Remember that classic scene from Saturday morning cartoons where a hungry character would get a strong whiff of a delicious smell—whether it was a freshly baked pie or a steamy bowl of soup—and be hypnotically lured in its direction? The Smell, a persuasive white vapor, wafted through the air from the food and straight into the character's nose, sometimes even growing a pair of hands to lift him off the ground and float him towards the source of this seductive scent.
That's exactly what it's like when you enter a one-block radius of Blacksauce Kitchen's brick-and-mortar carryout on the corner of 29th Street and Miles Avenue in Remington. The Smell—distinct aromas of smoked meats and grilled vegetables—is tantalizing enough to lure even the non-hungry through the corner joint's doors.
Blacksauce Kitchen has already built a loyal following from its bustling biscuit stand, located at the Waverly Farmers Market every Saturday morning and at the Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar under the JFX on Sunday mornings from April to December. Morning market-goers line up at the Blacksauce stand extra early to enjoy a seasonal rotation of buttery biscuit sandwiches stuffed with fried chicken drizzled with spicy honey or tender, braised lamb topped with a runny egg, or wood roasted peaches with fresh arugula and cheddar cheese. These hearty biscuit sandwiches are the only impetus to get out of bed at 7 a.m. on the weekend.
Anticipation was high when owners Damian Mosley and Vesnier Lugo finally announced Blacksauce's brick-and-mortar opening back in January. It's only open on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and this time, Mosley and Lugo are exploring a slightly new vision than that of their farmers market stands. "It'll be thoughtful and delicious, but less reliant on biscuits," they described via Instagram. "Still take-out food, but more than sandwiches."
The menu, which changes every week, is anchored with a few meaty mains and hearty sandwiches, supplemented with snacks and veggies, and rounded off with some essential desserts. I visited Blacksauce for dinner over the course of two weeks to try a slew of different things. You know, for research.
Amongst the main dishes, I've tried their applewood smoked chicken wings, which were fall-off-the-bone tender and brushed with an apple cider barbeque glaze. First smoky and then sweet with a mystery spice I couldn't quite put my finger on, the flavors were complex, prompting me to go back for just one more taste until they were all gone.
After I tried the smoked shiitake melt, I realized while their smoked meats are brilliantly executed, what these guys can do with veggies is the real showstopper. The shiitake mushrooms were delicately smoky, accentuating their natural earthiness, topped with a little cheese and stuffed between two slices of buttery brioche bread. But when I think of a melt, I think of a decadent, cheesy sandwich, and this wasn't it. While still indulgent from the buttery brioche, this sandwich let the shiitakes be the star, not to be outshone by a barrage of oozy cheese.
In addition to smoking meats and grilling veggies, Blacksauce makes some stellar jams, preserves, and relishes, which are often found slathered on biscuit sandwiches or integrated in sauces and glazes for their meat dishes. One week, they made a wood roasted chicken sandwich that featured their smoked peach jam, which was a home run for me. Tender, juicy roasted chicken was piled high on a hearty benne seed roll and topped with crispy fried leeks and sweet and smoky peach jam. This hit all the marks of a top-notch hearty sandwich: sweet, smoky, juicy, crispy, and carby.
Try the grit fritters—crispy cloud-shaped puffs of fried grits lightly tossed in their house-made tangy tomato jam. Seriously—just get an order every time they're on the menu for an undeniably addictive snack that rivals some of the city's most heralded bar snacks.
Before I knew these guys were magical veggie wizards, I ordered a side of their smoked green beans as a perfunctory measure to balance out all the fried, meaty things I was honestly more excited to try. But these green beans turned out to be one of my favorite menu items. Smoky and charred but still crisp and fresh, the green beans tasted like upscale campfire food, turning the unfortunate notion of boring veggies on its head. Veggies are not an afterthought here—they're often the stars of the show.
Blacksauce also offers a few creatively comforting desserts to round out their thoughtful seasonal menu. One week I tried a three-inch thick slab of bread pudding stuffed with sweet apples and smoky bacon. It was a decadent juxtaposition of salty and sweet, yet it felt slightly incomplete without a drizzle of gooey caramel sauce. Another week I picked up slice of their chocolate stout cake, which was three layers of dark chocolate cake slathered with chocolate frosting. The hint of malty stout was slight but played well with the rich chocolate.
My only letdown here is the actual space. Most if not all restaurants design their eating area with the guest in mind. Details like lighting, seating, and tableware are considered and designed in a way to provide a specific experience for the guest. That's just not the case here. Instead, the guest is eating in a place that is designed for the Blacksauce crew, primarily used to prep for their weekend farmers market stands and catering events. It's a narrow, fluorescently lit space featuring a refrigerator case for their preserves and a small counter at the end that could feasibly seat about five people. Except there are no chairs there because the back door swings in and not out and that would be really awkward for anybody sitting there. So you can stand there and eat, if you'd like, but I'd rather not.
There are personal touches here that make me regret not being able to stick around and get to know the people who are making and serving this amazing food, which I was hoping to take advantage of when they opened this space. Photos of the Blacksauce crew serving up biscuit sandwiches at farmer's markets are hung behind the counter and an extensive collection of regional cookbooks line the bookshelves, a few of which I own, too. When I visited, Kendrick Lamar and Q-tip bumped from the speakers, a soundtrack that instantly made me want to stay a while. There is a naturally intimate connection to be had here by way of their home-style food and friendly staff, but it loses a bit of its oomph when I walk out of the door, forced to enjoy my meal elsewhere. But such is the way of the carryout joint—a fleeting moment of culinary intimacy and then it's on with your day.
But Blacksauce isn't the average carryout. In all facets, simple execution yields complex results here—an inexpensive meal that's rich with flavor and passion. Each time I visited, the staff was on first name basis with their guests, asking about their families and how their day was. It felt a lot like noticing your neighbors were grilling and stopping by for a plate and a quick chat, an intimacy that can be hard to find elsewhere.