Split Personality

Riversiders like to consider themselves artsy, a little edgy and the kind of folks willing to try new things. So, it was with great anticipation that neighborhood denizens watched the structure at the intersection of Oak and Margaret streets rise from the ground. Five Points regulars are accustomed to seeing the odd and unusual. However, the Black Sheep Restaurant building was something altogether different. For while this part of the city prides itself on saving old things, Black Sheep is located on the ground level of a shiny new three-story and striking contemporary edifice erected on an oddly shaped lot. In fact, the shape of the property resulted in one corner that appears sharp enough to slice open a watermelon.
The building is a pleasing collection of horizontal lines, hard edges, smooth surfaces and geometric forms. Historical it is not. Inside, the modern vibe is nicely softened with lots of sophisticated woods, earthy bronzes and blacks. The dining room is really one large space. A bar is situated toward the rear as one walks through the front door. Tables are arranged around centrally located banks of high-backed booths, creating a circular traffic pattern for servers and guests.
Lunchtime is a fast casual experience. Diners queue up to the counter to place an order. A large menu board above the registers informs you of the day’s offerings. Slow roasted tomato and fennel soup, $4, and marinated beet salad with herbed goat cheese, arugula and oranges, $8, are among the soups and salads. Sandwiches and sides make for creative and filling meals. The club is a tower of Black Forest ham, roast turkey, Swiss cheese, thick bacon, tomato and garlic aioli, $10. The duck banh mi, $10, with pickled veggies, jalapeños, cilantro and spicy mayo, is a house favorite. Pair either with a side of cheese grits, $5; mac and cheese, $6; or sweet corn succotash, $4, and one need not eat again for many hours.
Dinner is a more formal affair, with full table service and an expanded upscale menu. The restaurant is a strong proponent of locally sourced produce and meats, and that is reflected in dishes such as sage roasted Black Hog Farm chicken, $19; local sustainable fish catch of the day, $26; and Georgia peach chutney, $25. Sides have a decided Southern flavor—peas and carrots, cheddar grits with smoked bacon, fried green tomatoes with warm blue cheese fondue, all priced $4-$6.
The whole establishment fits the old Green Acres sitcom theme of mixing city flair with country life. When the weather is nice, the dozen or so tables on the patio are in high demand. The people-watching in Five Points is always good. It’s even better with a bowl of French onion soup and fried shoestring potatoes with ancho chile aioli.
Black Sheep
1534 Oak St., Riverside, 355-3793; blacksheep5points.com
Hours: 10:30 AM-10 PM, Monday-Thursday; 10:30 AM-11 PM, Friday; 5-11 PM, Saturday; Limited bar menu 11 PM-midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Birds-Eye View: The rooftop bar was a couple weeks away from being open during our last visit. Management says it should be open before December 1.
Reservations: They are accepted for dinner. For parties of six or larger, one is strongly recommended.
Hey, Bartender: Today’s hip establishments must offer signature cocktails. Try the Dusty Boot with Buffalo Trace bourbon, simple syrup, lemon, lime, and bitters, served in a glass rimmed with smoked sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Finger Foods: Unusual bar snacks are offered, including fried green olives stuffed with pimento cheese and mixed nuts seasoned with orange blossom honey and sea salt.