September 9, 2013

Dine Out Maine: It's well worth the drive to refuel at Standard Gastropub

By SHONNA MILLIKEN HUMPHREY

A restaurant in a Bridgton gas station? I had read about the relatively new Standard Gastropub, and while I tried to appreciate the concept from a distance, I admit to not getting it until I was standing there at the door.

click image to enlarge

Standard Gastropub in Bridgton is basically food served in a gas station. While the Mac and Cheese and Garlicky Greens get high marks, the wings win “best in show.”

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Standard Gastropub in Bridgton is basically food served in a gas station.

DINING REVIEW

STANDARD GASTROPUB, 233 Main St., Bridgton. 647-4100; standardgastropub.com

HOURS: 6 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday; 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday

****1/2

PRICE RANGE: $2 to $18, with the majority of items in the $6 to $8 range.

BAR: Beer and wine, with a particularly impressive selection of beer

CREDIT CARDS: Yes

VEGETARIAN: Yes

RESERVATIONS: No

KIDS: Kid's menu

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: Pin Standard Gastropub to the Google map and plan to stop here for fuel and a snack when arriving in (or passing through) Bridgton. Although the retro-hipster gastro vibe is a little incongruous for the downtown area, the space works, the price is right and the service is super-friendly. Amidst other staid and standard menus, the not-so-Standard Gastropub food stands out among its peers -- it is finely prepared and quite tasty. Bonus points for competitive gas prices and heroic hours of operation.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

*Poor  **Fair  ***Good ****Excellent *****Extraordinary.

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

"Oh, OK," I thought, staring from across the parking lot. "A restaurant in a gas station."

I note this to assuage any reader confusion because it does feel a little too esoteric and precious at first, as the two images, "restaurant" and "gas station" do not immediately coalesce. That noted, I suggest that if you find yourself in Bridgton or feeling the urge to road trip, stop at Standard Gastropub to see what I mean. Stop and plan to linger.

Remember how Portland's El Rayo Taqueria used to be a gas station? OK, now imagine working fuel pumps, and instead of Mexican food, imagine the menu was designed by the Eventide Oyster guys or maybe the folks at Local 188. That's the Standard Gastropub primer.

The space itself is a work in progress, but what's happening so far is working well. The concept plays out on an ever-changing chalkboard menu. To the left of the center counter (where you pay for gas) is the kitchen, and to the right is a series of turquoise blue picnic tables between a wall-length cooler on one side and a wooden bar with metal stools on the other.

Inside the cooler? Ninety varieties of a planned 200 beers, many of them canned. We asked for a Porkslap Pale Ale and Indie Pale Ale from Butternuts Beer & Ale in New York and Nantucket's Cisco Brewers, respectively. Although it feels intuitive to reach into the cooler for a beverage, don't do that. The servers are happy to oblige. There are soft drinks, too, with an emphasis on naturally flavored and regionally sourced. Coffee is cold-pressed and deliciously robust.

Our server, also one of the owners, was friendly and keenly aware that his space was evolving. No desserts, yet, but he described why (summer competition with the local ice cream places), and his rationale made sense. He also described plans for the fall with enthusiasm, to include enticing descriptions of local apple-based desserts. Given the region's natural beauty and beauty, I can easily imagine a return visit during the fall colors to see what the Standard Gastropub crew creates.

But, that's future tense. On this night, four of us crammed into a small-ish picnic table. The lighting was ambient and the bouncy music, although too loud for my taste, was well-received by the rest of my crew. (Apparently, I am getting old and cranky in this regard.)

Here is where I note that I love food. There isn't an experience more intimate, more social and more welcome in my group of friends. We sampled nearly every item on the night's ever-changing menu chalkboard.

The Veggie Burger ($7.50), sweet potato and black bean-based, was delivered thick and grilled well-done as requested to eliminate any potential veggie burger mush factor. This veggie burger was a good one -- full of flavor and minus any mealy texture.

If a veggie burger isn't your thing, Standard Gastropub offers a Kobe Beef Hot Dog ($6.50). While not typically a hot dog fan, I confess that this was, indeed, a mighty fine hot dog. With wasabi aoli and a pickle spear tucked into the bun, this hot dog tasted like actual beef, not a weird sort of meat paste, and the pickle and wasabi flavors intensified the flavor. It was, as promised, a new way to experience a hot dog.

Smoked Chicken Tacos ($7.50) were two corn tortillas, shredded chicken, jalapeno and grilled lime wedges for squeezing. Tasty, but a lot of sauce made for tortillas that sort of disintegrated.

(Continued on page 2)

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