Wild Standard’s Quest in Supporting Sustainable Seafood

I’ve been writing about Bradford Heap and his restaurants for seven years.

What always stands out to me is how incredibly dedicated Bradford is to his culinary craft. He’s also unabashed he is about his staunch commitment to organic, non-GMO and sustainable food and it’s no gimmick or marketing ploy. He takes extra steps to ensure all three of his restaurants are stewards of the earth and adhere to serving the most local and organic food. This is no small feat.

When I first wrote about Wild Standard opening in 2015, the concept was akin to dim-sum style where in addition to the standard menu, small bites/plates would rotate on a tray and/or rolling cart that you could scoop up if it tickled your fancy as it came by your table.

Fun in theory, but this concept proved to be problematic for the kitchen to manage and for patrons. Personally, I found it difficult as I remember being interrupted every few minutes. Furthermore, the small plates really were such a small bite and because of the high quality food they were a high price point leaving me less satiated.

Long story short, they canned the concept.

Bradford is actually back in the kitchen at Wild Standard, full time. This was his restaurant and desire from the start, and post-concept change, the sustainable seafood restaurant has been flourishing.

The dishes are more focused, they’re fresher than ever and I love their updated, inventive cocktail and wine menu. Their bar features eight taps, for kegged wine due to its sustainability and solidified taste, as well as rotating beers on tap. The taps feature Colorado beers.

In a partnership with Jack Rabbit Hill (out of Hotchkiss, CO), Bradford has co-created a “Wild Red” and “Wild White” wine, blended just for the restaurant. I love when restaurants go this extra step to make it special and paired with their food style.

I also love that his featured cocktails are named after influential women. That is something you don’t see everyday. From Alice Waters, to Florence Nightingale, to Michelle Obama, to J.K. Rowling.

Wild Standard Cocktails

The space was incredible from the get-go but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s really stunning and thoughtful.

Bradford’s wife, Carol Vilate, transformed the space. An interior designer by trade, she focused solely on recycled or used materials. Every piece in the restaurant has a story about where it came from. What she calls the “barnacle bling,” emulating the ocean on the outside of the bar, was crafted from old belt buckles. The hand-milled hemlock wooden beams boldly exposed throughout the ceiling come from a 100-year-old barn in the Midwest and are covered with ornamental iron straps bolted into place for an industrial look. An antique golden frame hanging on the white washed brick wall came from her friend’s garage and the bar is made of smooth cottonwood from a fallen tree in Boulder County.

Wild Standard in Boulder

Wild Standard Entrance

Wild Standard Interior

One of the more notable newest updates is the partnership with an Alaskan fisherman that is sending king salmon exclusively for Wild Standard. The story is personal as Bradford has been a longtime fisherman and has spent a lot of time off the coast of Yakutat Bay (about 100 miles north of Juneau in the panhandle) with his brother.

Wild Standard Crispy Salmon

During these fishing trips, Bradford connected with a local fishing guide who wowed him with his attention to sustainability and care for the environment. Bradford created a unique program with him through an agreement where the guide exclusively fishes for king salmon, just for Wild Standard.

King SalmonPhoto Credit: Wild Standard’s King Salmon Shipment

Furthermore, unlike the majority of salmon you eat, this fish is sustainably caught with hook and line (not in mass, via net). They’re gilled and gutted in Alaska, then placed in cold packs that replicate the temperature of the waters in Yukutat Bay. These packages are then overnighted to the restaurant and used in their daily king salmon specials. You can just taste the freshness.

Bradford even shares “the fish are so incredibly fresh that they’re actually in rigor mortis when the restaurant receives them. This is unheard of in a landlocked state like Colorado.”

Bradford Heap, King Salmon From AlaskaPhoto Credit: Wild Standard. Bradford Heap (L), Chef Derek Baril (R)

Just like any sustainable program, their shipments may fluctuate based on the weather in Alaska and fishing conditions but Bradford is proud of the program for offering such freshness, and creating a mutually beneficial sustainable fishing partnership. Their salmon dishes often sell out which is no surprise because they are such a standout on the menu.

Lobster Ravioli

House made lobster ravioli with spot prawns and mussels in a white wine sauce. One of the best dishes I’ve had in a long time.

I also loved learning that their Virginia high-brine oysters (Chunu) actually were renamed the “Wild Standard” oysters by the purveyor. Thus, that’s what they’re named on the menu.

It’s worth noting that the seafood selections in the raw oyster bar, menu samplers, and their fish-centric entrees meet the strict standards of the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council). Wild Standard is the only restaurant in Boulder to hold the MSC certification.

I think two years in, Wild Standard is hitting their stride. They’ve got things dialed and are providing the freshest, innovative seafood dishes around. They’re living and breathing their mission of sustainability, while also giving back. Located right on Pearl Street, next to Salt one of his other restaurants, they’re in a prime location and I feel wowed whenever I step foot in their restaurant.