Blackhawk Grille: A dressed-down remodel offers a mix of decor and tasty delights.
At 21 years old, Blackhawk Grille has transitioned from fine to fun dining. As an original tenant at upscale Blackhawk Plaza, the Grille gained a reputation for being reliable but expensive. But after a three-month remodel, they’ve dropped the stuffy, without losing style.
It’s fairly remarkable how well the restaurant ties together so many disparate elements. You almost require a tour before deciding where to eat—there are several distinct choices, including a chef’s counter, cozy booths, a spacious raised dining area, outdoor patio, and a spirited new lounge—while the menu offers both filet mignon and chicken potpie. Billed as a tavern, the new Blackhawk Grille provides serene, energetic, or family-friendly seating options, with entrées that range from $10 to $33, dispelling the idea that a successful restaurant requires a singular concept. And while the compelling California wine list can still persuade you to drop a bundle, it’s clear that the Grille now embraces a more inclusive vision.
Classic bountiful salads and giant sandwiches, pastas, and pizza encourage weeknight dining. And the redesign trades a tired white-tablecloth decor for a play of elements of air, earth, water, and fire. Fire pits warm the outdoor patio, with its wandering waterways, while abundant copper—both polished and distressed—accents dark wood tables set with sea salt candles.
Many dishes arrive on cast iron, including plump, salty shelled mussels “cooked” by the superheated plate. Meaty baby back ribs sit in a skillet lined with sticky sweet cabbage. And a heavy metal presentation of luscious corned beef hash lends brunch a masculine edge.
A highlight here is the new wood-fired grill, imparting an oaky perfume to steaks and burgers. One of the best appetizers (they’re almost all winners) is the smoky grilled artichoke paired with a quirky yet surprisingly good Worcestershire aioli. Speaking of quirky, you can order your burger with any of nine $1 toppings, including Cajun bacon and chipotle peanut butter.
The revamped restaurant is already on its second chef, Jason Bergeron, who cut his chops at tony Main Street Bistro and Joe’s American Bar and Grill in Massachusetts. Bergeron plans to bring lighter choices (“Grilled veggie panini,” anyone?) to what he describes as a “guy-heavy menu.” And on a recent night, you could choose between gender-friendly specials of 26-ounce bone-in rib eye (ours served on bacon mashed potatoes) or prime-grade swordfish on roasted veggie risotto—Bergeron also has plans for an Asian-style salmon burger with marinated cucumber salad.
All the fresh fish creations from the menu’s pricier Main Event section demonstrate a kitchen capable of finesse. But our visits uncovered some flaws in execution. A hearty Reuben couldn’t be contained by over-oiled, under-griddled bread, and a massive and tender pork shank was noticeably bland. Desserts on our first visit, like the butterscotch bread pudding and chocolate mousse cake, had a corporate blandness (Blackhawk is one of the few boutique eateries owned by Tavistock Restaurants’ 100-plus restaurant empire), so look for specials by pastry assistant Ana Bradbury. (Her peach Champagne sorbet was first-rate.)
If there is a center of gravity to this amorphous new Blackhawk Grille, it’s the new lounge, formerly a banquet room, with floor-to-ceiling windows, a striking copper-and-fire display, and four flat screens to lure in passersby. It’s a dazzling space, and the happy hour appetizers are real bargains: The menu changes seasonally, but the pork sliders and spice-rubbed chicken wings on our visit took bar food to new heights.
And seeing that lively bar packed with happy locals, it’s clear that this restaurant reboot has successfully given the Grille a newfound neighborhood sensibility bound to inspire more downtown Danville diners to make the trek to the plaza for dinner and perhaps a movie. It’s a timeless concept likely to ensure another 21 years.
At a Glance
What makes it special: An American menu with a mix of affordable and expensive items that bridge the gap between classic and modern. The space: Stunning new design with multiple seating options and seductive elements of fire, copper, and water. When to go: Brunch on the patio; happy hour at the bar; weeknights in the exhibition kitchen area or the classy raised dining room. What to order: Appetizers, fish, and sandwiches. Bonus: The wine table adjacent to a gorgeous glass-enclosed wine rack.
Contact: 3540 Blackhawk Plaza Cir., Danville, (925) 736-4295, blackhawkgrille.com. Hours: Lunch and dinner daily, weekend brunch. Price: Appetizers $2.50–$14.50, entrées $10–$33. Alcohol: Full bar.