Taking It Up A Notch

. March 12, 2013.

The Black Pearl restaurant opened this past November across from the Stranahan Theater, replacing the once popular but then closed H.J.’s Prime Cut.  Prime rib and seafood were claime Black Pearl specialties, and that sounded like something we definitely needed to try.  Though not a formal restaurant, I was glad my family opted to wear their nicer threads that evening.  Not that we would have felt terribly out of place a little underdressed, but the restaurant is a few notches above the local grill or diner, and I was glad my children weren’t wearing their cut off shorts and popsicle stained t-shirts.
We chose to dine on a Wednesday evening because they offer their petite cut prime rib special for $13.99; (regularly $16.99).  They take reservations, but the call ahead is generally not necessary during the week.  After my family’s long day of summer adventures we were famished and we began our meal with lightly fried calamari.  Oh, and wonderful homemade French Onion Soup because I can never pass that up.  
The menu offered a larger variety than I had expected, including several prime rib options, a variety of fresh fish dishes, pork chops, pastas, veal, sandwiches, and even cold water lobster tails!  According to general manager Brad Holler, a popular section of the menu is the “Best For Less! $11.99”.  “With the current economy we lowered the price [of that section of the menu] and added a couple more items”, said Holler.  Some of those entrees include chicken alfredo, fish and chips and beef tips.  Served with salad and a side or vegetable, $11.99 is definitely a great deal.
The Black Pearl also offers kids’ meals for those 10 and under for $5.99, including the drink, fries, and a side of applesauce.  That’s a bonus since many kid meals don’t include the drink.  Suddenly you find yourself paying $8.00 for each meal.  Bypassing the Grouper fingers and spaghetti, which are rare finds on most kid menus, my three still went with the standard mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and a hot dog. Oh well, at least they tried the calamari.
My husband’s prime rib was done just right, and the flavors were fabulous in the chicken asparagus mushroom alfredo I devoured for $14.99.  My portion was so big I made a small feast of the leftovers for lunch the following day.  When I mentioned how much I enjoyed the dish to Mr. Holler he said, “That’s one of my favorites.  I invented that dish, actually.”  Mr. Holler spends about 80% of his time in the kitchen making sure everything is done right, and I’m guessing he’s perfecting the next great entrée.
I must mention, unfortunately, that our service was simply not up to par.   Honestly, I am quite easy to please, but an hour after our arrival we still hadn’t seen our entrees.  If my four-year-old asked one more time what was taking his hot dog so long I was going to scream.  I’ll spare the frivolous details regarding a simple glass of water, but in the end, I simply drank out of the kiddie cup my daughter was given, and she actually never even asked for water! My husband’s potato went without the sour cream after a couple requests, but, I suppose, at least he saved a few calories on the waistline.
However, in defense of the Black Pearl, it did appear that maybe we just had bum luck with the waitress for our table, as everyone around us seemed to be having much faster service.  That part of the expererience was disappointing because we really did enjoy our meals once they arrived.  Eyeing the other tables assured me our next visit would probably be better.
The Black Pearl apparently has many regulars already, as I heard ‘See you next week!’ exchanged between customers and their servers on more than one occasion.  The food was definitely good and I’m all about second chances, so we’ll be in again sometime down the road.  After all, there are lots more tempting dishes on the menu we’d like to try.
Bottom Line: The Black Pearl features wonderful prime rib and seafood and they do their specialty well.  Your children will be made to feel welcome, and the menu will please everyone in your group, even if beef and seafood isn’t what they crave.