Despite the grownup Greeks,
J Black's has some of the best bar food in town
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., May 8, 2009
J Black's710 W. Sixth Ste. B, 433-6954
Daily, 4pm-2am (kitchen closes at 12mid)
I was talking to someone recently about West Sixth Street and how the new bars that have sprouted up in that part of town are very similar to the college crowd shot bars that abound on East Sixth. The only obvious difference: The customers at the trendy West Sixth bars are the same ones that used to down shots at Touché and the Library only a few years back, only all grown up. As much as I actively avoid that sort of place, I had heard good things about the food at J Black's, so I ventured in recently for happy hour.
First impression: bad. A crowd of grownup Greeks was partying loudly on the tiny outdoor patio, smoking cigars. The bar is completely open to the patio, so even though the smokers were outside, the entire place reeked of cigar smoke. Quite unfortunate for someone looking to taste what the bar refers to as "redefined dining." Once inside, the seats are comfortable, there's ever-changing local art on the brick walls, and staff members are friendly and eager to please. Turns out they have pretty good deals, every day from 4 to 8pm and all night Sunday: $1 off all drinks, 25% off bottles of wine, and half-price select menu items. Among the sharable plates are some unusual but tasty treats: macaroni with smoked Gouda, asadero, and sharp cheddar cheese rolled into balls, panko crusted, and fried and served with pimento cheese sauce ($3.50 at happy hour); smoked-salmon-and-goat-cheese mousse served with capers, chopped shallots, and crostini ($6 at happy hour); pigs in a blanket made with Niman Ranch hot dogs served with a creole mustard dipping sauce ($5 at happy hour); and a tasty dish of four lollipop lamb chops, grilled to medium rare and served with a side of creamy Gorgonzola sauce ($13.99). My only complaints about the chops were that ours were served lukewarm (perhaps due to the 25-minute wait between ordering and receiving them) and that the Gorgonzola sauce is more like a dressing, so the effect of dipping lukewarm chops in a cold sauce left us, well, chilly.
The Gorgonzola and apple salad ($3.50 at happy hour) was a pleasant surprise – a generous pile of fresh baby greens topped with halved grape tomatoes, thinly sliced apples, red onions, crumbled blue cheese, and spiced walnuts tossed with Champagne-shallot vinaigrette. The vinaigrette picked up the chile spice from the walnuts, adding a very pleasant piquant touch to the fresh, crisp salad.
The main dishes here are thin-crust pizzas in many flavor combinations, with a build-your-own list of ingredients. Some of the most unique combinations include the Stefano ($13.99) with applewood-smoked bacon, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, and micro arugula; the Jambalaya ($13.99), topped with roasted chicken, andouille sausage, and Cajun spices; and the Crab & Portobello ($15.99), with caramelized shallots and white truffle oil. For dessert, J Black's serves a fudge brownie topped with Amy's Ice Cream. The limited dessert offerings are offset by the large amounts of liquid desserts – a good selection of scotch, liqueurs, and the obligatory chocolate martini.
Late-night bar goers can satisfy their munchies at J Black's until midnight every night, and honestly, this is some of the best bar food in the area. Cigar smoke notwithstanding, the food was enjoyable, and I even got to catch a little of the NBA playoffs on the screen.
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