Known as one of the best happy hours in the northern Metro area, Black’s Bar & Kitchen is situated a few blocks from the Bethesda Metro station. WLDC author Acacia and I were headed to Bethesda to review Menopause the Musical (which you can read all about) and we decided we could make it a double feature – a We Love Arts and a We Love Food, all in one trip. I would recommend you replicate our Bethesda trip, I enjoyed the play, but I will probably look back with even more fondness on our eats.
We stepped into Black’s and basically halted, it was absolutely packed. The interior is sleek, stylish and clean. The bar features two and four-seater booths are built into the back wall with a few free standing tables between the booths and the bar. Large windows look out onto Woodmont Ave. and the patio featuring a small modern pond. We couldn’t find a seat in the bar area, and it was one of those pre-spring days too chilly to sit outside, but we had plenty of time to waste before the show so we decided to wait it out. Soon thereafter a table opened up, but the wait gave us time to survey the crowd. Around 6 p.m., we were bringing down the median age – it was mostly a 35-55 aged crowd, complete with power suits and ties. But by the time we left around 7:15, the average age had lowered considerably, and there were plenty more jeans and after-work twenty-somethings mixed in the crowd.
Black’s is also an oyster bar, with the goods laid out on display when you walk in the door. I was eager to try the seafood, so we grabbed beers and gave our order.
The happy hour specials are great: spiced shrimp were only .50 each, and oysters were $1. Blue Moon, my go-to always-on-tap-when-all-else-fails beer, was $3.75, a better price than ususal. $5 glasses of wine during happy hours keep it reasonable as well. But beyond that, the prices are pretty expensive-average. I downed $5 worth of shrimp, they come with a very good spicy cocktail sauce. I probably should have just ordered a dozen, because I started with six and asked for four more. I also ordered the flat bread with roasted garlic, mozzarella and balsamic for $9, which was thin but good.
Acacia snagged the fried squid for $5, which was a generous share-able portion with creamy dipping sauce. She paired that with the bruschetta, thick grilled bread which came topped with white beans and tomatoes. I wound up devouring my flatbread – when I get hungry there’s no stopping me, but I noted that the balsamic and hidden arugula underneath added good flavor. The mozzarella was clearly fresh, and I was happy with my choice.
We were still hungry and debated between dessert and a cheese plate and wound up ordering the cheese. It was fine, nothing to write home about. Probably not worth the $14, I can find plenty of more creative cheese plates in the city for that price. Typical, and certainly not unique, they served up a cheddar, a blue and semi-soft beige cheese that the waiter pronounced to be goat (somehow I doubt that). We quickly ran out of bread, and the waiter wound up bringing us the bread plate for the restaurant side, which was perfect. We were able to nosh on biscuits, french bread and a honey wheat that I liked. I wound up just eating the bread and butter when we ran out of cheese. I’m sure people thought I was preparing for a marathon, cause I basically carb-loaded with nowhere to go except Menopause the Musical but hey, I mean you guys needed to hear about the bread, right? Right. Perfect justification.
All in all? I’m a fan. I’m not often (read: never) in Bethesda, but I’d go back to Black’s which is the real measure for me. I think I decide if I like a place, and therefore wind up my WLF review with a verdict, solely based on if I’d go back or if there are places that rank higher on my list to try. I’d go back. Check. Two thumbs up. I’m now eager to try more of restaurateur Jeff Black’s other places – BlackSalt is definitely on my list. So those of you in the ‘hood, you’re lucky, you’ve got an affordable, swanky, enjoyable happy hour place at your disposal. I’ll trust you to put it to good use.
Black’s Bar & Kitchen is located at 7750 Woodmont Ave. in Bethesda, MD. Closest Metro: Bethesda (Red line). For more information, call (301) 652-6278.