Tuesday, December 21, 2004
In the kitchen, Chef Steve Prevost and Sous Chefs Russ Klasel and Matt Panigada prepare the finest in Tuscan pastas with traditional Sicilian sauces, Italian sandwiches, appetizers and pizzas, all from scratch, as well as popular Southwestern dishes such as sizzling fajitas and pork green chili stew.
And because owners Dan Bubenheim and Doug Diamond make a point to listen to what diners want, the menu includes a variety of pub fare as well, from beer battered fish and chips to buttermilk fried chicken. "We're not just Italian -- we're Southwestern as well, and a lot more than that," Bubenheim said. "We didn't want to get trapped into a theme, but want to always be open and versatile."
Bubenheim and Diamond, who together have more than 50 years of restaurant experience, opened the restaurant less than a year ago, but already have attracted diners who consistently come back.
The sauces are carefully prepared with secrets from Tuscany tradition, as well as from restaurants back East, as Diamond and Bubenheim come from New York and Pittsburgh, respectively.
Besides good food, diners get a friendly, fun atmosphere. Diamond and Bubenheim's hospitality helps every patron feel at home.
The tavern offers a full bar with two beers on tap and most any drink imaginable, with specialty drinks available depending on the season. Now, winter warmers are most popular, such as Deb's hot buttered chocolate and Spanish coffee.
Appetizer highlights include the shrimp scampi, which is made with huge shrimp -- "three bite shrimp" Diamond says. The baked rustic mozzarella skewers, which alternate cubes of bread with mozzarella that are baked and served over a marinara sauce, and the pork green chili stew, which is thick and hearty, can each be a meal on their own.
For those who want a lighter meal that is still full of taste, salads are a great option. Top hits are the Thai Noodle Salad, served with a sesame seared salmon and oriental vinaigrette, and the Goat Cheese salad, featuring mixed greens, tomatoes and onions tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and topped with goat cheese and angel hair onion rings.
Under pub fare, the Italian Grinder is Diamond's favorite, with its layers of ham, salami and provolone baked and served with Italian vinaigrette and traditional toppings.
The beer-battered fish and chips are made to order with fresh fish that's hand cut, soaked in beer batter, then hand-fried piece by piece. "People tell us it's the best fish and chips they've ever had," Diamond said.
Italian specialties are numerous, including a Tuscan garlic, chicken and sausage pasta, a fried ravioli marinara, and a pasta siciliano that features sauteed portabellas, roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, artichokes and fresh basil butter, tossed with fettuccini.
Rustic dinners include a homemade sausage and pecan encrusted salmon that is pan seared and served with potato-shrimp hash. Though seemingly unlikely, the infusion of flavors was dreamed up by Bubenheim while cooking on a acampfire, and once diners taste it, they are hooked.
The 12-ounce flat iron steak is a juicy steak cooked to perfection and served hot in an iron skillet with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables.
The buttermilk fried chicken breast begins with fresh chicken soaked in buttermilk, which is then breaded and fried, and served with savory sausage gravy.
"The chicken is so tender and so juicy when you cut into it, it's like, 'Wow,'" Diamond said. "It's down home comfort food."
Some of the most popular pizzas include the Thai pizza, with its sweet chili sauce, chicken, red onion and pepper flakes; the Sicilian White pizza, with roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, ricotta and mozzarella; and the Rancher pizza, with chicken, bacon, tomatoes, roasted garlic, caramelized onions and blue and cheddar jack cheeses.
The perfect finish to any meal is the house specialty dessert: a hot, sweet bread pudding, drizzled with chocolate and topped with whipped cream and cherries that is Bubenheim's own specialty. Bread pudding flavors alternate from plain to berry to Snickers Bar.
Besides the incredible food, the Black Mountain Tavern provides an outstanding atmosphere. It is in a gray stone building that dates back to 1910. Over the years, the building has held an elegant hotel, bank, grocery store, bakery and restaurant.
Inside there are high ceilings, wood floors, and a black and white mural across one wall that represents a Native American dream sequence. Legend has it that the mural was painted in the 1960s by a man who had to pay off a bar bill.
Black Mountain Tavern supports local artists by hanging and selling their pieces. All proceeds go to the local high school art department.
Both men started the restaurant with the hope of becoming a part of the South Routt community, and it has embraced them back.
"I can't believe what a warm reception we've had from South Routt County," Diamond said. "They've really supported us. We wanted to be part of the community, and it's just a dream come true for Dan and I both."