Fish tacos are the most popular thing on the
menu at The Standard, 208 Third St., 243-4456.
Hours are Monday through Friday, 11 to 2 a.m.
and Saturday and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Restaurant transformations come in different
levels of difficulty. Some are seamless. When
Sean Wilson bought Proof from Carly Groben last
month, the place never missed a day of business.
Others close down for months of gutting and
rebuilding. Dante Heck, Brendan Kelly and Rob
Iovino’s The Standard is from that latter category.
The only thing that remains from its days as
The Pelican is its slate floor. The bar, furniture
and stage (hosting live music each Wednesday,
Thursday and Friday) are all new. The partners
said they want to be an alternative niche in
the Court Avenue district. Their musical choices
seem to be reaching out for a more adult audience
with blues, jazz and soul. The bar does the
same thing by featuring classic cocktails and
martinis, plus a nostalgic frosted cooling rail.
Their menu was geared for drink pairings with
tapas, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts.
Nothing was priced more than $12 and most everything
was less than $10. A four-hour-long Happy Hour
(3 - 7 p.m.) brought half-price martinis, bottles
of wine and $3 beers. The Standard is not a
wine bar, though as beers outnumbered wines
seven to one; it’s a cocktail lounge with tapas
from a serious kitchen.
The Standard martini with New Amsterdam gin
and white vermouth was offered with the “dirty”
option of a splash of olive brine and three
green olives. That salty taste paired nicely
with corn meal-encrusted crab croquettes served
with a zippy remoulade, orange segments, red
onions and a mini salad of mesclun. A Manhattan
fudged on classic interpretation. Canadian Club
has not been a rye whisky for decades. Canadian
law allows Canadian distillers to use the term
even if no rye is used, and Canadian Club is
made with corn these days. (American rye whiskey
must use rye for over half of its mash.) Otherwise,
the Manhattan was served by the book with sweet
vermouth and a maraschino cherry. However, it
was served with a mysterious froth, or mini
head, that one would never see in a serious
cocktail lounge in Las Vegas or New York. At
any rate, that sweeter drink was paired with
a marinated olive platter that included two
pitted green olives marinated in chile oil,
two more in citrus and herbs and another two
stuffed with blue cheese.
A Sazerac delivered a modern take on a classic.
Made with Buffalo Trace’s Sazerac brand rye
whiskey and Pernod Anise substituted for absinthe,
it produced none of the theatrical notes that
Django’s Sazerac delivers. It was a lovely reddish
brown accented with an orange twist, and it
worked well with Cajun-style shrimp cooked in
cayenne, beer and butter. A rumchata, made with
cream, rum and caramel vodka, was the sweetest
cocktail I tasted and paired well with fish
tacos (“the most popular item on the menu”)
which delivered tilapia, pineapple salsa, avocado
and mesclun with a side of potato soup.
Smoked salmon was served with chevre and toast.
A steak sandwich brought tender braised beef
mixed with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions,
horseradish cream and a fried egg. It was also
served with a side of hand cut, twice-fried
French fries. Those are a labor-intensive bonus
that one rarely sees at such low prices. A short
dessert menu included homemade fresh mint ice
cream and fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate.
An excellent evening special of French toast
was served with burnt maple syrup, candied walnuts
and a strawberry reduction.
Bottom line — The Standard is a pleasant new
place with exceptional food and drink values,
particularly at Happy Hour.
Fresh Iowa grown produce has been sold at pop-up
farmers markets since March. One farmer sold
150 pounds of spinach at the Shops at Roosevelt
and said his crops were six weeks ahead of schedule.