We were thrilled to finally sample the latest offering from one of our favorite area chefs: Scott Crawford’s much-touted and long-awaited Standard Foods in downtown Raleigh. More than a standout neighborhood restaurant, Crawford has realized a longtime dream of opening an old-fashioned corner grocery, and oh what produce.
Our host was Ryan Smith of VisitRaleigh.com. While we chatted over The Capital City hosting an upcoming meeting of journalists and travel industry officials in The Society of American Travel Writers, we smiled knowingly at the realization that Chef Crawford’s cuisine will again be turning heads and gleaning more kudos for Raleigh’s culinary scene. It won’t be the first time and far from the last. Crawford gained an excellent reputation in his former position as executive chef at Herons in the luxurious Umstead Hotel and Spa. He’s a noted chef in the region and beyond. You can catch him Feb. 11 on Bravo TV’s new show “Recipe for Deception.”
Everything we tasted was delicious; several dishes truly stellar including the fried catfish served over collards and peanut mash and topped with eye-dropping watermelon radish (pictured at right). Chef sent out a couple of suprises, deviled eggs and a very tasty and light butternut squash ravioli. Our attentive server did a great job, too.
Afterward in an interview, Crawford explained: “Standard Foods was created through a shared vision my (business) partner John Holmes and I have to bring produce from the small farmer to the community and to re-establish the neighborhood grocery. There’s a lot that’s being done in this movement that’s exciting for everyone. The logistics of it are very challenging. We committed to making that happen not only with the neighborhood grocery but with the neighborhood restaurant. The restaurant is actually a component that is necessary to keep product fresh and constantly moving and then continue to find new sources all the time.”
There’s an incredible amount of time and dedication required in knowing where all the offerings come from, and searching to fill gaps and find more purveyors. Standard Foods Restaurant + Grocery is featuring small North Carolina growers, producers and farmers. Crawford added “We’re reaching a little bit into Virgina, South Carolina and Georgia, and that feels great. So you walk into our store, not only are these products local, they are also vetted by our farm liaisons to make sure that the practices on these farms are in line with our core values.”
Our brief chat left us feeling Crawford’s very satisfied to have found his groove. (Local Palate magazine did a compelling feature on the chef’s transition to clean eating in a profile piece that began: “Food nearly killed Scott Crawford…” Read it here.)
We saw a creative spark in his eyes, the quick smile, and what looked to be expressions of both happiness and contentment as he explained challenges and successes. “When you’re dealing with small producers all the time, you’re working and partnering and committing to really small producers. You need a lot of them to sustain it. It’s always a challenge of figuring out the logistics of getting something special from a small procducer into this store, this restaurant.”
Citrus from Louisiana
The chef cited citrus as an example, which is now coming from Isabella’s Orchard in Louisiana, a small family farm with 630 citrus trees.
“We wanted to use something local or regional and not California citrus that you know has been sprayed with chemicals. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but we found the right citrus grower in Louisiana — beautiful organic citrus that we’re now selling in the store and using in the restaurant.
“That’s an example of these small successes we have. The challenges are ongoing and the small successes are ongoing. We celebrate those and then we move on to the next one. Then we try to solidify those partnerships for the following year, next season and really just try to lock in with them and commit to buying from them so they can grow their farm, and it’s good work – it’s just good work.”
The food reflects the passion. In the accompanying slideshow, see some of the dishes we sampled. And yes, that citrus Crawford mentioned, featured in a drop-biscuit dessert to top of our lunch tasted succulent and fresh – each bite like sunshine in the heart of winter.
The store’s neighborhood butcher is Steve Goff, and the fresh-meat cold case is a beauty to behold as are the colorful array of produce artfully arranged on the grocery side of the space. Goff will be leading butchery classes. He no doubt has a hand in the Butcher Board starters popular in the restaurant. Ours – fantastic.
Late-Night Pop-Ups Start Jan. 30
New at Standard Foods are late-night pop-up events planned the last Saturday of each month. Visit from midnight ‘til 2 a.m. to sip and taste the collaborative presentations of bartender, butcher and chef. Guest bartender for Saturday, Jan. 30 is Garrett Waddell of Stanbury Restaurant. On the menu: Fried Chicken, Rabbit Chili Cheese Fries, Fried Boudin and Chocolate Pecan Pie.
(Forgive the growing pains noises in the accompanying video as construction was under way at the site, but do watch to get a peek at that Chef Crawford passion.) “It’s been beyond belief,” he says of how Standard Foods has been received. “I never expected the overwhelming support. It’s been amazing. I have more confidence now that we are doing something meaningful and we’re going to make that impact in our community.” Look, too, for produce coming from the store’s backyard, feeder farm, and produce from the store’s next-door neighbor Raleigh City Farm.
It doesn’t get much fresher or ‘cleaner.’
If You’re Going: Standard Foods is at 205 E Franklin St, Raleigh. For details, visit standard-foods.com Call the restaurant at 919-307-4652; dinner hours are Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30-11 p.m. Lunch service is Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. The bar opens Tuesday-Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. Shop the grocery Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. -5 p.m.. Reach the grocery at 919-803-4682. For more on dining in the Capital City, go to VisitRaleigh.com.
Try your hand at Chef Crawford’s recipe for Apple Soup with Rosemary Peanuts aad Hickory-Brown Butter featured in The Local Palate magazine.