When Black Sheep Social Club recommends reservations, they aren’t kidding. The new Cedar Rapids restaurant hummed over the lunch hour on a recent Tuesday. Located in the former Great Furniture Mart building on First Street downtown, the social club opened for business Apr. 19 and has generated plenty of conversation among the city’s foodies.
The open floor plan and industrial décor work well in a space once used as a grain and spice warehouse. The lunch menu offers an eclectic selection of appetizers, soup, salads and sandwiches. Evening diners will find the dinner menu similar, but with the addition of several entrées.
After perusing the amazing cocktail/beer/wine list, I worked to narrow down the lunch options; they all sounded interesting. The twists on classic fare and unusual combinations appealed to me. As the restaurant’s website explains: “Black sheep do things just a little bit differently, an attitude we’ve taken since the inception of the restaurant.” This philosophy is certainly evident in the menu featuring ingredients sourced from local and responsible growers.
Rave reviews of the Duck Fat Fries pepper the Black Sheep Social Club’s Facebook page. I hate to be a follower — I have to read a book before it becomes a bestseller or I don’t read it at all — but something the menu describes as “Yukon Gold potatoes double-fried in duck fat. Gruyere cheese. Black Sheep bacon. garlic scape. black salt. tomato jam. chicory aioli” cannot possibly be wrong.
And it’s not wrong. It is so, so right. My husband was in the bathroom when the appetizer arrived. I was close to diving in without him, but good manners prevailed. The minute he sat back down, it was on. I can usually take or leave French fries, but these — wow. The melted Gruyere with the best bacon I’ve ever tasted was an astonishing combination. If the side of chicory aioli had been bigger, I would have eaten it with a spoon.
The salad I selected as my entrée was light after the heavy appetizer, but still filling. It featured smoked salmon, pickled pears (unexpectedly amazing), tomatoes and sweet peppers over spinach and chives, finished with a Black Sheep bacon vinaigrette. I added a slow-poached egg, a nice complement to the smoky fish. Two crostini with a cheesy smoked salmon spread completed the presentation.
I look forward to returning to Black Sheep Social Club in the evening to sample more of their delicious food, but I will order the Duck Fat Fries again.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 200.