The thought of Sunday brunch makes me occasionally wince. Can I stomach another subpar version of a country breakfast? Am I in the mood for cold grits, limp sausage links and dry, hard biscuits?
Enter Standard Foods in Raleigh on a sweltering Sunday morning. At 11 a.m., the boozy brunch crowd has yet to slide out of their pajamas so we have a good swipe at the tables, which is a good thing since the two-tops at the downtown restaurant are intimately cloistered together.
We do have the misfortune of being placed directly adjacent to the booster seat occupied by a precocious two year-old who’s flailing her toys around and whose mother is repeatedly admonishing her in a British lilt. My single-serving of French press coffee and hourglass timer can’t penetrate my tempered annoyance, and neither can my husband’s laughable $7 five-ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Even the chipper, congenial server who’s surely running on caffeine and adrenaline from the night before, can’t do much to distract us from the toddler situation immediately to our left, but I do get a few minutes to admire the rest of the room.
A beautiful modern, sleek bar bisects the dining room and from our table, we get glimpses of the kitchen through a glass window, and a peek at the butcher’s market in the near distance. Everything seems perfectly curated at Standard Foods, and at times, it feels like I’m sitting inside a museum that’s masquerading as a restaurant. The view overlooking the Raleigh City Farm, the bountiful source of some of the restaurant’s fresh and local ingredients, is a bucolic reminder that I’m not, though I can’t shake that sterilized vibe that makes me feel that I’m being watched from afar by the three hostesses.
The brunch fare at Standard Foods is anything but standard. You’ll find a bit more seafood than usual—shrimp, oysters and fish offerings—and the brunch staples that are more familiar are given an upscale tweak. The pork chop and fried egg ($12) is a protein-forward selection. The medallions of pork are tender nubs smothered in a bright, savory chimichurri sauce. Sadly, the rice and black beans are quite dull even by Zatarrain’s standards, despite its cheerful presentation in a flame-orange Le Creuset baking dish .
Out of our two choices, the pork carnitas benedict is the more supreme dish. Juicy bits of pork are nested under poached eggs and complement the tangy, vinegary stewed greens. The creamy hollandaise and crusty bread form a nice pacifying amalgamation to the rest of the robust dish.
It’s noon by the time we leave, and ripe time for a Bloody Mary. It’s a wistful thought as we leave, but we are relieved to scurry away from a mother and her child’s tantrums, satisfied enough with full bellies ready to enjoy the rest of the Sunday in peace.
STANDARD FOODS | 205 E. Franklin Street Raleigh, NC 27604 | 919.307.4652