Sep 19, 2017

Black Pearl has it all (and maybe even a bit too much)

Racheal (yes, that's her name) at the bar
Doc's report:

I took my senior prom date to dinner at the Blackhawk restaurant at Third Street and Water after the dance. Several owners, name changes, and a half-century later, the eponymous black hawk is still there, stuffed and encased in glass above the hostess stand, as you enter the venue’s current iteration, the Black Pearl.

The year-old Caribbean-themed “Rok Grille and Rum Bar” shares its name, of course, with the pirate ship in the Disney franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I’ll watch any movie in which the father of the sex symbol hero (Johnny Depp) is played by Keith Richards. Indeed, as Harry and I entered the cavernous and otherwise deserted restaurant on a recent Thursday mid-afternoon, "Gimme Shelter," the lead track on the Stones’ “Let It Bleed” album, was playing on the excellent sound system -- but so loud as to inhibit conversation.

I like the Black Pearl a lot. I went back with a date -- a classmate of my prom date -- and would encourage everyone to go there. I’ll tell you why after I say this one thing: The Caribbean pirate ship motif didn’t work for me.

As you enter, there are padlocked lockers. I get it. Various skulls here and there, paintings of ships in various styles, predictable tow ropes slung about, maps of the West Indies, seashells, a school of brass fish swimming across the wall, and the like. The view is the city’s best -- west toward sunset over the river -- but obscured by (well-crafted) soap drawings of various pirate motifs on the windows.

I say: Tone down the decorations, put some reggae on the system, lower the volume, and bring on the rum!

Everything else at the Black Pearl is great. Our bartender, Racheal, enters our bartenders hall of fame after only one appearance, for her charm, wit, service, heart-themed tattoo and jewelry,
Giant plate of nachos at Black Pearl
and knowledge of contemporary literature. On her recommendation, I’ve dipped with surprising pleasure into writer Dave Pelzer (“A Child Called ‘It’ ”) and the poetry of Ellen Hopkins.

The food at the Black Pearl is delicious. I’ve talked to a few people who’ve eaten there, and they agree. My nachos were classic, with leftovers big enough to take home for two more meals if you have help carrying them to the car. They’re called Ignacio Anaya, after the Mexican maitre d’ credited with creating the popular appetizer. Ignacio’s nickname: “Nacho.” (We blog to learn.)

Fish offerings include the bounty of the sea: perch, cod, salmon, tuna, lobster -- and the place is docked on Water Street!

On my second visit, my date raved about her generous serving of crab cakes in a yum yum rum sauce. Don’t say “yum yum rum” after two Rum Runners. My date had only one, but after the
A rum drink
Mason jar was about half empty, she was saying that it reminded her of a “Slingapore Sing” (sic) and trying to organize a conga line to Harry Belefonte’s “Jump In The Line” (“Shake Shake Shake Senora”).

The Rum Runner: silver rum, spiced rum, coconut rum, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, orange juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and Bacardi 151. Nine ingredients, $7. A good value. If Hemingway had drunk Rum Runners instead of daiquiris, he might have ended up writing “The Old Man and the Ocean.” (Hemingway: “I drink to make other people more interesting.”)

Rum drinks, not the tides or fickle winds, will decide the fortunes of the Black Pearl. I had to decide last year if I was going to drink rum or write this blog, and I’ve made my choice. But they all sound good, especially the one named after the favorite drinks of the owner and his girlfriend, with Cruzan mango rum, Cruzan raspberry rum, and cranberry juice.

Tables at the Black Pearl
The Black Pearl has it all:
  • Delicious food.
  • Creative rum drinks.
  • Classic rock on a concert-quality sound system.
  • Lots of seating.
  • A great venue.
  • A smart, engaging bartender.
  • The basic d├ęcor, minus the pirate motif: bare wood and galvanized metal walls, gorgeous buffed wooden floors, dark tablecloths, an exposed high-tech ceiling, hanging drop cord lanterns over the bar.
  • That western view over the river.
It’s a great place at sunset, or for a date after the prom, or 50 years later, or on Sept. 19, which is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Put on your eye patch, grab your hook -- with the good hand -- set anchor at the Black Pearl, and say “Argh” to Racheal.

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