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Black Market Bistro, Garrett Park - Black Restaurant Group's Hideaway At An Old Train Depot


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I have been reading these posts for a long time, but this is my first real one, so forgive me if I get carried away....

The Mrs. and I had tickets for the Strathmore last night, so we needed to grab a quality Valentines Day meal close by between work and the 8 pm show. We had originally had reservations at Addie's but cancelled when we saw what looked to be a rather underwhelming and overpriced fixed price menu. We decided to roll the the dice and try to get seated at Black Market Bistro (hoping that arriving early (6 pm), would help. We were disappointed to find that Valentine's Day is one of the few days where they do take reservations and they were booked solid. As I glanced in the dining room, I saw two open seats at the bar, and decided to grab them quickly as I thought leaving to try somewhere else on Valentine's Day might not fit into our short time window. While sitting at a bar with strangers may not be the most romantic meal, the food as always was great. The menu was $45 for three courses, but almost their whole usual menu was available, without the burgers and pizzas. The menu was $65 with wine pairings but I was happy with a beer. The food was all top notch and the service at the bar was great. I had the fried oyster appetizers. The corn breading was so crispy around the oyster which just seemed to melt as you bit into them. The remoulade sauce was perfect with a spicy tang was as good as any remoulade I have had oustide New Orleans. The Diver Scallops were cooked perfectly and sat on top of delicous, mushroom mashed potatoes, with bits of pancetta. I followed with a chocolate pot de cream, which tasted somewhere between a mousse and pudding, but better than either I have ever had. My wife ate the Rockfish which she also loved and had a the fall fruit (I though fall ended months ago) platter for dessert which was a streudel, a baked pear, and something else I can't remember. The meal had that perfect balance for valentines day of a nice, cozy, quality meal with out going for the top just for the sake of the holiday. It was just what we were looking for and the other dining at the bar seemed to be looking for the same thing too.

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We have a 3-strikes rule. We figure one bad meal can be a fluke, an off-night, a bad dish on an otherwise solid menu. Second time, the restaurant is definitely slipping, and third time, it is off our list.

We never got to three strikes with Black's because we struck the entire Black's empire off our list when they refused to give us reservations at the place in Garrett Park so my handicapped mother wouldn't have to stand and wait for a table. They were absolutely inflexible about it, claiming that if we drove up right away there would be no wait. We live 10 minutes from Garrett Park and it was just before 6 p.m. (earlier than we wanted to eat, but...) so we ran up there - and every table was occupied. There were two places to sit at wait - at the extremely cramped little bar, which sits directly between the kitchen and the tables, so the waitstaff was squeezing by every few seconds, or a rickety chair out in the cold, empty hallway.

Barbara Black used to run the Garrett Park location which I've never been to. Like her husband she is the chef who runs the kitchen. Unless she was not there that night she would have been the one responsible. I would at least give her a call and mention that you have a special consideration because of your mother's inability to stand and ask her if the inflexibility of the person on the phone is her policy towards the handicapped?

I am suggesting it is not. I'm also suggesting that whoever you talked to on the phone may not have known better. I've found that both she and Jeff care very much when someone has a problem, especially a situation like this. I believe you'll find her apologetic and accommodating. I am also suggesting that your alerting her to this will also prevent a similar situation happening to another unsuspecting customer from an employee who should have known better.

About the steak sauce: are we talking about Heinz 57 sauce which is the strongest sauce I've ever come across? I used to go to Bonanza Sirloin Pit years and years ago and order their cheapest steak: it would kill the taste of even the worst piece of meat, making it edible. I once took a friend and client out to dinner at Sullivan's steak house in another city. He ordered a 16 oz. New York strip medium well and when it was served, before taking a bite, asked for the bottle of Heinz 57. They refused to bring it to him (their real mistake was telling him they even had it!). Well, he was insistent. They told him, in part, what you must have heard: their "chef" refused to let Heinz 57 be served with a steak (or a hamburger) "if it was an adult who was eating it!" Whoa! He asked to speak to the chef! And, a few minutes later the chef came out. Guess who was reamed out? The chef. In no uncertain words the chef was told that when a customer pays his money it is the customer's right to order the steak cooked anyway he wants. If he wants Heinz 57-if he wants gravy!-it is the customer's right. The chef listened to my friend and then said to him, he had gone to the Culinary School of America in Hyde Park, he had apprenticed in X, Y and Z restaurants and everything he had been taught, everything he had been told was to serve the best tasting food he could. It was an obligation and a commitment for him. He honestly, genuinely did not understand why someone would "want" a steak sauce so strong that it would MASK the flavor of the food. Also why someone would pay over $30 a la carte for this? By this time there was a silence around us with all of the nearby tables tilting their collective ears towards us to hear every word they could.

There's no punch line. It was resolved with the Heinz 57 sauce being brought to the table and my friend slathering it over the steak BEFORE he took a bite. He got his way and, of course, he was right.

But I have to tell you, as someone who is serious about food and cooking and tries as best I can: I really want someone to take the first bite the way I intended for them to try it. After that I'll be happy to serve all the steak sauce I have. I really believe that anyone who cooks professionally and cares enough to want a guest to eat-or at least try-their food the way they intended is someone who I want cooking for me.

I do understand your point about inflexibility but I also understand that some people (I am NOT suggesting yourself) take things to an extreme. This is why I mentioned the "episode" above. If Jeff Black or Black's chef is inflexible about steak sauce being served with his hamburger I am suggesting both that he cares about what he serves and, to a certain extent, you are paying a kind of price for the inflexibility incrimentally instilled by customers who order Heinz 57 sauce with Prime beef.

Give Black's another chance. They're good people, have a large following and serve very, very good food that I only wish was closer to me here in Reston. If you talk to Barbara Black I am certain she was unaware of what was being told to you. But she may not serve steak sauce with her hamburgers either! Maybe not ketchup either....

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I will also add a "welcome" to our merry band to Drive-by Critic. You are more generous than I would be with your "three strikes" rule. That's at least one more chance than I would give to any place at any price point.

The complete inability of the restaurant to accomodate your mother deserves all the invective you can heap upon them. This smacks of the dreaded "chains" which get their marching orders from "corporate." Screw 'em. I don't even care if it was somebody "new" to the place; in that case, they were severely undertrained. I don't even want to consider the alternatives.

Edited to add: I never really appreciated Heinz 57 sauce until I was instructed by a friend to put it on a Patty Melt. Nothing is better on that particular aspect of Americana. :lol:

Edited by Barbara
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While Black Market Bistro is Barbara Black's "place" she is not the primary chef. She and Jeff both are focusing on running the business more than cooking, these days.

Christine, the former front-of-house manager of BlackSalt was recently moved over to Black Market Bistro as manager there. She has worked with Jeff and Barbara for many years and is thoroughly conversant with all of their policies. I have always known her to be very accomodating to customers. There are serious space constraints at Black Market Bistro that made it necessary for them to institute a "no reservations policy" there, and there may be limits at that one place that are not true at their other restaurants. Jeff, however, has told me about "regular" customers at Addie's with special needs who he is happy to accomodate--like the man who can't chew solid food who comes in for dinner a couple of times a year.

Black's Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda is undergoing a complete renovation, and the workers have been absorbed into the other three restaurants in the interim.

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The Americans with Disabilities Act would cover the situation of someone unable to stand being made to wait for a table without adequate seating.

While a business owner may be excused from physical alterations to the property to accommodate persons with disabilities if it would adversely affect the business (e.g., if cost is prohibitive), the cost for reserving one table for a party with a member who has difficulty standing would not adversely affect the business, and might come under the pervue of the ADA--one would have to check with the office in Rockville for clarification.

That being said, I would hope that management would not have concurred with the denial of the reasonable request. This seems like a reasonable request.

The person with a disability simply has to state that s/he has a disability and needs the accommodation--no proof or certification is required.

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The Americans with Disabilities Act would cover the situation of someone unable to stand being made to wait for a table without adequate seating.

God forbid we should revisit the issue of dis/abilities and accommodation in restaurants here (go to the Segway thread for that!).

However, I would like to reiterate a point made by drive-by-critic. Black Market Bistor does have places to sit while you wait. Drive-by-critic notes (accurately), though, that the places to sit are not particularly comfortable. The issue here is *not* ADA or state-mandated appropriate accommodation of an individual with special needs. I think it's unfair to Black Market Bistro to move it into that arena.

The issue is that they're boneheads for not granting a simple request for some extra accommodation that would have made for a much more comfortable visit by some patrons.

In other words: it's perfectly fair to call them boneheads, but not fair to suggest they're breaking any laws in their stupidity. :lol:

(welcome drive-by-critic!)

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In other words:  it's perfectly fair to call them boneheads, but not fair to suggest they're breaking any laws in their stupidity. :lol:

[i'll go a step further: It isn't even fair to call them boneheads for one isolated incident. Let's get away from this ADA stuff; there's no issue here. Cheers, Rocks]

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We were in the neighborhood last night, and decided to check this place out. Honestly, all I remembered about it (other than that it was part of the Black's empire) was the previous discussion of lack of available seating for someone's elderly grandmother. I had expected a tiny, cramped space with people waiting out the door. Not at all. The restaurant is in an old, restored house, with the dining space spread out over 3 rooms and a porch. It is also next to a park (and the MARC train line-- don't figure on no trains on the weekend; two CSX convoys rumbled through during our meal and it IS loud), and located in a residential neighborhood. We waited only 20 minutes-- sitting on a bench outside on the porch-- and it was a very pleasant wait. It helped that it was surprising cool outside (of course, we'll make up for it today). To respond further to the discussion below, Black's also seemed very accomodating to waiting parties. There were several chairs available in the hallway (which was very charming, with wainscotting and artsy photographs on the walls), and a few waiting parties had set up shop with bottles of wine poured by the waitstaff. In short, there is not an issue of lack of seating to wait for a table.

All in all, we enjoyed a very nice, low-key meal on the porch: fried oysters, BBQ shrimp and grits, and burger with blue cheese. Fried oysters-- I might still give my vote to Hanks on that one, but these were still very good. My burger was fine-- the wasn't quite enough meat to accomodate the large bun (give us a more substantial patty or use a smaller bun), but it was fine; the skinny onion rings were definitely a hit. My husband seemed to enjoy the shrimp-- I definitely liked the few bites of the grits that I had (with corn!).

Prices: not cheap, but reasonable. The entrees (except the burger at $12 with cheese) ranged from $19-$26, and appetizers, $6-$10

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We went to Black Market for the first time last night and had one of the best dining experiences in a long time. The Thai mussels and the shrimp with grits were incredible. My companions had the special ribeye, which they found perfectly marbled and prepared. The service was very professional and attentive. At $90 a couple, it felt like a bargain.

I do want to digress and comment on the other posts criticizing Black for not making an exception to its no-reservation policy for a disabled woman who couldn’t stand for long periods. As someone with a disability who walks with difficulty (and often uses a wheelchair), I empathize. But I would never expect a restaurant to change its reservation policy for me, and I disagree wholeheartedly that such a policy change is required under the ADA. Also, look at the abuse of handicapped parking—a restaurant would be barraged with a flood of people faking disabilities to get priority seating. I would have asked Black for a sturdy chair for the woman to sit while she waited for a table, and I bet they would have been happy to provide it.

I surveyed the space at Black Market last night and was impressed with the level of accessibility--from the front door ramp to the fully accessible restrooms. They should be commended, and as a result of their efforts, they will get my business again. And I eat out enough to pay for their ramp and toilet grab bars many times over.

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I've found the service, especially at the hostess stand, to be extremely friendly. For example, we were outside waiting for a late lunch on a Friday a few months ago when our two-year old son was on the verge of throwing a fit from hunger. My fault. I went inside to ask for a piece of bread to tide him over. The hostess went into the kitchen and brought out freshly made whole wheat bread and a pat of butter. That was beyond the call of duty, especially since we're not regulars (we've been to the restaurant at most five times over the years). Foodwise, I love their hamburger with blue cheese and bacon on it. A plus is you get onion strings instead of french fries--a nice change of pace.

Ignacio

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I had brunch at Black Market yesterday and found the experience to be fabulous. Service was attentive, plenty of tables were available, but the place was lively. The food was superb.

The brunch menu was perhaps a little heavy on the lunch items than I normally prefer, however, the beignets were amazing and the eggs benedict was to die for--light and fluffy, perfectly cooked, on a great angel biscuit, I think it was called. Our table also sampled the pancakes, a gulf shrimp salad, and a vegetable panini and everyone raved.

I had been there for dinner about a year ago and thought the menu lacked variety and the service was only adequate. Our server yesterday was delightful and the food was great. It was a wonderful experience and we will definitely be back, as I suspect will our dining companions.

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Very close....it is the restaurant we went to the one time we went to Strathmore. Probably 1-2 miles away and about a 5 minute drive. Interestingly, the next closest restaurant to Strathmore is Addie's, another Black's restaurant. I guess there's also the Pooks Hill Marriott but nothing much good there I don't think.

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I just called, and they don't take reservations. I can't risk it with an 8:00 show. They only had reservations for 5 and 5:30, which is around the time I will be leaving work. Being so close to the center, they should at least have reserved tables until 7:00pm on show nights. Below is what is listed on the website, maybe it should be revised. As it seems that reservations are only accepted on a limted basis, which seems to be those times stated above.

Reservation Policy

Reservations Are Accepted For Dinner Every Evening, Monday Through Saturday

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Three of us enjoyed our dinner at Black Market Bistro Thursday night. My father-in-law and I ordered the very flavorful hanger steak which was accompanied by perfectly cooked spinach and mashed potatoes that reminded me of my mother's (a compliment). My wife got the tasty cucumber gazpacho (which is no where as good as the melon gazpacho at Black's) plus an order of the mussels appetizer as an entree; they are worth ordering. The soda bread is also excellent. The only real disappointment (to me, not my father-in-law who ordered it) was the caprese salad. The tomatoes tasted as if it were December and the "fresh" mozzarella was small, dense balls. For a great tomato salad, go to 2 Amy's.

Pax,

Brian

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As part of the diversion to get home last night, we stopped at Black Market for dinner. Azami had the burger with cheddar and bacon (bacon was left off, but the bartender quickly brought some), onion rings, and salad, and a Sam Adams Summer Ale. I had the "New Orleans Style Barbeque Shrimp," with sweet corn and onion grits, wilted greens (menu said chard, but mine seemed more like spinach), and baguette, and a glass of Riesling. Shrimp were appropriately shrimpy, the grits were tasty (was there cheese in them?), and the greens were nice and tender. The sauce for the shrimp was lovely at first -- a little smoky -- but by the end tasted mostly of salt, I think not helped along by the baguette crusted with parsley and Parmesan. I could have used either less salt in the sauce or a simply toasted baguette.

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Enjoyed a delicious Sunday Brunch recently.

The wait was a tolerable 20 minutes and included beverage service. That's a nice touch and the iced tea was very good. Though I understand the want (above) for a ready, waiting table upon arrival for a special needs guest, I can also say that this wait was as pleasant as one could hope for in most any restaurant.

Appetizers: The potato latkes were the best I'd ever had. They were crispy on the outside with a tender center, and very nicely seasoned. I could have stopped with about 10 latkes with a bunch of that applesauce and been satisfied. The beignets were big and sweet, maybe just a little dense. Delicious.

Main: Scrambled eggs, skirt steak, cajun potatoes and an extra side of sage sausage - the eggs were nice and I don't usually see them served this way - wet and "heavy" - many places tend to whip them up too far, making them almost spongy, and frankly, making them cool too quickly once plated. These were much more solid, but just this side of set - with a tinge of runniness. Maybe not the best ever-ever, but for one that has scrambled eggs 2 or more times a week, these were memorable. The potatoes were nicely spiced and tender and the sage sausage was bursting with juiciness and had a delicious clean, fresh flavor. Likewise, the skirt steak was really nicely seasoned (smoked?) and tender, though with a bit of chew to it. Stacey got the eggs benedict; and the biscuits were fluffy.

Dessert: We piled it on and got a danish with pear inside and ice cream. The pear wasn't quite ripe (it is january, so not sure what were expecting) but the pastry was flaky and very good.

Well done, a very enjoyable and memorable meal. Too bad we missed any trains :)

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A sunny, crisp fall Saturday is a perfect time for a lunch at Black Market Bistro. Even moreso with a dog who can romp in the park just alongside the restaurant across the railroad tracks after the meal. And, with a small Mennonite farmers' market just outside the front door, was a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.

HEADLINE

Lovely restored home right in Garrett Park serving well executed, delicious food at moderate prices. Genuinely friendly and effective service. Very good value.

VENUE

Kind of gave up the goods on this above but worth calling out for anyone who hasn't before been here. The interior is beautiful with lots of light and plenty of tables of different sizes. We were seated straightaway at around midday right by a window at a hightop. All tables filled shortly thereafter but the noise level didn't at all interfere with conversation. BMB has a nice bar just on the left when you enter where the full menu is available and you can see the kitchen humming just beyond that. Comfortable, welcoming and thoughtful decor in every way.

SERVICE

Our waitress was great. The kind of person that reminds one that service process and protocols can be trained but personalities are determined much earlier in life. Hence the importance of hiring, something that Black Restaurant Group seems to do very well BTW. Our server did everything we could have asked for but was just a genuinely nice and lovely person to boot.

FOOD

We enjoyed:

- Corn crusted oyster appetizer (maybe $9?--lost my receipt): These were very good and served with an interesting tartar sauce with relish that was creamy, tangy and fresh all in one. This made the dish. Oysters were also very fresh and, while they were crispier than similar dishes we've had recently at Rays3 and Bucks, we really enjoyed these. Maybe 7-9 oysters. Quite the deal here IMO.

- Burger w/ onion rings ($12 I think? Can't recall): BMB won us over as soon as we learned they were flame grilling. I assume the grill is gas powered but, interestingly and relative to other spots that do likewise, these burgers had no taste or odor of gas or propane. I'm sure that's about the stove design and technique but, having had a few burgers recently where the gas flavor/scent was pretty pronounced, we really appreciated this one. The burger itself was very flavorful and nicely seasoned. The onion rings, while well seasoned and just lightly breaded, weren't as hot and crispy as we'd have hoped. Still delicious but probably the only nit of the entire meal.

- Fried catfish sandwich ($14 maybe?): this was excellent. A huge piece of perfectly fried fish with light and very crispy breading surrounding lots of fresh, white, moist flaky fish. Served on thick slices of french sandwich bread, more of that excellent tartar sauce and lightly dressed greens. Really enjoyed this. The perfect lunch choice.

- Coffee ($4 or 4.95?): coffee was fine but this was the only thing that seemed priced out of kilter with the rest of the menu. On the one hand, lots of restaurants (incl Starbucks) charge $3-5 for coffee drinks but, here with average sandwiches and burgers running in the low teens on average, the coffee seemed a bit expensive. But, again, this is really small ball stuff.

VALUE

Would have to say excellent. BMB, after all the years it has been open, still is putting out delicious, creative and highly enjoyable food. I think we spent around $50 all in. A great value given portion sizes, quality and overall experience.

BOTTOM LINE

We really enjoyed it and felt foolish we don't make it here more often. Blacks is probably another of the rare examples of a restaurant group that seems to really maintain a high quality level consistently across their four (er, now five...or six with Pearl and Black Jack) locations and over time. Whether the higher end seafood restaurant on MacArthur, Addies, Bar & Grill in Bethesda or this, we usually always enjoy our experiences. Jeff and Barbara Black have built something very elusive for so many others IMHO. These folks know food. And they know business.

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Hi,

I know it says this under the Addie's Oyster Roast post, but I wanted to add the information about the dr.com promo code for members.

"Blacks Restaurant Group is offering a Promo Code to DR.com members for $5 off the ticket price. The promo codes are only valid until 10/20---so get your tickets before then! For the Pig Out the promo code is DRPIG and for the Oyster Roast it is DROYSTER. "

I hope to see lots of you there.

--

Jill

Has anyone been to Black Market Bistro since the most recent post in 2010?

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Has anyone been to Black Market Bistro since the most recent post in 2010?

We've been maybe 4 times but only for brunch. Food for that has been good enough though with some inconsistency. And the location is lovely on a nice day with the park next door and a small farmer's market in the side lot. It's popular; usually quite full and busy on Sunday mornings. The main nit is the coffee (a bit overpriced at maybe $4/cup? I may be a bit off on that price but remember talking about it because they were still using Quartermaine when so many better choices are now available imho). It'd be good to hear from people who've had dinner there.

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Has anyone been to Black Market Bistro since the most recent post in 2010?

I was there a few months ago with several friends, but the only thing I can remember about it was that MrP wasn't feeling well and ended up not ordering anything. Looking at the menu online, I still can't recall what I ordered. This usually indicates a perfectly acceptable meal that was not memorable in either direction. Sorry I can't be more helpful.

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I went in Summer 2011 (plus if you scroll up, you'll see you posted in the wrong thread [thus I moved the posts here] - there are some more recent posts).

Interesting. One of those recent posts was mine from just over a year ago. Of course I'll stand by what I wrote then but would say we've had a couple of less consistent experiences food-wise at brunch since then. Then again, someone smart in the food world (Bourdain maybe?) said to skip brunch in restaurants so some recent dinner feedback would be great. All said, nothing we've experienced recently would stop us from returning.

Edited following a reminder:

Two of the specifics behind the inconsistency claim above from recent brunches were eggs and steak. In one case the eponymous dish which combines them. In another case, an egg dish. The steak lacked flavor and was a bit disappointing relative to steak we'd had there previously. And, the eggs seemed ordinary as in the supermarket, long-term storage variety, which is a bummer in a area like ours with "better" restaurants like Blacks. We're surrounded by local egg farmers with much better nutritive content and flavor at not very high cost.

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Went for the first time here a few months ago. It was fine. Good to very good overall. Kind of envious for a neighborhood to have a restaurant right in the middle of it - I would love it if my neighborhood had such a place. There's not much else to say - nothing really stood out in a good way or a bad way - just....fine. This was after a performance at Strathmore, so we were in a good mood to begin with, so I am a little flummoxed why this was just....fine.  The only thing that stood out was its location and the fact that the dining room we were seated in was pretty tight. I do not think I'd go out of my way to dine here again, but I wouldn't run away from here screaming if this is where I had to eat.

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