When chain restaurants from the Empire State open a local operation, we expect a Big Apple home office. But Burlington’s recently opened Black & Blue Steak and Crab is based near Rochester, and its other three namesakes are all located in upstate New York. The chain’s name is derived from chargrilled steaks (black) and crabs (blue). [Please note that at the time of publication, the restaurant featured in this article is offering special services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please call or visit their websites for updates.]
The restaurant offers a contemporary twist on your traditional steakhouse and includes niceties such as a no middleman seafood menu. Everything on it comes from their own operation in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Outside of Boston, there may be no other Bay State community that has enjoyed such a recent explosion in restaurant growth as Burlington, especially in steakhouses.
So picking Burlington as Black & Blue’s first out-of-state venture is really the culinary equivalent of setting up an isolated outpost smack in the middle of enemy territory.
Bricks, wood and a lot of glass dominate the contemporary decor, and a long bar was very busy on the weeknight my wife and I visited. The dinner menu offers a variety of starter options, ranging from soups and salads to a raw bar and appetizers.
It’s a steakhouse, so we started with some beef. Four wagyu meatballs ($14) were slow-roasted with caramelized onions and doused with a garlic cream sauce. Each arrived on a wooden skewer to minimize the mess. The highly esteemed Japanese beef was richly flavored, and this was a very filling order and great bar food.
The crabcake ($16) was a gorgeous thing to look at. The smartly seasoned Atlantic blue crab was lightly pan-seared and served with a shrewdly contrasting avocado-lime emulsion. The crab was fresh (I caught a bit of shell here and there) and sweet. This veteran lobster eater now better understands all the fuss about crabs … even if they aren’t lobsters.
Entrees are nicely divided between turf and surf specialties. It was a bit odd to see red snapper and black grouper on the menu but no local favorites such as cod and haddock. That’s the Florida fish connection.
We stuck with the landlocked items. Our waitress recommended the roasted half chicken ($27). It was such a surprising suggestion that we bit. The organic bird was almost buttery soft and tender with taste to spare, prepared with lemon and herbs along with heirloom root veggies.
There are heady menu options for the carnivores, including a porterhouse ($45), Kansas City bone-in strip ($38), and bone-in cowboy ribeye ($48). The 12-ounce New York strip ($32) was perfectly prepared and exactly the kind of beef you’d expect in a traditional steakhouse. Various sauces were available. I opted for the black truffle butter that arrived with the steak on a sizzling platter. That sizzling is always a nice sound to serious steak eaters.
Side dishes are served as single or sharing portions. We found the single size was easily enough for two. The wild mushroom mix ($8) was more good news, and the mashed red bliss potatoes ($7) were airy and simple with just a touch of scallions.
The vanilla bean creme brulee with a sugar cookie ($10) lived up to its billing.
Our server was efficient, just friendly enough and well-informed. The dinner flaws were relatively minor. Our side of mashed potatoes arrived lukewarm, and the cappuccino we ordered shouldn’t have been served. There was no head, no froth, and it just looked like a cup o’ joe with a couple of creamer packets added. It also didn’t taste much different.
But these are minor things, easily remedied, and they hardly cast a cloud over a very pleasant experience. Whenever I visit an eatery, I ask myself at the end of the meal if I would return with friends.
My wife and I have already made arrangements.
Black & Blue Steak and Crab