Alex Young's New Chapter
From the Roadhouse to the Standard
From the May, 2018 issue
Former Zingerman's Roadhouse executive chef Alex Young says his new French restaurant, The Standard Bistro & Larder, on Jackson Rd. just west of Zeeb, fulfills a lifelong dream.
The James Beard Award winner announced last May that he would be leaving the Roadhouse to open the Standard, a 1930s-style French bistro that also sells local artisan meats and house-made pastas for customers to prepare at home. "It was difficult to leave" Zingerman's, he says, "but at the same time, I wanted to do this."
He and two silent partners bought the six-acre former Creekside Grill property that same month, but Young says he'd drafted the traditional French menu long before that. "It was my first study," he says of French cuisine. He was just six years old when "my father bought me Julia Child's cookbook in 1971, and I still have it." His father left the family the next year, and, after their mother remarried and moved in with her new husband, he and his younger sister largely raised themselves. Though his mother promised him a Cordon Bleu education, when he turned eighteen she could afford only a one-way ticket to New York. Instead, he got his training working under a French chef in Manhattan.
The Creekside building had been vacant for three years, as another would-be operator started then stopped a renovation, and was largely gutted when the new owners arrived. It's still a boxy building with a lower-level walkout, but the new owners have changed almost everything else, including the ceiling, which reminded Young of a Bob Evans. Now the outside has a flat roof and a light-gray-and-white paint job that matches the modern white, gray, and lime green interior.
Young's father, Alfred, re-entered his life last year. A California artist best known for his radical conceptual pieces in the 1960s, he painted the reproductions of art deco pieces that hang on the Standard's walls. He's done a dozen so far, and "he's just gonna
keep going," Young says. "I figure people might want to buy them. They're really beautiful, and he's a starving artist, so he can use the income, and that way the artwork will stay fresh."
The menu is mainly traditional, with dishes like duck confit crepes and a pot-au-feu made from an "everlasting" stock base that Young will continue adding to "as long as the restaurant exists ... I feel it's really important to use the whole animal, because in the industry stuff is just trucked and jetted all over the place, and it's terribly wasteful in my opinion."
Young is also adding a few dishes influenced by French colonial cuisine, such as Vietnamese salmon cakes and glass noodles with bean sprouts. Desserts include creme brulee with raspberries, lemon meringue tart, and hazelnut creme mousse cake.
Young describes the Larder as a natural extension of his longtime passion for farm-to-table cooking. "Since I started farming twelve years ago, many customers asked me where I could buy good meat, so I thought 'let's incorporate some of that butchery and sell it retail.'" (It mostly comes from a farm in west Michigan.) Larder customers can walk straight to the sectioned-off white-tiled counter to place orders and pick up meals to go.
A large backlit bar serves a combination of classic French cocktails and drinks made with local ingredients, picked by the restaurant's two sommeliers. Downstairs, a private dining room can seat up to 120 people for weddings and other events. Young plans to add a gazebo and French flower gardens to the grounds so that guests can dine on hors d'oeuvres outside and walk along Honey Creek.
The Standard Bistro & Larder, 263-2543. 5827 Jackson. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Closed 3-4 p.m. daily. thestandardbistro.com
[Originally published in May, 2018.]
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