Dishes 131 & 132: Fried Smelts and Duck Salad at Standard Tap, 2nd and Poplar, http://www.standardtap.com
My first memory of Standard Tap was three months ago; it was dark, and I was walking in the direction of 2nd and Poplar, being followed by the car that had dropped me off (driven by Amy, co-piloted by Tracy and Dani) because they were concerned about me reaching my destination. I was meeting Brian, Hess, Branson, and the rest of the boys at Tap, and had promised to DD them home. So here I was, streetlights filtering dimly, orangely, down to the sidewalk, as I walked vaguely in the right direction and pretended not to notice the Honda Civic idling five yards behind, when I heard shouts:
“LAUREN. LYNCH. I KNOW YOU!” “LAUREN LYNCH!” “LAUREN!”
Aha. This must be the place.
I looked up to see Hess authoritatively commandeering the window, leaving just enough room for Jonas to send a limp hipster wave in my direction. Jonas would be a hipster, except he doesn’t care. Which, strangely, might make him the most pure hipster of all.
The boys were well on their way to a good time, and I did my best to enable them with selections from the no-miss beer list. Those who have herded kittens can sympathize, I did not have a chance to eat on this occasion. Which brings us to today.
I sat down upstairs in the corner of the bar next to some guys, unaware that by the end of the next hour, I would be hearing stories about waterfalls in caves in Hawaii, the greatest steakhouse in the middle of nowhere, the advantages of living in Baltimore over Philly (family), and the proper etiquette for receiving a Christmas gift of tequila when already in a bar (share with the bartender).
That’s exactly what it is: the food is unreal—the duck salad balances the heft and bacony indulgence of the duck with the light fruitiness of mandarin oranges and spinach; the smelts (which, by the way, are about five inches long, not itty bitty Swedish fish like I was expecting) are crisp like a thin potato chip, lighter and fleshier than a steak fry, and perfect with their Grey Poupon-y dip; and my new buddy Jason’s flounder was moist and not fishy at all, satisfying and weightless. And the beer selection, potentially overwhelming, is a gold mine when you entrust the bartender with your preferences. The stage is set. Friends now, or friends to be, you have friends at the Standard Tap.