Black Bart -- A Phoenix Rises Again
Sierra Lodestar 03/04/15

Foothill Flavors

A Phoenix Rises Again

By Antoinette May Herndon

First off, let me tell you that San Andreas’s Black Bart is not a “go-to” place for me.

There was a period when my husband, Charles, wouldn’t go there at all. Once the chef quit in the midst of our dinner. Chaos in the kitchen! Empty plates for us.

Another time Ken Foley, the owner, watched laconically from his bar stool while our party walked over from the restaurant to order drinks and then bussed them back to the distant dining room. His waitress was much too busy chatting with the guests from the only other occupied table to take note of us.

Forty minutes elapsed before she finally did notice and deigned to take our order.

Quoth Charles: “Never more.”

That all changed when we saw an ad in the Enterprise announcing that Myron Turk was cooking at Black Bart. Myron is my favorite chef in the world. A graduate of the Lederwolf Academy of Culinary Arts, he really knew his way around the stove. Imagine 20 variations of cannelloni! Those were the days, my friend. Unfortunately Myron moved on.

We’ve had dinner at Black Bart a time or two since. It was adequate but not inspiring. The food has never been what you’d call bad, just so-so. But I particularly like the bistro’s location on San Andrea’s “cute” street and love its historical associations.

The notorious 19th century bandit, Black Bart, is said to have stayed in the old hotel that houses the restaurant. He was tried

in the courthouse across the street and imprisoned in its adjoining jail. The Black Bart legend continues to lure me back to the restaurant that bears his name. I’m such a romantic.

Did you know that Black Bart wrote poetry? And that he—one of the most successful stagecoach robbers in California history—was also a perfect gentleman. He always said, “Please throw down the box,” and never shot anyone with his double-barreled shotgun.

Though once I thought I’d have to start a gunfight to get some attention at Black Bart, the picture has changed. Expect new faces at the old Black Bart, new attitude; and, more important: a new menu.

First off, there’s a new dining room manager. The beauteous Raychelle Berg is more than a pretty face. She’s a mover and a shaker. Raychelle gets things done and does them well.

Five of us recently enjoyed a Saturday dinner at Black Bart. The dining room was very busy but Sean Cronin, our server, appeared immediately. Our drinks soon followed. It’s difficult to screw up a scotch over (Charles’s order), ice water (Sally Tuttle’s) or a glasses of favorite wine (Lucy Sanna and Barry Griffin. But a martini is a subtle, fragile thing. Some bar tenders have knack for turning juniper berries into pure silk. Some do not. Manager Raychelle Berg, who also tends bar, definitely does.

Dante Cuneo, grandson of the former owner, Don Cuneo, has stepped up to the plate as Black Bart’s new chef.

At our table, the results were a mixed bag. Sally was a bit surprised to receive her eggplant

parmesan ($30) reclining on a bed of spaghetti, but thought it tasted all right. Lucy and Barry found their salmon ($40) a tad well done. I liked my lobster ($40) very much—it is such a treat to get lobster up here.

Charles who had the Surf and Turf ($50) raved. He was well pleased with the surf part (lobster) but claimed the turf was the best steak he’d had in ten years. (“My” Charles is rarely a raver.)

Sean was an attentive waiter, taking plenty of time to discuss Lucy’s gluten free needs even though it was a busy evening. Ken Foley was a genial “master of the house,” moving from table to table to greet guests.

The décor at Black Bart remains unchanged: mahogany wainscoting, old pictures, vintage chandeliers, maroon tablecloths. Get a few more people in there on a regular basis and it can have that opulent Gold Rush razzamatazz we’re all looking for. Raychelle, Sean and Dante are doing a great job. Keep them happy, keep them there. Check out this new old place for yourselves and then let me know what you think

* * *

VITALS: Black Bart Restaurant is located at 35 Main, San Andreas. Phone: 754-3808. The bar opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Dinner is served from 4 till 8 p.m. week days with an extended hour Friday and Saturday nights. Tuesday is pasta night and brunch is served from 9 a.m. until noon on Sunday. Credit cards accepted.

Pictures: Barry Griffin looks on as Raychelle Berg pours champagne for Sally Tuttle.

Raychelle Berg pours for Sally Tuttle.