The Standard shut down in July for a four-month remodeling project. It recently reopened its doors, with a Nov. 8 formal ribbon cutting.
General manager Raj Bisla said The Standard (9455 N. Fort Washington Rd., in the corner of the shopping center) needed a refresh, and shutting down in July made sense since it was always the restaurant’s slowest month. He wouldn’t reveal how much he invested in the remodeling.
Watch: The Standard Re-Opens with New Renovations
Bisla’s uncle, Steve Bisla, opened The Standard in 2008.
“You can have a tendency to get a little bit complacent and be happy with the way things are. We didn’t want that to happen with us, so we really wanted to elevate ourselves as well as our staff and give Fresno something new they can enjoy,” Bisla said.
Almost everything is new, Bisla said, from the lounge, bathrooms, patios, and the kitchen.
One of Standard’s signatures, the stone walls, remain.
A Bartender Show
The Standard is also known for its cocktail menu, especially the whisky selection.
Bartender Brian Bader has served at The Standard for four years, working his way up from a busser. He has learned well.
Bader showed off one of The Standard’s most popular drinks, the River Styx ($18).
Watch as The Standard’s Brian Bader Makes The River Styx Cocktail
“It’s kind of a spin on an Old Fashioned, but you’re using a little bit of crème de cocoa and coffee to influence,” Bader said.
Pikesville rye, a 110-proof liquor, is the base for River Styx.
“(It) has more of a punch and more of a kick. So that way it’s not diluted by the time you get the final product,” Bader said.
The mix is two ounces Pikesville, a quarter-ounce of Mr. Black coffee liqueur, and a quarter-ounce of house-made crème de cocoa, Angostura bitters, and allspice.
On top of the drink, Bader smokes a topper of rosemary, orange rind, and applewood with a mini-blowtorch.
“I really want to get the oils of the rosemary and the orange on the inside wall of the glass. And it really pairs well with the coffee and the heat of the rye. And the applewood gives it a nice flavor as well,” Bader said.
The drink is served with a giant clear ice cube, stamped with The Standard logo on it. They are specially made at Below Zero Ice.
“The ice does make a difference in the cocktail as well. It does melt slower because the ice is so dense. So it doesn’t water down your cocktail,” Bisla said.
The Standard offers an eclectic menu, without focusing on any one type of food.
“The menu is very versatile. We didn’t want to be just an Italian restaurant or just a Mexican restaurant for reference. Fresno itself is a melting pot,” Bisla said.
Chef Daniel Luera has been at The Standard since the beginning.
“I call it California cuisine because we’re a melting pot of all those cultures, and I try to incorporate that into my menu,” Luera said.
One of the tastiest items is the po’ boy sandwich ($21) — Hawaiian BBQ beef short rib, in a French roll, served with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Luera calls it his “go-to lunch.”
“We do a boneless (beef) short rib and I marinate it in — it’s like a teriyaki type marinade — real good ginger, fresh ginger, fresh garlic in it, and other spices that I don’t want to mention, but it makes it real good,” Luera said.
Luera’s favorite dish to make is the Alla Norma pasta ($22) made fresh with rigatoni, wild mushroom, parmesan, parsley, and a spicy vodka sauce.
The Standard also features the Mexican street favorite elote ($14).
“It’s something that’s popular right now everywhere you go. And I just wanted to put it in there because it’s some of my background. Being raised Mexican, it’s just something we always had as a kid, and I just want to incorporate it into the menu,” Luera said.
15 Years in Business
Bisla said The Standard’s vibe is not to be a “turn and burn” restaurant. They want people to stay for a while. Technically, the name includes “restaurant and lounge.”
Being around that long has been a challenge.
“The restaurant industry is very difficult. I mean, food costs and payroll costs and things have just continue to rise. So we don’t always want to put those costs onto the customer, which some restaurants, I think, do to keep themselves profitable. For us, it’s a combination of staffing and being able to find a fair balance between costs and customer acquisition,” Bisla said.
Bisla took the four-month closure to revamp many aspects of the restaurant, from staff attire to the plates and silverware.
With the reopening, Bisla hired 15 new staff, while retaining most of his workers during the shutdown.
The minimum increase in minimum wage has been the toughest.
“Once you start increasing minimum wage, then anyone that is above minimum wage, they need to get bumped up. We’re very understanding and just food increases are cost increases in general. So we really want to create a family atmosphere here. So we are very cognizant of what our staff may need, but we do our best to accommodate those things,” Bisla said.
An Immigrant Story
The Bislas, of Indian descent, immigrated to America from England in the 1980s.
“My uncles have all been in the nightclub and bar industry just about since I was born,” Bisla said.
His cousins also helped with the family business, but one by one, they moved away.
Bisla’s mom, Raj Sodhi-Layne, attended the ribbon cutting. She is running for the northeast seat on the Fresno City Council in 2024.
The Standard is open Wednesday through Sunday, opening at 4 p.m. Dinner is served until 9 p.m. and the bar is open until midnight most nights. On Fridays and Saturdays, the location turns into a nightlife spot, open until 1:30 a.m.