When the Black Pig reopens in its new and improved home, two old friends and former colleagues will again be working together in the kitchen.
“Adam Lambert and I will be opening the Black Pig together — he’s coming on as my chef de cuisine,” says chef and owner Mike Nowak. “We’re really excited. I think we’re going to make the best food that the two of us have ever made together.” It’s been three weeks since Nowak purchased the former Light Bistro (and Parker’s) property at the corner of Bridge Avenue and W. 28th Street and announced his plans to relocate his two-year-old restaurant. Since then, the historic brick building has been a beehive of activity to ready it for opening day.
“We’re flying,” says Nowak. “It’s a totally different restaurant inside.”
Changes include a new bar, new paint, new carpet, new layout and new kitchen. The color palette has gone from a red-hued mahogany interior to a more elegant one with blacks and greys. By removing the retail wine section that separated the front barroom from the rear dining room, Nowak was able to better unify the entire space. A new lounge area for table-waiting or simple enjoying cocktails will take the place of the retail displays.
Seating downstairs jumps from 50 to 70, plus more at the new bar. A reconfigured private dining room on the second floor can accommodate another 50.
The most significant improvements are taking place in the kitchen. “Everything was 30 years old,” notes Nowak.
Management has doubled the amount of kitchen equipment and greatly improved the layout. The pass — that all-important last-stop staging area between kitchen and customer — was enlarged and built at prep table level to enable plating at a comfortable height and pace. The last major project remaining, says Nowak, is the fabrication and installation of the hood and ventilation system.
Chefs Lambert and Nowak worked together for years at Bar Cento, and they have developed an affinity for the same types of ingredients and cooking methods. Lambert’s ongoing work with Fresh Fork Market will influence the types of dishes diners will see at the new Black Pig, which will be both similar and different from those found on the old menu.
“We’ve always been French-inspired, but we’re dropping that label,” says Nowak. “We’ll be more all-around Europe — call it contemporary American.”
By eliminating various dishes that Nowak kept on hand over on W. 25th for unadventurous walk-ins — think multiple sandwiches, gravy fries, fried pork — they were able to focus more on the things they do best and feel most passionate about: nose-to-tail charcuterie, braises, offal and even vegetarian items.
“Adam has been working on a whole different level with farmers to determine which breeds of pork work best for each dish, like pork belly, sausage, pork chops,” says Nowak. “Now, instead of just the farm name on the menu you might see the breed.”
A five- or six-item vegetarian menu also will be on hand.
Nowak says that he’ll have the services of Lambert until his next project, Banter in Detroit Shoreway, takes flight in spring.
As for his new address, Nowak is perfectly happy to be “off the beaten path.”
“I’m not worried about being located a block off W. 25th Street,” he says. “There are so many people who live in Ohio City that would love a neighborhood restaurant, and customers who would love to not have to deal with crowds to eat at our restaurant on the weekends.”
Look for the Black Pig to (re)open in the next two weeks.