I first was treated to Black Sheep in Five Points when I began dating DJ SnuggleMonster. That was back when we didn’t sleep in too late to do brunch, of course. We sat on the rooftop deck, fearful every sound was our car being towed away, and tried to shield as much of your bodies and eyes from the blistering direct sunlight. I’ll say that my brunch that morning was not the best omelette I’ve ever had in my life, and the mimosas were just your average mimosa – but the rooftop ambiance was something different, and it wasn’t the worst meal I’d eaten. Fast forward to almost a year later, and we decided to try Black Sheep for dinner (before a night on the town with drinks at Dos Gatos, my favorite). I was pleasantly surprised.
Black Sheep is in 5 Points – which I can’t seem to refrain from calling Riverside (hey, I’m still a relatively new Jacksonville local!) The building looks super trendy from outside – sleek and modern right in the heart of the neighborhood. Inside, there are not that many tables, so reservations should be made. As I said, they do have a rooftop dining area and bar as well, but I don’t recommend going for lunch in the middle of the day in the middle of the summer in Florida. As part of the limited seating area, be prepared to get…comfortable…with other dining patrons. I literally could hear the man at the next table over chewing (not to mention some other bodily functions I shall not name). Service was excellent, and I wanted for nothing – even water refills.
We didn’t order drinks this time (hello, I did mention Dos Gatos didn’t I?), but we did order an appetizer, well, because something caught my eye on the menu I just couldn’t pass up. No, it wasn’t the lamb bacon, although I did my best begging, pleading, and conniving to get DJSM to share it with me. I try to be the vision of a true southern lady (at least some of the time), and I’m a huge cheese-head, so when I saw pimento cheese as part of an appetizer, I focused in on that like I was playing darts and shooting for that bullseye. Black Sheep offers fried olives (allegedly stuffed with) pimento cheese. Ours seemed to just be fried with a side of pimento cheese…but I’m not upset! The olives had just the slightest batter on them to offer a bit of crunch, without being a mouthful of greasy flour. I was expecting to be hit with a scorchingly hot olive that would make the inside of my mouth scream for water, but they managed to prepare the olives with as little liquid as possible on them to prevent this molten lava effect. The pimento cheese was not super mayonnaise-y, which I appreciated, and was the perfect accompaniment to the briny olive. I’d eat about five dozen if you’d let me. But we had entrees to get to!
I ordered the Crispy Skin Steelhead (salmon). Because I ask you, who hates a perfectly done crispy fish skin (or chicken skin for that matter)? And Black Sheep did not dissapoint. The skin had such crunch, I’m sure my neighbor at the next table was forced to listen to MY undoubtedly obnoxious chewing. The skin was almost to the point of being TOO salty, but when I ate it in conjunction with the other offerings on the dish, it was the perfect bite. The citrus salad with bright herbs and acidic fruit balanced the rich uni (sea urchin) butter and the fennel added a bite to cut through the richness as well. The fish was beyond moist – a talent when it comes to getting a super crispy skin while preserving juicy meat. I will say, that although the menu does indicate that the leeks are “charred,” mine were so burnt that they were not consumable. An altogether unnecessary addition to the dish. But the rest was outstanding.
In a moment of rare salad-ordering, DJSM ordered the Kale and Smoked Trout Salad (also shocking, given that the burger on the menu was mouth-watering and an almost sure-fired bet for DJSM to order). The dish was presented in a beautifully artful manner, although was a bit too healthy for my tastes. The trout was almost a bit too smoky, but when combined with the other ingredients, lent an interesting combination of flavors. The kale held up nicely to the mustard vinaigrette, although the “sieved” egg was not altogether recognizable if you didn’t know what was on the plate (it didn’t offer much flavor either). Altogether, it wasn’t exactly a “homey” or “stick to your ribs” dish, but it was packed full of healthy stuff and was a good switch-up to your average, boring salad. DJSM also walked away feeling unbelievably full without feeling gross and comatose, so the salad gets points in those categories, too.
For dessert, we ordered the strawberry shortcake with peppered strawberries. Although I didn’t taste any “pepper,” the shortcake was well balanced, with a deft hand when it came to sweetness. The cake itself was a bit crunchy for my tastes (I expect a light, fluffy, soft cake), but I didn’t break a tooth on it, so who am I to complain? Would I order it again? Probably not. It just wasn’t a spectacular dessert – and if I don’t leave dreaming about dessert, it wasn’t worth it.