For occupying a "cursed" corner on Eat Street, the new home of Black Sheep Pizza is certainly looking auspicious.
The doubly successful coal-fired pizza joint opens in the former home of the short-lived Eat Street Buddha Kitchen (and before that Azia) this Wednesday. And for their third act, owners Colleen and Jordan Smith are adding cocktails and chargrilled meats to the repertoire.
What was once a moody dining room with dark corners and an impossibly long bar has been transformed into an expansive, light-filled room with a pared-down rectangular bar, sleek window-side booths, a vibrant mural along the back wall, and large, retractable garage door-style windows that look out over 26th Street.
The wood-fired grill behind the bar is the most obvious new addition to the Black Sheep concept -- you'll smell traces of its meaty smoke when you walk in and spy the giant silvery wheel that raises and lowers its massive grate. We envision ourselves tossing back chargrilled oysters and bits of harissa-laced lamb merguez into the wee hours of the morning, cocktails in hand (the bar will stay open until 2 a.m. every day).
Black Sheep's St. Paul and North Loop locations currently offer tap beer and wine, but the siren song of mixed drinks finally worked its sorcery on Colleen and Jordan. The list here is short and sweet: "We're not trying to be mixologists," says general manager Kristina Lawson, nodding to their spirit-savvy friends next door at Eat Street Social.
Indeed if anything gives this Eat Street corner hope of breaking its bad restaurant juju, it's the simple, staid concept of Black Sheep: fresh, crusty pizza straight from the oven, a well-rounded mix of traditional and unique flavor combinations, craft beer, straightforward cocktails, and the kind of setting that could easily suit a work lunch at noon, a family dinner at 6 p.m., and a pack of pizza-ravenous revelers at 1 a.m. Black Sheep has range, but they know their limits.
"We won't have customers eating pizza off of naked women," says Colleen, referencing Azia's short-lived "naked sushi" stunt. "It just wouldn't fit with the concept."
Merciful news to all parties involved. Here, pizza is served on plates, craft beers are on tap, and the only thing you really need to know about fancy-sounding items like the Persian beef, feta, tomato, and harissa pie is that they're delicious.
Black Sheep's soft opening is this Wednesday, December 17.
Black Sheep Pizza 2550 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
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