I will go far and wide to try new restaurants, but sometimes it’s nice when you can just walk down the street.
In the nearby Temescal neighborhood in Oakland, Blackwater Station has been serving up American bistro fare for the past year. But only recently did I make it in to check out the spot on a Friday night.
The corner location was once home to the popular Spanish tapas restaurant Barlata, and the new owners briefly went with the name Grange Hall before rebranding the restaurant bar as Blackwater Station.
Early reviews talked about the shareable plates, including a notable meatballs starter, but when I visited, I noticed the meatballs were gone and there weren’t as many small plate options, just a pretty standard menu of a few starters, entrees and sides. Later on when I asked about dessert, that’s when the bartender explained that the chef is reworking the menu (which explained why there currently are no dessert options).
Since I was dining at the bar, I ordered one of the six specialty cocktails, the “Salt of the Earth,” which is made up of Citadelle gin, dry vermouth, cucumber syrup, pineapple shrub, salt and soda. It was fizzy and fresh with the soda and cucumber syrup, and the embedded lighting in the wooden bar added a bit of glamour.
For the food, there weren’t a lot of surprises, with entree offerings such as pork chop, buttermilk fried chicken and the Blackwater burger. And there were only three starter options and I ordered two of them: the pumpkin carrot gazpacho ($9) and Caesar salad ($10).
The pumpkin gazpacho was the most unique dish of the night, with the chilled soup served with a pickled cucumber relish and ancho chili. The Caesar salad was nicely constructed but seemed on the plain side (I wished I could have seen some anchovies) and the dressing was slightly sweet.
The sweetness continued in my entree of Forbidden Rice Bowl ($16), which was a rice bowl that had an Asian twist, starting with the black Forbidden rice. But it was almost an homage to jambalaya with cajun prawns and andouille sausage. The pickled greens gave it that Asian twist, but oddly made the overall dish too sweet-sour for my taste. The saving grace was the plump and perfectly cooked shrimp.
The bartender was what you would want from a neighborhood bartender, friendly and helpful with just the right amount of chatting and leaving you alone to eat. There’s a definitely casual homey elegance to Blackwater Station but the menu so far is a little on the safe side.
The last bite
Blackwater Station fits comfortably into the neighborhood as an American bistro bar, but the menu so far lacks personality and interest. The food is done well, but nothing is crave-worthy. For Blackwater Station to really explode, it’s going to need to bring more excitement to the plate.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Blackwater Station, 4901 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.593.2387. Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner. Closed Mondays. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. Website.
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