A Restaurant Apart
Black Sheep Burrito & Brews brings flavor to the table.
Photographed by Elizabeth Roth
Never judge a book by its cover, but feel free to judge Huntington’s Black Sheep Burrito & Brews by its name. Since opening its doors in September 2011 the restaurant has become the source for eclectic, culture-bending food that doesn’t mind standing out from the crowd. And yet Black Sheep has managed to find that sweet spot that eludes so many restaurants across the state. Black Sheep makes food that plays by its own rules, and the crowd couldn’t be happier.
On the corner of Third Avenue and Hal Greer Boulevard, right between downtown and Marshall University’s campus, Black Sheep’s dining room offers one of the most cohesive dining experiences in the Mountain State. From the vibrant artwork on the wall to the exposed brickwork and metal detailing behind the bar, the two-room space manages to feel forward-thinking and comfortably worn in at the same time. Every detail has been curated for your enjoyment—the moody underlighting on the liquor shelves, the leather-topped, barber-shop style bar stools, the bottle of Sriracha on every table. Anywhere you look, you see the result of a lot of creative thinking and care. You also see a lot of happy customers.
In many ways Black Sheep is what happens when the right people open the right restaurant in the right town at the right time. At its heart the Huntington flagship is a collaboration between owner Patrick Guthrie and head chef Jeremiah Bowen. Jeremiah, an experienced chef and visual artist, returned to Huntington after years of opening and working in restaurants in places like Charleston, South Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio. Patrick, a local business owner, was looking to open a restaurant that might shock some life into the local food scene when the two met through a mutual friend and the concept for Black Sheep was born. “The main focus was to open people up to more flavor than they’re used to, but to not put them in a situation where it’s haute cuisine,” Jeremiah says. “We were careful not to appear snooty.”
At first glance Black Sheep’s food might appear to fall under the umbrella of Mexican cuisine, but the tortilla shell is really just the wrapping. The good stuff—the confit of pork shoulder, the vindaloo spiced chicken, the ginger and sesame marinated short ribs—is inside. “A lot of people had the misconception that we’re just another Mexican burrito joint, but a burrito is just an economical delivery system. It’s all of that good stuff wrapped up in one package,” Jeremiah says.
A big highlight of the menu is its flock of tacos, a choice of three tacos that allows diners to sample from a dozen of choices. The hard part is narrowing it down, but first-timers can’t go wrong with the Trout Taco—smoked native trout served with a bourbon bacon marmalade, anoho yogurt sauce, and shaved red cabbage. It’s perhaps the one menu item that most exemplifies Black Sheep’s culinary ideology—locally sourced ingredients presented in a globally-minded package with no pretense. “Every menu item is really different from the next, but there is still a cohesiveness,” Jeremiah says.
Black Sheep isn’t just about great food, though. The friendly staff and rotating selection of musicians make it the perfect place to just drop by and hang out. It doesn’t hurt that Black Sheep has one of the better draft beer and cocktail menus around. A regular selection of local favorites like Bridge Brew Works and Charleston Brewing Company is always on tap, and the bartenders at Black Sheep are becoming somewhat notorious for their margaritas and bloody marys. The latter even comes in a bottomless variety during weekend brunch.
With success comes new opportunities, and Black Sheep is not without its share of exciting new opportunities. In 2013 Patrick and Jeremiah began work to expand its Huntington business to add a new, late-night bar and eatery upstairs. Then an opportunity to open a second location in the state’s capital presented itself—a unique collaboration with the staff of Charleston Brewing Company, who were looking to hand over the restaurant side of the Quarrier Street location and focus on brewing beer. The Charleston location opened in early 2014 and was immediately busy, Jeremiah says, while the Huntington expansion was under way in late winter. “It sounds insane, but luckily all of the hard work of opening a restaurant is done in Charleston. We’re just trying to warm it up and give it that Black Sheep feel,” he says.
Indeed, Black Sheep has a feel that is all its own, and in no time at all it’s become one of the most beloved restaurants in Huntington by just being itself. Is it tempting to call Black Sheep a success story? Yes, but with a space this welcoming and food this good, was there really ever any other outcome?Black Sheep Burrito & Brews
1555 Third Avenue, Huntington, WV 25701, 304.523.1555, blacksheepwv.com
702 Quarrier Street, Charleston, WV 25301, 304.343.2739