Editors' pick

Garden District

Barbecue
$$$$ ($14 and under)
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Editorial Review

2013 Fall Dining Guide

2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013

Every day feels like Oktoberfest at everyone's favorite beer garden, which changed its name from the Standard after a New York business of the same name raised a stink. Whatever you call the place, the fence-enclosed picnic tables on 14th Street NW are some of the most prized seats in the city.

Here's why: The smoky pulled pork sandwich crammed with fresh coleslaw whisks you to North Carolina, the giant glasses of Hofbrau lager put you in a Munich mood and the Goliath buttermilk-battered onion rings and fluffy-centered hush puppies force difficult decisions (so get them both).

The changes in the joint's short life -- additional seating outside, a smoked pigs head for $25, doughnuts Thursdays through Sundays -- have only made what used to be a plant center better. At a time when almost everything can be had on demand, and seasons can be indistinguishable from one another, it's nice to know about a place that shuts down before winter and reopens March 1. There are 14 stools in the building that houses the kitchen and stores the beer, but no one but tourists or buds of the bar man sit there if they can help it.

The sleeper on the brief menu is the hamburger. Built with brisket and chuck and patted by hand, it proves anything but standard.

2011 Fall Dining Guide

2011 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 16, 2011

The standard for barbecue, bratwurst and beer gardens shot skyward in March when the creators of Standard set out rows of picnic tables on 14th Street and began topping them with pulled pork sandwiches, snappy sausages and clove-scented hefeweizen. The bean counter is David Rosner, by day an energy policy consultant; the grill master is Tad Curtz, who brings to this mostly exterior eatery the same care he deployed as a cook for four years at Two Amys pizzeria. A booster of North Carolina barbecue, Curtz infuses his pork with apple cider vinegar, red chili flakes, black peppercorns and some of the state's hot sauce for a sting to remember. Just as transporting is bratwurst cradled with winy sauerkraut in a pillowy bun. Other goodies from his kitchen include sweet, crisp buttermilk onion rings; chunky potato salad; fluffy-centered hush puppies; and Mexican-style corn on the cob, spritzed with lime. Go early to get seats, and remember that all but 16 are outside. However, says Curtz, only "terrible weather" will postpone your date with Oktoberfest in Logan Circle.

Bar review

German-inspired beer gardens have proven to be pretty popular fixtures on the night-life circuit in the past year or two, but there’s something charmingly laid-back about Standard, which opened in March in the old Garden District space at 14th and S streets NW. You can get your Hofbrau lager in giant liter mugs if you want — the way it would be served in Munich — but Standard is more about hanging out and having beers and barbecue in a great outdoor space that’s just two blocks from the bustle of 14th and U.

What you see is what you get: A courtyard filled with a mix of colorful hand-built picnic tables and long, high bar tables, shaded by sail-shaped pieces of cloth and oversize beer umbrellas, surrounded by a tall metal fence decorated with flower boxes and hanging baskets. The “indoor” part is a bar, a lunch counter and a handful of bar stools, plus the kitchen, where chef Tad Curtz prepares his smoky, hand-rubbed brisket, savory pulled pork and one of the better grilled cheese sandwiches in town: a buttery, four-cheese vision that arrives with — surprise! — three half-slices of bread and a side of sweetly tangy pickles. (If you’re ordering dinner, don’t miss the side of grilled-and-spiced “Mexico City” corn on the cob or the delectable hush puppies.)

Draft beers come in two sizes (liter or half-liter), from two countries (America or Germany) and at two price points ($5.46 or $6.37 pretax). It’s nice to see North Coast Scrimshaw Pils and Hofbrau Lager on the lower end of that spectrum, though on really hot days it’s better to splurge on the Weihenstephaner Hefe-Weissbier.

On a block that appeals to both punks and preppies, Standard does a good job catering to those in office wear and those heading to Black Cat. But unless you’re really lucky or traveling with a small party, it’s next-to-impossible to squeeze in on Friday and Saturday nights, when groups arrive for happy hour and wind up staying two or three hours. Better to try a weekend afternoon, when service doesn’t feel so stressed and it’s possible to not have to order your next beer when a third of your glass is still full. It also might alleviate the awkwardness I saw last weekend: Party of five arrived, couldn’t all squeeze into four seats at one of the communal tables, so the group stood around (in the middle of the narrow aisle) waiting for someone to leave.

One note: In addition to being closed every Monday, Standard notes on its Web site that “we close early for bad weather and when we run out of food.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a public phone number. If you’re worried about showing up to find the gates locked, check the bar’s Twitter feed (@standarddc) for updates.

-- Fritz Hahn (June 17, 2011)

2012 preview

March 1 is a date that local barbecue lovers have circled on their calendar: It’s the day that Standard reopens to the public.

The 14th Street beer garden, which won raves for its pulled pork sandwiches, Oktoberfest-style vibe and liters of German pilsner during its initial summer, has been shuttered since early December because most of the restaurant’s seats are outdoors.

“We wanted Standard to be a seasonal business that would run flat out for the nine nicest months of the year and then take a break when D.C. got cold — like an ice cream stand at the beach or something,” is the way owner and chef Tad Curtz explained it last November.

But it’s not like this has been wasted time: Curtz and partner David Rosner have “a bunch of new things” in the works for 2012, though he cautions that “they’re not all going to roll out on the first day.”

The biggest news is the opening of a “side patio” area along T Street, which Curtz says will add 30 to 32 seats to the perennially packed beer garden. Don’t count on it always being available, though — it can be rented for private parties and will close one hour earlier than the rest of the patio.

The menu’s getting freshened up, too. Pork ribs, short ribs and chicken, which were offered occasionally last summer, will be making more regular appearances, while Curtz says he’ll be experimenting with “some other weird things” like crispy pork cheeks and lamb in his smoker. There will be more vegetarian options — “it’s something that people have asked about” — while the bar will pour cider and wine in addition to the usual beers in liter and half-liter mugs.

Once warmer weather hits, I’m looking forward to the return of the Tuesday Night Crabtacular — sitting outside and feasting on platters of a half-dozen crabs covered in Old Bay. (These cost $18 last year.)

Last summer’s surprise hit was fresh-made doughnuts, and they’ll be back, with the addition of a new chocolate espresso version, though Curtz says he’s looking for someone to make them. (Last year’s pastry chef “went back to school,” Curtz explains.) E-mail info@standarddc.com if you’d like to apply.

The gates open at 5 p.m. next Thursday, and Curtz is looking forward to it: “I hope people will come.”

Somehow, I don’t think he’ll have to worry about that.

-- Fritz Hahn (Feb. 23, 2012)