A new restaurant concept is getting its trial run in a tourism town in the Midwest. And, if its first weeks are any indication, you’ll soon start to see more Black Oak Grills pop up around the world, with restaurants reportedly planned for England as well as the U.S.
Black Oak Grill is franchised by Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc. (CRO) of Dallas, Texas, with its first one at the Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri. CRO also operates Cantina Laredo, III Forks Steakhouse, Cool River Cafe, Silver Fox Steakhouse, El Chico, Good Eats and Luckys Café.
Black Oak Grill offers something that is right on trend when it comes to food. It’s upscale comfort food with some unexpected surprises mixed in. This first restaurant has been open just a couple of weeks, but any bugs seem to have already been worked out—our service was impeccable, and the food delicious.
We went with the Stone County Fried Goat Cheese appetizer, with pomodoro, fresh basil and bolillo toast points. The sauce was fresh and plentiful, and the bolillo was a great option for the toast, nice and crusty with visible garlic. It was like a bite-sized Italian dish, setting your taste buds for more.
We also sampled the Idaho Trout Deviled Eggs, which came three to a plate; we loved the slight horseradish flavor and smokiness of the trout. And, if you are a little more adventurous, try the Smoked garlic and tomato mussels with Tasso ham and saffron lemon butter. As you might expect, a point of conversation became the Ozark Bacon Burger in a brioche bun, with a fried egg on top. Again, it’s an on-trend menu item, incorporating an egg into any dish.
We also skipped right to a discussion of the desserts, focusing on the Kahlua Ding Dong and the Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich. But more on that . . .
There are some great entrees from which to choose. The Danish Baby Back Ribs with IBC BBQ sauce were fall-off-the-bone tender, with an unusual kick and a terrific apple jicama salad that offered great contrast. They were also served with seasoned fries, with a small side bucket for the rib bones.
The Pan Roasted Chicken with garlic “smashed” potatoes—with chunks of whole potato and skins incorporated—was topped with crispy red onion rings and a vegetable pan jus. It cut easily with a fork, full of breast meat and delicious down to the single leg bone.
You might also go for the Chicken Fried Steak (a huge portion, covered with mushrooms), any of the third-of-a-pound burgers, the Five Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Basil Soup, the Pot Roast, or try one of the salads—perhaps the Smoked Chicken and Spinach with Pinot-infused Cranberries, plus smokehouse bacon, goat cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and butter garlic croutons.
This restaurant also got the message about using locally-grown products. They get their handcrafted breads from Neighbor’s Mill, a great bakery in nearby Harrison, Arkansas.
For dessert, of course we tried the ice cream sandwich, which surprised us with its cinnamon ice cream center—a great complement to the bacon and chocolate.
Black Oak has a white tablecloth, upscale feel in a comfortable, tourist town environment. There is a beautiful enclosed patio area with a view of the lake, so ask to sit out there if possible. But even inside there is a circular fireplace and a fun mix of tables, including a tall table that seats 12.
The servers are in jeans, with the nice touch of a uniform black shirt and long black apron. As for the service—well, Jamie knew the menu well, and had tasted everything we asked about. That alone speaks well for the management. You have no idea how many times we’ve been told, “I don’t know, I’ve never tried it” by servers. Another plus: the management visited each table, as did the executive chef.
So, keep your eyes peeled for the newest restaurant taking root–Black Oak Grill–and let us know what you order!