Maybe the kiss of death for Scratch was two words, “taco boutique,” because there was nothing about this Mount Pleasant taqueria that brought elite, expensive or stylish (as in “boutique”) to this Mexican snack food category.
Owner Zach Bedell and chef Mat Jones dissolved their partnership and Bedell focused on the restructuring of his business enterprise on Coleman Boulevard, which is now Black Sheep.
This Berklee College of Music graduate shifted his attention to “eatertainment” and the construction of a stage that hosts live music and comedy acts along with local DJs, who spin an interesting mash-up of modern music.
And in a town where most restaurants are posting the names of their farmers, the genus of their hogs and the hybridization of their grains, Bedell lets you know about amps, channel mixers, condensers and guitar mics. As a graduate from the Boston college that has schooled more than 229 Grammy-award winning performers, Bedell knows a “bass” from a “bass.”
To do justice to the multiple venues on tap at Black Sheep, the dining room has a bar, high tops, a few tables and a perimeter lounge outfitted with six plush, claret red sofas, low-slung tables and flat-screen TVs.
During performances, only ticket holders have access to this inside area; the outside bar and patio remain open to guests not attending a comedy or musical show. Black Sheep’s website directs you to the program menu where advance tickets can be secured. Tickets are sold at the door for as long as seats remain.
Local talent such as Quinton Green as well a Eric Hunter of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and Comedy Central’s Ricky Reyes will be bringing their brand of humor this spring to Black Sheep. Quintessential DJ Moo Moo, voted Charleston’s best DJ for the past seven years, gets the party started when he commands the stage.
Black Sheep is a laid-back place. Its menu is driven by homey familiarity. Pimento cheese dip, fried green tomatoes, wings and nachos keep the happy in their happy hour.
The kitchen is not stretched by innovation and the menu is a safe harbor for both the staff and the guests. Burgers are ground in-house and are layered with a global assortment of toppings such as chili, chutney, Buffalo shrimp and pulled pork.
Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs are used to create the hot dog menu that mirrors the burgers’ toppings.
The so-called Chicago Dog was a delicious mess to eat, but it failed on a few key ingredients that make the Windy City’s namesake hot dog: Vienna Beef brand hot dogs for the dog, kosher pickle spears (not dill), neon relish (not green), sport peppers (missing), fresh tomatoes, celery salt, chopped onions (missing) and a steamed poppy seed roll (missing). Black Sheep’s version fell short on being the iconic Chicago-style hot dog but held its own in the wiener world. It is now off the menu. Too bad.
Sandwiches are built on Normandy Farms bread and will please the most fastidious trencher connoisseur. A Philly cheesesteak special was plumbed with layers of decent quality shaved beef and finished with a saute of green peppers and onions and provolone cheese.
The kitchen entertains itself by “seasoning” its condiments: tartar sauce is spiked with jalapenos and mayonnaise is amped up with a ruddy squirt of Sriracha.
Entrees are value-priced and top out at $13.75. In early spring, they featured meatloaf and gravy; fried oysters or shrimp; a pulled pork-and-brisket combination platter; and a Mexican-inspired chicken breast. The shrimp were jacketed in a frail coating of batter and though not pulled from local waters, they had a coastal pedigree.
Try the loaded mac-and-cheese that you can customize with proteins and toppings for a carbo-centric calorie bomb. Or enjoy a small side served in a mini cast-iron skillet that insulates the noodles with retained heat as you eat.
Potatoes command the sides category with sweet potato fries, french fries, mashed potatoes and potato hash sharing the menu space with sweet-and-sour slaw and corn. There is always a vegetable of the day but not much imagination is expended on its preparation.
I thought I detected some red pepper jelly in the sweet-and-sour slaw and it seemed so appropriate. The kitchen does quite a bit of that — “culinary surcees” — truffle oil and Parmesan on the fries, wasabi flying fish roe on fried shrimp, a crown of crab meat on the corn chowder, and crispy onion strings on chili and burgers.
Bedell learned his lessons well. Keep to the basics and not the boutiques. Define your passion and transfer that to the job you do every day. Gather an affable staff. Price your menu for the value-equation. Align your vision to your dream and turn an omen into an outlier: A black sheep into Black Sheep Bar and Grill. Where analog and digital meet at the intersection of burgers and wings.