Eclectic, from-scratch menus and a killer brunch entice the herds to Dresden Row

It’s time to hoof it downtown to Black Sheep. Since late 2015, the rustic and from-scratch menu at the all-day restaurant has stood out among the flock of Spring Garden-area establishments.   

Tucked between Queen Street and Dresden Row, chefs John House and Dave Woodley remodelled a former interior courtyard into a casual but fine bistro with as many twists and turns as the food and drink menus. Combining unconventional dishes with handcrafted skill, Woodley and House offer some of the most unique tasting dishes alongside home-styled custom classics.

From three daily menus — a generous brunch selection, small plates for grazing and full entrees — Black Sheep presents a wayward variety of eclectic inventions, like leafy octopus and andouille sausage or tenderloin and pickled duck eggs, with creativity and comfort as driving forces.

“Our style has always been, what I call, global cuisine,” says House, who worked with Woodley for five years at the equally unique and ultra-culinary Gio Restaurant in the Prince George Hotel. Realizing they had a shared knack for taste and design, it made sense to move forward together.

“Every dish has a concept behind it,” House elaborates. “One dish might have an Asian flair to it and then our pastas have an Italian influence, obviously. So we don’t do one style of food. Our whole thing is to do comfort food. Especially for our brunch menu, that’s definitely a big focus.”

From 9 am on weekends and 10 am on weekdays until 4 pm every day, Black Sheep’s brunch menu offers over a dozen filling options for lunch and late risers. On it, the classic Diner Breakfast has been the most popular: “It’s not the most creative thing in the world, it’s just bacon and eggs, but it’s really well done,” says House. It also comes with freshly baked bread made in-house, the Black Sheep’s kitchen-made and now-famous blueberry and basil jam, and bacon from Oulton’s Farm in Windsor. “It’s the best version of every single component of that plate,” he adds.

“Everything is made from scratch,” says Woodley. “We make our own bread, we smoke our own meats, we make the pasta. We come from a fine dining background so we’ve got those same skills at a more approachable price point. We want to show off those skills, and I think we stand out in Halifax as an almost exclusive scratch kitchen. That’s a really important feature for us.”

Dave Woodley and John House

“The Brisket Benny is another good example. A lot of skill goes into the preparation of that dish, it’s kind of the star,” says House. The Oulton’s Farm beef brisket is brined for three weeks and smoked in-house then served on an English muffin with southern accents in the Chipotle mustard, a French styled olive oil béarnaise and a touch of traditional sauerkraut. It’s the careful attention to every detail of each item that makes Black Sheep such a special newfound spot.

“The menu has evolved since we opened,” says Woodley. Originally just serving small plates, the duo added full dinner service with “funkier” dishes than you’ll find on the brunch menu. This includes the seared scallops served with guanciale, an Italian-cured pork from Ratinaud French Cuisine, and beet purée and pommes kennedy, a burnished and crunchy complement to the meaty sea morsels. There are also fusion oddities like octopus and sausage, rabbit ragù, calamari with Korean barbeque sauce, an Asian-styled Arctic char, and my personal favourite, the golden crispy fried chicken thigh with a Thai-inspired sauce dressed in colourful pickled cabbage slaw. “Everything that’s on the menu is there for a reason,” says Woodley.

The same is said for the cocktails. “People come in just for those,” says House who, with experienced bar staff, set out to create cool and original drinks, including “That’s My Jam,” which features the same jam ingredients as the Diner Breakfast. For happy hour, from a bar made from wood from Windhorse Farm, Black Sheep has one of the best deals in the city. At four o’clock, Propeller and cider pints start at four bucks, then $5 at five and so on until seven. By then, you should order the gnocchi.

“We really wanted this place to be a place that we’d want to hang out in,” says Woodley. “It’s dimly lit, it’s got music we like, the layout of the space is really unique and maybe that ties into the name Black Sheep as well. We just want to continue to execute dishes on a very high level.”

Blending a country kitchen vibe with modern aesthetics, farm-inspired décor and urban flow, Black Sheep invites you to experience truly unique food at a warm, welcoming, affordable table.