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Black Rock Bar & Grill (Portage)

July 30, 2018

  • 550 Trade Center Way
  • Portage, MI 49002
  • (269) 459-9427
  • Website
  • Menu

Chain restaurants are not something I usually get excited about.  We eat at chains.  It’s usually because we have a gift card or we’re being lazy….or, my kids love Chili’s because they have tablets on the tables.  It’s not usually because it’s our first choice.

A new steakhouse in Portage though caught my interest early on.  It’s a Michigan based chain, so we had to check it out but the more I read about the place, the more I was getting interested in what looked like a pretty unique concept.

Black Rock Bar & Grill sits in front of the Homewood Suites by Hilton on Trade Center Way….that’s the road that fronts westbound I-94 at the Westnedge exit.  The small, twelve store chain began in Hartland, MI between Howell and Pontiac in 2010.  They’ve grown to stores in several Michigan cities as well as in Florida and the Chicago suburb of Naperville with an expansion into Ohio coming soon.

We went just before 5:00 on a Saturday night thinking we would beat the rush.  There was already a line at the door.  The hostess said it would be about 15 minutes so we decided to wait.  I gave her my phone number and less than five minutes later, my phone buzzed.  The table was ready.

We walked through the main dining room which is a series of high backed booths.  The floors throughout the space are an orange rubber material.  They use A/V carts to move food around (I’ll get to why in a second) so it’s probably works better on wear and tear with something a little more durable.  There are TV’s hanging on the walls so there isn’t a space inside where you can’t see whatever game is on at the time.

The dining room is divided in two by a large circular shape bar right in the middle.  Again, TV’s line the center island here and by the time we left, this space was full as well and everyone was enjoying dinner at the bar.

We were taken to what is essentially and all-seasons patio.  This large, cavernous room is where all the tables are in the restaurant.  There are large pub tables for bigger groups and smaller four tops around the space.  There are garage type doors that can open up but they were closed on this visit.

I grabbed the drink menu when I sat down and noticed they have quite a few local draft beers on tap.  When the server came over, I asked for one…he said that list wasn’t right.  Uh…ok.  He then showed me the list on his notepad.  I picked one…they didn’t have that one either.  Look…I get it.  Draft taps are going to change, but it’s frustrating to have to keep asking what’s on tap and if the server isn’t a beer drinker, they don’t always get the names or styles right when I ask about them…which I would rather not do anyway.  I finally picked one that was on tap.  Texas Corners’ Three Brothers IPA….and it was as delicious as I remember it.

J picked the Cranberry Margarita.  This one had Jose Cuervo Especial Silver Tequila, cranberry juice, lime juice, and triple sec.  She inquired if it could be frozen and the waiter told her no…but she thought she saw a different server bring out a frozen margarita to a different table later….so that’s inconclusive.  She still enjoyed the margarita the way it was served…just would have liked frozen better.

The kids both got a frozen drink which was awesome.  The drinks were essentially icees and it kept both kids happy while we were waiting for our food.

We started off with an appetizer because it just looked too good to pass up.  The Black Rock Dueling Pretzel and Cheese Fondue is as delicious as it sounds.  The appetizer is served on one of their 755 degree stones to keep the nacho cheese fondue and garlic cream cheese soft and warm.  The pretzel bites were pretty amazing on their own. The soft, buttery, salty pretzels didn’t need a dip but the dips couldn’t be passed up.  I liked the nacho cheese fondue better.  It had a little bit of a kick but wasn’t too spicy.  J liked the garlic cream cheese better.  There was a strong garlicky flavor in the soft, creamy spread.

I really wanted to try this place out because of that 755 degree stone they use to serve things on.  I’m not a big steak house guy but I had to get a steak here.

I picked the Signature Black Rock 9 oz. Sirloin.  The steak comes to the table essentially raw.  It’s placed on the stone so one side is seared on the trip out from the kitchen.  The server then flips it over and explains the cooking process.  You slice the steak into strips on then cook it to the desired temperature on the rock in front of you.  It’s a cool spin on the whole grill your own food thing restaurants like The Grill House in Allegan uses.  If anyone screwed my steak up, it would be me so I got a perfectly cooked medium-rare strip of steak in every bite.

The steaks come with choice of two sides.  The first one I picked was the side salad.  This simple salad of mixed greens was topped with onions, cucumbers, cheese, and cherry tomatoes.  There wasn’t a list of dressings anywhere that I could see so when I asked for Italian, the server suggested an apple vinaigrette as the closest alternative.  I took that and it was delicious.  Sweet and delicious.

My second side choice was the french fries.  These fries are flat, battered fries.  They’re crispy and tasty as well.  The kids needed ketchup for theirs but I was good without it.  They had a lot of flavor that was just salt and potatoes.  Whatever the batter is made from adds a little more to that fries.

J picked the Strawberry and Apple Fields Salad.  This plate started with triangles of pita bread topped with romaine lettuce, strawberries, Granny Smith Apples, candied pecans, granola, and feta cheese.  It’s topped with the house made apple vinaigrette. She really liked the flavor combinations on this salad and the pita on the bottom soaked up the leftover dressing which made that delicious as well.

The kids menu is pretty standard…and they can even get a steak if so desired.  My kids did not desire and surprisingly, they each picked something different.

L picked the Mac & Cheese.  This big bowl of corkscrew noodles was overflowing with a rich, creamy white cheddar sauce.  J was taking some of L’s fries and dunking them in the sauce..that’s how good it is.  L ate about half of the bowl and a few of her fries…which is actually pretty good for her.  For a while, she wouldn’t eat mac & cheese that wasn’t Kraft but she’s gotten better.  Baby steps.

B asked for the chicken strips and fries.  The plate was four breaded chicken strips and a handful of fries.  The strips were good but likely food service chicken.  We had to ask for ketchup and ranch to be brought to the table for him.  He ate about one and a half of the strips and a few fries but somehow managed to eat almost all of the ranch…..

Our meal, before tip was $80, so it’s not a cheap night out.  We got an appetizer and drinks plus I ordered an almost $20 steak so the bill isn’t bad…it’s just more than we usually spend on dinner.

Black Rock Bar & Grill is a unique entry to the land of chain restaurants along Westnedge Avenue.  I really like the gimmick of cooking your own steak on an insanely hot piece of rock.  Some might think the whole idea silly..why would you go out to a restaurant to cook your own food, but I find it fun and different.  By the time we left, the wait had grown to over an hour and there were still people coming in.  Black Rock will likely be successful at this location and if you can find a time that isn’t busy, it’s definitely a place you need to check out at least once.

Black Rock Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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