by C. Oscar Olson
We love this time of year. As September rolls in, the crowds thin, the ocean is still warm, and the sun shines down on the long and lingering last days of summer. What’s more, it means we can score a table at a much-loved island eatery: Black Eyed Susan’s.
For more than 25 years, co-owners Susan Handy and Executive Chef Jeff Worster have been serving their patrons comforting breakfasts and high-end dinners in their cozy eatery in the heart of town. One of the only breakfast boutiques left downtown, the restaurant rebrands and transforms in the evening to bring patrons a fine dining experience to remember. With seats at the bar back on the menu this year, you can watch the magic happen with wide open views of the kitchen. For just $5 per person you can bring the beverage of your choice to toast.
The menu is eclectic but not overwhelming, with a concise selection of four starters and four mains plus three signature dishes available in half- and full portions. Utilizing fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, every dish is beautifully plated, entrees paired perfectly with the accompaniments on every plate. With the heat in recent weeks, we were pleased to see some cool appetizer options to compliment the hot island evenings.
We started with a cool and creamy Chilled Cucumber and Yoghurt Soup. Bursting with the fresh herbal aromas of parsley and dill, we were basking in its freshness before it even hit the table. Two rounds of warm falafel swim in the middle, adding a crispy contrast of color, texture, and taste.
On the spicier side of starters were the Kimchi Buffalo Wings. Glistening red with a drizzle of misoblue cheese over top, the skin is still crisp and wellsauced with a kimchi-spiked buffalo. We loved the tangy bites of pickled celery throughout. With a slowly growing spice that gets better with every bite, these might just be our new favorite finger food.
Another first with some fire was the Bartlett Farm Tomato and Sweet Corn Salad. We see a lot of Bartlett’s terrific tomatoes on menus this time of year, but Black Eyed Susan’s take was a welcome change of pace. Served in a bowl Isaan style, the dish is reminiscent of ceviche with a refreshing zip of citrus and spice. The lime and chili bring out the best in every component.
A salad certainly doesn’t have to be simple, and the Organic Mixed Greens proved that to be true. Enjoy a bed of mixed local greens dressed in a peach lavender vinaigrette below fluffy, white ricotta salad. The flavors of every ingredient come through, no one element overpowering another.
Though the menu is ever-changing at Black Eyed Susan’s, there are a few old reliables that never go out of style. Crunchy, cooling, and doused in a delicious dose of dressing, the Whole Leaf Caesar never disappoints. Slice from the heart of romaine and savor the cooling crunch peppered with rich asiago in place of parmesan. Save the crouton spear served alongside to soak up the luxurious broth below the Linguini con Le Vongole. Toothsome linguini wraps around a generous portion of tender clams in this seaside staple. For more pasta perfection, try the Capellini. The freshness of the red sauce is undeniable: rich, sweet, and savory all at once.
The entree end of the menu boasts a balanced selection of surf and turf to please every patron. Just like the starter side, we enjoyed one of each option. A deliciously different take on pork, the Soy Braised Heritage Pork Chop was spectacularly spoon-tender. Served atop a classic fried nasi goreng rice, it’s bursting with incomparable savory succulence and complemented by the sweetness of marinated cherry tomatoes.
We loved the meaty flake of the Steelhead Trout, but the brilliant romanesco sauce below really stole the show. Much like a milder salmon, the fish was cooked to a perfect medium rare and served with chunky, garlicky crushed potatoes, verdant parsley, and red sorrel. The crunch of nutty almonds in the sauce added interest to every forkful.
Pounded thin and pan fried to a crisp, the Free Range Chicken Milanese was a crowd favorite. Its crispy crunch is contrasted by a grilled sweet stone fruit panezella salad, roasted shallots, and creamy mozzarella. Calvestrano olives bring the brine to every bite.
There was another taste of the deep in the Swordfish. The swordfish steak was thin but still sublimely succulent, served over Latin-inspired frijoles blancos that were awesomely al dente, tomatillos, and sweet Fresno chilis. Tortilla strips added a tasty crunch. We only wish we had begged Chef Worster for the cucumber guacamole recipe.
The desserts were both a sublime, simple, and satisfying end to our meal. A decadent and dark Pot de Creme was a cup of happy. Silky and luxurious, it’s topped with a dense dollop of fresh whipped cream and served with two cookies: white chocolate chip and a coconut macroon. The Gelato changes regularly, but we were knocked out by the Salted Caramel. A balancing act of salty sweetness, it was creamy beyond compare. Served with a toasty cinnamon sugar-dusted tortilla, the char on which adds another dimension to this decadent grand finale.
Previously, I had only been to Black Eyed Susan’s for breakfast. Home to the best hash and eggs on-island, I had been looking forward to this dinner for the entirety of summer. Needless to say my expectations were so far exceeded. Everything on the menu dazzled and surprised, and I cannot wait go back with friends. Head over to India Street and grab a table while you still can, because dinner at Black Eyed Susan’s is not one to miss.
open through late-October at 10 India Street
stop by or call 508-325-0308 for reservations • black-eyedsusans.com
Breakfast served from 7 am to 1 pm • Dinner Mon.-Sat. from 6-10 pm
Seatings are at 6 pm, 7:30 pm, and 9:15 pm
entree prices range from $26 to $29
BYOB, corkage fee • Cash or checks only, no credit cards