Black Bart- Comfort Food in a Familiar Place
Sierra Lodestar 12/23/09

Foothill Flavors

Black Bart Rides Again

By Antoinette May Herndon

We approached the Black Bart Bar and Restaurant with trepidation. The establishment was far from our top most wanted list. Charles didn’t want to go at all.

Once in the middle of our dinner the chef quit. Another time the owner watched laconically from his bar stool while our party of four walked over from the restaurant to order and buss our own drinks back some distance to the dining room. His waitress was too busy chatting with the only other table of customers to fill our order. We’d waited nearly 40 minutes for her to remember us. Did he care enough to investigate? Apparently not.

The food at the restaurant has never been what you’d call bad, just so-so. But I love the location on Jackson’s “cute” street with its historic associations. Perhaps the notorious Black Bart really stayed in the old hotel that houses the restaurant. Perhaps he was tried in the courthouse across the street and incarcerated in the adjoining jail. Clearly it was the Black Bart mystique that lured me to the restaurant bearing his name. I’m such a romantic.

I love the fact that one of the most successful Wells Fargo stagecoach robbers in California history, was so polite. Why Bart always said, “Please throw down the box,” and he never shot anyone with his double-barreled shotgun.

OK, enough meandering. Though once I thought I’d have

to start a gunfight to get some attention in that restaurant, things have changed. Expect new faces at the old Black Bart, new attitude and more important: a new menu.

The other evening when Charles and I placed our tentative toes just inside, we were greeted immediately by Stephanie Quartararo, our waitress for the evening. She was lovely, pleasant, accommodating and very efficient.

Drinks appeared almost immediately. Scotch over, Charles’s drink of choice. is always easy to do. Martinis are more challenging. Mine was a tad ‘wet” for my taste, but passable. (I’m including this for the readers who complain that all the martinis in this column are “perfect”, that I’ve never tasted a bad one. They aren’t and I have)

We pondered the exciting menu that Stephanie had given us as we sipped. It looked so enticing that we had trouble deciding between all the beguiling new choices. The news is—Ta dah!—Black Bart has a talented new chef.

Nathan Robinson is a graduate of San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy and has been the head chef at Murphy’s Hotel and at Saddlecreek. For Black Bart, Nathan has decided to place his emphasis on comfort food. Wednesday will be rib night with corn on the cob, garlic bread, and garlic rice for just $12.95. On other nights, think meat and potatoes, chicken cacciatore, and beef stroganoff. Sound yummy? It is.

On our first night with Nathan, Charles ordered

roast beef. Cooked exactly to order, it had been rubbed with garlic . Delicious! ($19.95) It was served with chicken soup. Real chicken soup, the kind you had when you were a kid (if you were a lucky kid), thick, well seasoned and filled with chicken and tender vegetables.

As a main course, I opted for the chicken and dumplings served with a crisp green salad tossed with bleu cheese. ($15.95) This too was like a fabulous childhood recollection, “my grandmother used to make. . .” It’s nostalgic to revisit the past, but if you didn’t have that kind of history, Nathan will give you the opportunity to build your own memories.

The décor at Black Bart has always been pleasant: mahogany wainscoting, old pictures, vintage chandeliers, maroon tablecloths. Get a few more people in there and it can have that opulent Gold Rush ambience we’re all looking for. Nathan is a fabulous cook, Stephanie an excellent server. Keep them happy, keep them there. Go in and experience this new old place for yourselves. It’ll make for a very happy new year.

VITALS: Black Bart Restaurant is located at 35 Main, Jackson. Phone: 754-1015. The bar opens at 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Dinner is served from 5 till 8 p.m. week days with an extended hour Friday and Saturday nights. Credit cards are accepted.


Interior of the Black Bart Restaurant

Nathan Robinson with a customer