Self-described as “Frenchish," West Columbia’s year-old restaurant Black Rooster provides a unique take on the traditional French bistro.
“[Owner Kristian Niemi] pretty much gave us free rein [on the menu],” sous chef Alex Strickland said. “He gave us a concept … a bistro-style French restaurant that's not pretentious, but extremely approachable.”
The culinary team ran with the idea, embracing French bistro traditions while adding some ideas of its own. The dinner menu features French favorites such as onion soup gratinée and steak frites and new interpretations on classics. Black Rooster’s current menu even features Vietnamese-style escargot.
“Anything French colony is up for grabs at the restaurant,” Strickland said. “We’ve done North African, New Guinean; we've done Vietnamese where the French influence of cooking is deeply wound into the subculture of those particular areas.”
As of Oct. 4, the Black Rooster only offers dinner. Niemi said in an email interview he plans to reopen the restaurant for brunch eventually.
“We were [open] prior to COVID, and we will be again some day, but not for a few weeks at the earliest," Niemi said.
Until then, Yelp reviewer and Columbia local Rick Threatt said he will miss a specialty item: the bloody mary deviled egg. Threatt said that, like any good brunch, Black Rooster's bloody mary is great, but it doesn’t just stay in the glass.
“The deviled eggs [were] a new take — bloody mary deviled eggs,” Threatt said.
According to Strickland, the creation of these eggs came out of necessity. He said the concept was thought up by sous chef Zara Newton while the kitchen was discussing the idea of pickling quail eggs.
“Our bartender had a big batch of bloody mary mix that he was afraid was going to go bad," Strickland said. “[Newton] had the great idea of marinating the white part of the boiled egg with bloody mary ... I probably ate 40 deviled eggs that day.”
When it inevitably returns, Threatt said to arrive early to get brunch as he has in the past.
“I tried to get there early so I don't have to wait because I’m sure that in a few hours, that place would have been popping,” Threatt said.
Although there have been a considerable amount of changes due to the pandemic, one thing remains: the scenic riverfront views and ample outdoor space.
According to Strickland, the rooftop is a favorite of the young professional crowd, but, as a whole, the restaurant attracts everyone from families with kids to couples on a date.
“When you go upstairs on the rooftop, you have a really good view of the city, and you just chill out and drink a beer,” Threatt said.
Strickland said the restaurant really adapts to what you need it to be.
Music can establish the feel of a restaurant, and Threatt said it reminded him of a Wes Anderson film.
“It sounded something like some really cool French music that I’ve never heard," Threatt said. "Something like from the '40s but kind of new age at the same time."
Threatt also said while dinner is lively, the brunches carry more of a “low-key vibe.”
Niemi said the bar seating will be modeled after Home Team BBQ in Five Points.
“You may come in, and there may only be six people at the bar, and all of the space will be taken,” Niemi said.