Rob Kauffman has been working as a financial adviser for three decades, all the while wanting to break into the restaurant business. Put your money where your mouth is.
The Stand opened as a roadside barbecue joint in a former gas station in Branford in 2015. There was a focus on live music and community, in addition to smoked meats, but it lasted only three years. Seeing his opportunity, Kauffman reached out to longtime friend Ted Cwiertniewicz and his partner Kevin O’Neill, who own the property, and expressed interest in getting The Stand back on its feet. They reopened the doors in August 2019.
“We wanted to get away from cafeteria-style 100 percent barbecue, but keep some barbecue on the menu,” Kauffman says. Now every Monday is pit night. “We’re still using the smokers.” I swing by on a Tuesday night in August and there’s a 10-minute wait, which is never a bad sign for a Tuesday, limited capacity or not.
Colorful picnic tables with umbrellas are spread out over gravelly grounds in the main outdoor dining area. The whole setting is reminiscent of Cape Cod with its proximity to the ocean, vacation vibe and marsh views. A September revamp transformed the outdoor dining area into a fully tented and heated space with traditional tables for four. Garden plots provide scenery and ambiance, as well as ingredients like herbs and vegetables, mint for the mojitos and fruit for cocktails and desserts. The recent updates also included the addition of a pumpkin patch, as well as a redesign of the interior.
The new and expanded fall menu from chef Lauren Richitelli, if executed as well as the summer menu, will add some fine flavor to the foliage. Three unique appetizers — fried cheese curds, crispy green tomatoes and the caulibomb (think loaded baked potato but with cauliflower) — all impress, and the rest of the menu has an obvious something-for-everyone approach. A half-rack of tender, meaty St. Louis ribs hit the spot along with a generous serving of four pulled pork tacos. A spicy street corn Caesar salad with romaine and kale is a nice melding of summer staples. Two dessert specials, a mixed berry pie bar and layered chocolate mousse cake, are both outstanding.
Some summer items remain on the fall menu, but it roughly doubled in size and added dishes like Nashville hot fried chicken, pan-seared scallops, meatloaf and a New York strip. There’s still something for everyone, but now there’s a lot more.
Music remained a major part of the operation when Kauffman reopened. Prior to COVID, four bands would hit the stage at The Stand every weekend. This summer there was just one solo or duo act each night. But even though temperatures are dropping, there will still be live outdoor music Friday through Sunday.
While running a restaurant is something Kauffman always wanted to do, the fact that it’s located at the site of a gas station built in 1951 must make it seem like destiny. “My grandfather was in the gas station business for 70 years in New York City,” Kauffman says. “Where they filmed Billy Joel’s ‘Uptown Girl’ was at my grandfather’s gas station where I grew up working.”
196 S. Montowese St., Branford
Open daily for dinner; brunch Sat.-Sun.