Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter
One restaurant isn’t enough for two SF Bay Area chefs who opened the doors on their second restaurants, both casual spots, this week. With a little help from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, chef/owner David Lawrence and his co-owner wife Monetta White cut the ribbon on their new eatery, Black Bark BBQ in the Fillmore district, on Tuesday—the same day that three-Michelin-starred chef David Kinch debuted The Bywater in Los Gatos.
Black Bark BBQ, which opens today to the public, is a fast casual barbecue restaurant that offers house-smoked BBQ, done low and slow in an urban setting.
“The Fillmore used to be known for its barbecue,” explains Lawrence. “But since Leon’s closed in the early 2000’s, there’s been a void that needed filling. A few years ago I started putting ribs on as a special at my other restaurant, 1300 on Fillmore, and they flew out of the kitchen; people were demanding full racks even after we took them off the menu. We knew then that we were onto something, that there was a need for a place like Black Bark.”
To the gatherers at the preview tasting, Lawrence also explained the significance of the name of his new eatery, which is across the street from his and White’s southern restaurant 1300 on Fillmore.
“It was to represent the brisket,” he says. “When you look at a good brisket, it should have a good bark on it. It should be almost black, crispy and crunchy. We want everyone to know that it’s a barbecue place and Black Bark tells you it’s a barbecue place. We want to be known for brisket in this place, but we also do ribs.”
Black Bark’s barbecue leans toward a Texas style, utilizing dry rubs, and sides typical to the region but Lawrence has also pulled in techniques from Carolina and Kansas City pit masters; creating what he calls San Francisco style barbecue. In addition to beef brisket and spare ribs, also on the menu: pulled pork, link sausage, chicken, turkey legs, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, sweet potato fries, potato salad, sweet potato pecan casserole, salads that allow diners to add a protein, sandwiches and desserts (sweet potato pie, cobbler and root beer float). On the beverage side Black Bark will offer 12 local beers and six local wines on tap and an assortment of bottled and canned beverages, with a special focus on ciders.
“It was over a year to get Black Bark open but trust that us that it will be worth the wait,” promised White, who worked the room on a broken ankle, using crutches or a knee scooter.
In all, Black Bark has been more than three years in the making, time that Lawrence spent time cooking and visiting the kitchens of barbecue institutions across the country like Franklin’s in Austin and Bludso’s in Compton; experiences which helped him learn the history of the culinary genre and allowed him to sample the best that each style of barbecue has to offer. Lawrence also brought on a “secret weapon” to assist with the opening: Edith Cheadle, a Texas barbecue veteran from Dallas with over 20 years of experience. Cheadle has been working with Lawrence over the last several months to help to shape the backbone of the restaurant and ensuring a measure of authenticity.
The restaurant features seven big screen televisions mounted on walls, a communal dining table as two-top bistro tables, standard four-tops and bar seating. Catchy sayings on the wall such as “Don’t Get Saucy with Us,” “We Love Big Butts,” “Killer Racks on Fillmore,” “No Wood No Good” and “Beer and Swine,” are painted on the walls. When the weather allows, there will be al fresco dining available for up to 15 on Fillmore Street.
Lee also proclaimed Jan. 12 “Black Bark BBQ Day” in San Francisco and presented a plaque to the eatery’s proprietors.
“I’m here because I love barbecue, like all of you,” said Lee, who left with a bag of delicious fare—but not before he praised Lawrence and White for bringing business to a challenging area that has changed significantly since its heyday. Half of Black Bark’s employees are residents of the Western Addition.
Black Bark BBQ is located at 1325 Fillmore St. (between Fillmore and Eddy streets) is open every day, except Tuesday, from 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. For more information please visit blackbarkbbq.com.
Photo Credit: Nick Vasilopoulos
In the South Bay, Kinch’s and partner Andrew Burnham’s first casual bar and eatery, The Bywater, also has a southern flair. Located minutes from the notable Manresa, the new restaurant is inspired by and named for The Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, the city where Kinch grew up and got his start in the culinary industry. The Bywater’s menu showcases classic French and New Orleans-inspired dishes as well as southern staples from fried green tomatoes to po’boys reimaged with ingredients from Northern California. A raw bar offers a rotating selection of oyster including Pemaquid, Grassy Bar, Rappahannock, and Malpeque.
Lunch and dinner highlights include: Gumbo z’herbes, Chicken liver mousse and tomatillo jam, The Bywater Po Boys dressed with fried oysters, homemade hot links, or shrimp, Fried Chicken and butter beans, Red Snapper Courtbouillon with andouille and shrimp, and Pork chop with black eye peas. For dessert, there is Affogato and beignets, Butterscotch pot de crème, and Chocolate bread pudding
The Bywater also plans to run nightly specials with chef’s favorites including Creole Shrimp and grits on Tuesdays and Cochon de Lait on Thursdays.
Just as much as the food and drink, music plays a big role in the ambiance of the space and also draws inspiration from New Orleans. The restaurant soundtrack features everything from classic jazz to funky brass bands.
Located at 532 N. Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos, The Bywater is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Brunch will launch in early February. For more information, please call (408) 560-9639 or visit thebywaterca.com.