Though a tavern by name, step into Blackie's Bull Dog Tavern, in Smithfield, and you'll encounter an amiable crowd attracted to a sophisticated menu. The place tries hard to live up to its motto – “Expect the Unexpected.”
I mean, a paleo broccollini banh mi burger, with grilled broccolini and creamy kimchi sauce? You'd be hard-pressed to out-exotic that one by building your own burger, an opportunity they offer with a dozen cheeses, 21 other toppings (red onion marmalade, anyone?), plus 15 sauces (how about fig jam?).
Blackie's opened four years ago – actually, reopened with the same name.
“Prior to Blackie’s, it was a fine dining restaurant,” explained co-owner Jeanine Iannucci. “It was too high end and formal for the area, even though it is an affluent region of the state. The previous owners closed for a summer and re-opened with a tavern theme with the hopes of attracting the Bryant University students and locals.”
Chef Angie Armenise, who already had a good reputation from those locals, signed on, and their success was such that they purchased the place three months later.
“We both like to make an impression with our styles and personalities,” Jeanine said. “We wanted our environment to be uplifting, sexy and comfortable. It was very important that the menu stayed filled with comfort food items that had Angie’s personal touches. She is a very talented, creative chef who does not want her creativity to be harnessed.”
All those elements were in evidence with an appetizer that came to our table, “Crunchy Corn.” Sliced to order fresh off the cob, complemented by an over-easy Baffoni egg on top, the niblets were also complemented by local queso fresco, green onions, pieces of house-made bacon (meat only), and their own smoky spiced BBQ basil-butter – which also can be enjoyed on their calamari. It was simple and thoughtfully complex at the same time. My fork kept returning to it as though directly connected to my taste buds.
salmon paleo power plate
Despite delicious other items. Such as the “nicely grilled” salmon Johnnie had and enjoyed, complimenting the hint of smoke. And the pile of pork ribs, served over french fries, next to a half-pint jar of coarse cole slaw. You can appreciate the ribs from Angie's proud description of their time-consuming preparation.
“Our baby back ribs are from White Marble Farms,” she began, referring to Sysco-distributed pork from the Midwest. “We brined them for three days. We have a signature dry rub – we pull them out of the brine and they smoke for between 10 and 12 hours.”
12 hour house smoked ribs
The ribs were pink and succulently moist from being frequently basted during the smoking process. Between that and the deep flavor from the rub, they were better than ribs I've had in Kansas City. That smoker, by the way, also comes in handy for beef as well as the turkey sandwiches. (Their Cubano panino contains both pulled pork carnitas, and crisp pork belly for texture contrast. You had us at carnitas, Angie.)
Their “Power of P” flatbread pizza is deservedly popular, I can attest. It has both sharp provolone and mild Parmigiano Reggiano, plus both garlic herb spread and roasted garlic oil. The wild mushrooms are amped up with truffle oil, of course.
power of the p flatbread
Smart opportunities are taken. From cilantro in the daily-made guacamole we had as a starter with veggie sticks, and that olive-oiled broccolini, all the way to what we ended with: cayenne-sprinkled coconut-milk whipped cream on the deeply rich chocolate mousse. All's well that ends this well.
pot de cream
CHECK OUT BLACKIE'S ON "CHEF 2 GO" BELOW