese, just herbs and sauce.”
Stanley’s will have a cocktail menu and be open late, and Kohler said that while they haven’t decided if they’ll do lunch or breakfast, if they do, they’ll be sure to include a breakfast sandwich with Taylor Pork Roll, another Jersey and Philly delicacy.
One challenge of bringing Stanley’s to fruition was finding a space that fit a concept, Kohler said.
“That was the hardest thing, just trying to find a spot that had the right feel. We didn’t want to be in new construction or anything like that,” he said.
Kohler said he was driving through the Fan one day and passed 2601 Park Ave., where the Robin Inn closed last summer after nearly 60 years in business. He immediately called Pollard & Bagby’s Tony Rolando and Lebs Breeden, who had the listing, and secured the space.
“Given the history of the building and the owners who ran the Robin Inn forever, it had exactly the right feel and was already on a similar wavelength for what we’re trying to do,” Kohler said.
Kohler said they’re currently doing some minor renovations to the roughly 2,600-square-foot space and they’re hoping to open by March.
Once open, Kohler said he hopes Stanley’s can serve the Fan much like the Robin Inn had.
“It’ll be stripped back a little, not super fancy by any means. We really want it to be an everyday neighborhood spot,” he said. “We’re trying to do a revitalization of what that place was but for people of the generation that didn’t grow up going there.”