I went to Naples in search of Bray’s seasonal yam beer, but was met with news that their brewer left and the bar wasn’t sure if the yam beer would make a comeback. Bummer. Hungry for dinner, I headed to Bridgton. And fortunately, 8 miles up the road is the most delightful gas station in Maine. Wait … what? Yeah.
The hip, beer-geeky Standard Gastropub is easy to drive by if you’re looking for whatever image the word “gastropub” brings to mind. But it’s worth the stop. The place (where you can imagine ski bums hanging out after a day mountainside) has been open a year and, according to one of its owners, Will Holmes, it’s doing well.
“Business is steady. We still get a mix of people who have never heard of us. They’ll come in for gas and then realize they can have a beer and something to eat,” he said.
Inside there’s a wall of clear-front refrigerators that displays a rainbow of beer cans glowing under fluorescent lights. You can sit at one of the small Tiffany-blue picnic tables or at the bar, where you can either watch the kitchen staff work or you can look up at the TV … which (as far as I can tell ) has only Netflix.
Here’s the short version: The food is simple and delicious, the beer selection is diverse and interesting. Now for a break down …
The beer selection here is impeccable. They’ve got the cheap stuff, Maine microbrews, interesting concoctions from Michigan and the Pacific North West and half a dozen Kiuchi (Japanese) beers. To name a few. On the day I popped in, Holmes was excited about a new sour he planned to put on tap. He poured me a sample in a tiny jelly jar — it was syrupy and cherry-sour. It was fun, but Foundation Brewing was on a tap-takeover, so I got the Eddy, a farmhouse ale.
You can’t buy beer to-go, unfortunately.
As for the food, I pulled in on a bit of an odd-menu day. The Fryeburg Fair was in town, so instead of the 10-15 items that would usually populate the menu, Standard Gastropub had a fair-themed food night. I went with the happy hour special: wings … and fries ($4).
“Curry ketchup OK with the fries?” the waitress asked.
Oh heck yes it is.
The wings (50 cents a pop at happy hour) came and holy crap they were perfect. They were covered in this tangy-sweet, house-made sauce, but then you could see that the chef had also drizzled more BBQ on top of them after. Mmmm. The other options for wing flavors were buffalo or Sriracha. The wings were almost falling-off-the-bone tender and perfectly hit that balance of crunchy (but saucy) on the outside and moist in the middle. I mean it’s not rocket science, but so few places do this simple thing so perfectly that I feel it’s worth the extra words of praise, you know? And here’s the kicker: No blue cheese dressing. Instead you get house-made gorgonzola dipping sauce with chunks of the salty/tangy/sweet cheese. Maybe you’ve caught on by now, but everything is house made. And you can tell in the taste.
That’s the theme of Standard Gastropub, I’d say: simple food done right (plus great beer). If you’re looking for something fancy-shmancy or expect to take your cardigan-over-shoulders mother here for a sit-down meal — don’t. This place is more about being a relaxed place to grab some grub, meet some ski bums and try interesting beers from around the world.
OK OK OK back to the food:
The fries struck the balance of mashed-potatoey insides meets crispy outside (with a few too-crunchy fries plus a few vagabond chips … which reminds me: get the chips). They were at their best when dipped into the gorgonzola sauce.
Had I not been totally full by that point, I would have tried the house-smoked pork sandwich with Sriracha slaw or the fried brussel sprouts. (Also, I double-dog dare you to order a pickle back.)
Here’s the menu they had when I was there:
All in all, my bill came to $14 before tax and tip. Worth it. Totally worth it.
Standard Gastropub is at 233 Main St., Bridgton (an hour and 10 minutes from Portland). It has a Facebook page. Hours are typically 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (open at 10 a.m. on weekends) seven days a week.