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In Lewis Carroll’s novel “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There,” Carroll included one of the greatest nonsense poems ever written in English—“Jabberwocky.” As Alice is trying to understand the unusual words of the poem, Humpty Dumpty tries to explain the practice of combining two words into new ones by saying, “‘Slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’ ... You see it’s like a portmanteau, there are two meanings packed up into one word.”
This concept of combining two meanings into one word surfaced again in the world of food and drink when, in 1991, The Eagle pub in Clerkenwell, a district in London, began offering customers quality food from an open kitchen alongside the bar. The combination of chef-focused, high-quality food and a casual, pub-like atmosphere became known by the portmanteau “gastropub,” combining the French word gastronomique (pertaining to the art of good eating) with the chiefly British word, pub (short for public house and generally a tavern or bar).
Blacksmith’s Bistro and Bar recently moved from its longtime St. Elmo location to 809 Market Street, next to Fork and Pie, and with that move has changed from Blacksmith’s Bistro and Bar to Blacksmith’s Gastropub. True to the “gastropub” moniker, Blacksmith’s is bringing the thoughtfully prepared food they are known for into a new and relaxed space. Chef/owner Blackwell Smith wants to focus his efforts on what he calls, “Southern Gastropub comfort foods.”
“I wanted to find fun and creative ways to connect with the people that come in to eat and drink,” Smith says. “People have a personal connection to what they eat and we wanted our menu and atmosphere to respect what makes that connection possible—great food and great drinks.”
The menu is expansive but not overwhelming, offering something for everyone whether you want a light, healthy snack to munch on or are bringing your entire entourage in for a full dinner and drinks. As usual, I ordered enough food to feed a pack of ravenous wolves, causing my dining partner to give me a look of concerned resignation, knowing I cannot be reasoned with when faced with this many tempting options.
First up were the chicken tenders. This being a gastropub, the typical chicken strips and fries in a basket were nowhere to be seen. Instead, we received a homage to Southern fried chicken with juicy cuts of crispy, GBD (golden, brown and delicious) breast meat topped with sweet and spicy tomato-jalapeno jam sitting on a bed of sweet potato corn hash. The best bite is a little bit of everything on your fork at once so that all of the flavors hit your taste buds at once. I will definitely be coming back for this dish.
Blacksmith’s also has a large selection of satisfying, healthy alternatives such as their arugula salad. Peppery arugula comes lightly dressed with a savory black bean corn salsa, tender roasted tomatoes and several wedges of avocado. This dinner salad is a meal unto itself, but since I was trying to save room for the main dishes I let my date devour the rabbit’s share of this one.
Blacksmith’s is known for their creative and delicious burgers so there was no way I could refuse their bison burger, known as the Local Vore. Their commitment to quality flavors means using the best local ingredients and this burger is a showcase for Eagle’s Rest bison, Sequatchie Cove Coppinger cheese, balsamic honey red onions, arugula, Neidlov’s ciabatta and house-made herb aioli. Again, the contrasting ingredients are designed to hit all five taste receptors on your tongue. You will love this burger; don’t try to argue with science.