What’s Cookin’: Pub Perfection

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With a reputation for great food, fun and plenty of brew, the Blackstone Pub and Eatery creates a welcoming atmosphere for locals and tourists alike.

story and photos by RANDY GRIDER

What makes a good pub is open for debate. Our friends across the pond might give you a long list of amenities that can get…well, a bit hoity-toity. The right décor (a lot of wood and stone), proper lighting (not too light or too dark) and let’s not even get started on whether there should be carpet or some other floor covering…

To be fair, pubs – or public houses, as scholarly types call them – are often considered mainstays of the community in English-speaking countries. They are a  source of pride, culture and heritage. But topping all pub-essentials lists are a comprehensive selection of beers, good food, entertainment and a casual  atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]When Chris Robinson started the Blackstone Pub and Eatery in downtown Gadsden, Ala., more than a decade ago, he wanted to create an establishment that  was a destination for locals and visitors alike.

“Whenever my wife and I go out of town to places like Asheville, Chattanooga or wherever, we go into other pubs like ours,” Robinson says. “We try to make our place the best of everything we have seen and experienced at other pubs. We get a lot of people from out of town who tell us they feel like they are at home
when they come here.”

With a welcoming “hello,” C.J. Whitmire, a bartender/server at Blackstone, greets my sister Sonja and myself as we duck in for lunch on a cold, breezy January day. The standard “What’s good?” is met with a quick response from C.J.: “Everything, but our Blackstone Pizza is the favorite.” She also recommends the quesadillas and cheese dip.

We decide to forego the cheese dip – probably a mistake since it gets rave reviews from the regulars – and order the Blackstone (all meat and veggie toppings plus pineapple and mozzarella) and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Quesadilla.

Waiting for our food, I check out the beers on tap – 12 in all, including several (Truck Stop Honey, Naked Pig, Kudzu and Freckle Belly) from the local brewery, Back Forty Beer Company. The cooler behind the bar has a nice variety of other crafts. “I try to carry all the Alabama craft beers as well as others from everywhere,” Robinson says. He has about 150 beers, with about half being crafts, and is in the process of bringing his draft offerings up to 35 to 40 tap pulls.

Other plans already in the works include a new outdoor patio seating area, a downstairs events room and a face-lift for the facade along historic Broad Street.

Just before the food arrives, I glance over the menu at the wide selection of pizzas, quesadillas and nachos and wonder if I should have taken time to consider the offerings before ordering on recommendation alone. Our order arrives, and Sonja and I decide to split the meal and share.

One bite of the Blackstone Pizza quickly makes me forget what I might have ordered had I winged it alone. The quesadilla also is delicious. While my sister casts her taste vote with the pizza, I am torn, thoroughly enjoying both.

The pub normally sees a turnover of patrons throughout the day – a lunch crowd of area merchants and shoppers, then after-work business people followed by the pub/bar scene, which kicks in later in the evening with nightly entertainment. Jazz or acoustic music is slated for weekdays, and featured bands perform on Friday and Saturday nights.

We finish off the visit with a walk around the spacious interior, enjoying the artwork and other wall décor. Great food and great atmosphere, but Robinson says the Blackstone Pub and Eatery is always a work in progress.

“It’s never going to be a finished product,” Robinson says. “I keep putting the money we make back into it – always trying to make it better.”

The Blackstone Pub and Eatery is located at 525 Broad Street, Gadsden, Ala.; 256-543-7472[/s2If]