That "Dish of the Year" race? Way too early to call!
No sooner had I teased that I might have already found 2021’s Dish of the Year, when a few new front-runners made a case for that title.
No surprise, all it took was a visit to 1010 Bridge in South Hills, which has quickly – and consistently – emerged as one of the region’s very best restaurants.
Tucked up at the Bridge Road Shops, 1010 has drawn rave reviews for many dishes – perhaps most notably its Crispy Fried Nashville Hot Oysters buttermilk-herb dressing, its Slow-Roasted Pork Belly with sorghum molasses gastrique and a signature “1010 Cut” steak with lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, candied Brussel sprouts, Cabernet bordelaise and foie gras-shallot truffle butter.
Yes, that last one is as good as it sounds.
But after a popular app of Bloody Butcher Corn & Scallion Griddle Cakes with candied-jalapeno honey butter, I finally tried the restaurant’s “other” signature dish.
A take on shrimp ‘n’ grits, the plate of local Angelo’s spicy Italian sausage with grilled shrimp, roasted corn, scallion grits, black-eyed pea succotash and creole shrimp butter was – in a word – divine.
Needless to say, this one’s too early to call and the race continues.
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The chipotle sweet potato salad that Black Sheep Burrito and Brews took some heat over after pulling it off the menu last year continues to haunt many fans who miss it. It’s a common query I receive from readers, who can’t understand why a dish so universally loved is no longer offered.
Here’s just one of the latest.
“I’m rather fond of Black Sheep on Quarrier Street. I’ve rarely been disappointed with the food and the craft beers are usually quite good, if occasionally a bit bizarre,” said reader Chuck Anziulewicz.
“They used to offer a chipotle sweet potato salad as a side dish. As someone who generally hates sweet potatoes, I loved this particular dish, which was like a coarse orange coleslaw. I know a lot of people who raved about it, yet for some reason they dropped it from the menu. Do you know why? And if they don't plan on bringing it back, could they at least provide the recipe?”
I’m also not a big fan of sweet potatoes – and never particularly cared for Black Sheep’s long-lost side – but I know I’m in the minority there. And I also know why it met its unpopular demise.
Turns out it was a prep nightmare for the kitchen staff, often causing backlogs in the kitchen. Peeling hundreds of pounds of potatoes by hand was a challenge and, due to their super-dense texture, they would wreak havoc on the restaurant’s chopping equipment.
In short, it was just a pain to make, but alas there is hope of a brief comeback!
I recently spoke to Black Sheep general manager Kevin Madison, who told me the downtown Charleston restaurant plans to bring back several formerly popular menu items when they celebrate their 10th anniversary this November.
Will Chuck’s sweet potato salad be a part of that celebration? Yes, Kevin confirmed.
More importantly, will MY favorite former dish come back – an incredible smoked duck eggs benedict that appeared on the restaurant’s first brunch menu back in 2015.
It was a drool-worthy combination of smoked hoisin duck hash, fried bacon and poached eggs on an English muffin. And it was heaven on a plate.
I immediately raved about the dish in my review, but it sadly disappeared from the menu before many others got a chance to try it. (My follow-up plea in the newspaper to bring the dish back failed to do so, despite its oh, so, clever headline: “Duck, Duck, Gone!”
But yes, Kevin confirmed, my smoked duck dish will be making a comeback as well.
I so can’t wait until November’s 10-year celebration!
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The recent sad-turned-happy news that the former owners of now-closed Café Cimino Country Inn had started a new catering and bakery business on their family farm got even happier this week.
After quite some time on the market, Tim and Melody Urbanic have sold that glorious former riverfront inn, restaurant and pub in Sutton to K.J. Singh, who is reopening it this Thursday, July 1, as the new Elk River Hotel & Café, a GlampOut Resort that will pick up where Cimino left off.
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at email@example.com.