When I stop by Standard, a just-opened beer garden and barbecue joint on 14th Street NW, 31-year-old Tad Curtz wanders out of a tiny white building set back behind a scattering of colorful picnic tables, a big smile on his face.
It’s not that he is happy to see me. We’ve never met, and I’ve showed up unannounced. It’s that, well, that’s just the way he is.
“I’m a pretty casual guy,” he told me earlier on the phone.
And so is the smallish operation that he and partner, David Rosner, just opened at 1801 14th St. NW. Rosner, an analyst at the National Commission for Energy Policy, is called the “bean counter” on the Standard Web site, while Curtz is the “bean cooker.”
As a cook for the previous four years at 2 Amys, where the pizza is baked in a wood-burning oven, Curtz has played with fire before. But never quite like this.
“I don’t claim to be making amazing barbecue,” he says. “But I do know that if you put your heart into it, you can elevate it.”
Curtz is experimenting with wood flavorings these days, using a mix of applewood and mesquite chips to smoke his 16-hour brisket, pork shoulder and beef short ribs in his small Southern Pride oven.
The beef is rubbed with salt, black pepper, sugar, “a tiny bit of espresso,” some house-roasted chiles and a few other seasonings. Just salt, pepper and a little hot pepper is rubbed on the pork.
Unless you specify otherwise, the brisket is served with Curtz’s sweet-and-spicy tomato-based sauce. The pork is sprinkled with his North Carolina-style vinegar and peppers sauce. The short ribs come unsauced.
Standard, which is a family name, also serves house-made onion rings and French fries, bratwurst and hot dogs.
Curtz says he is experimenting with his products, trying to find exactly the right ones and the right flavorings. “I’m still working on these things,” he says, “trying to hit the balance.”
Beers on tap include Hofbrau Original Lager, Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale, and Kostritzer Schwarzbier.
Standard is a testament to Curtz’s DIY mentality. His father, a violin maker, came down from his upstate New York home to help Curtz make the cherrywood bar. Curtz assembled the hanging lamps himself, using vintage materials. He built and painted the picnic tables himself.
“The whole ethos,” he says, “has been a care-about-it-yourself-and-have-a-good-time.”
Pass Me Another One o’ Them Seitan Ribs, Pardner: At the annual spring baccanal known as South by Southwest , barbecue has become almost as much a part of the weeklong proceedings as the music. Last Thursday, the ambient-dance multi-instrumentalist Moby hosted an only-in-Austin twist on the Texas obsession. He threw a big ol’ vegan barbecue.
From noon to 7 p.m. at the “fun space” known as Cheer Up Charlie’s, folks gathered to hear bands on two stages and feast on vegan hot dogs, tofu barbecue, Zen salad and grilled corn, among other dishes catered by vegan restaurant Iggi’s Texatarian. The event was a fundraiser for the Washington-based animal rights group, Compassion Over Killing.
Seems if they don’t get their barbecue, even vegan cowgirls get the blues.
Q-Aid’s Food Bank Desposit: The third annual Q-Aid, held this past weekend, raised $2,100 and prepared 980 cooked pounds of packaged smoked pork for the Capital Area Food Bank . Donations included $1,000 from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
The event was sponsored for the first time by the Mid Atlantic Barbecue Association. “It was the biggest of the three so far,” MABA President Michael Fay said. “We’re hoping to do even better when we do it again in November.”