Editor’s Note: Blackstone Bistro is now closed.
Though it sounds like an unholy alliance between an infamous former military contractor and the (fictional) shadowy government program that created Jason Bourne, Blackstone is, in fact, a recently opened Mediterranean fusion bistro in St. Louis Park.
We went, we ate, we shrugged.
Tucked into the affluent Excelsior & Grand residential and retail complex, the corporate feel of Blackstone fits right in — think lots of decorative brick arches, dark wood, white tablecloths, and dim lighting. The vibe is definitely “business lunch,” and the menu extends the something-for-everyone feel of the interior design. You’ll find some Mediterranean items alongside a deliriously vast and globe-spanning selection of entrees, pizza, pasta, burgers, soups, sides, sandwiches, and salads.
We began the meal with the Mediterranean Mix Appetizers ($16), composed of hummus, baba ghanoush, a cold mixture of roasted red peppers and artichokes, and fatoush salad. While the dish was generously portioned and sharable, we felt that its price was pretty high (a recurring theme), and that flavor was lacking. The spreads were fresh, but were missing depth — the baba ghanoush could have been smokier, and the hummus was rough-textured, bland, and in need of citrus. The salad was awash in a too-sweet vinaigrette, though nicely garnished with vegetables and fresh mint.
The flatbreads (pictured above: portobello) sounded intriguing, but ours fell, well, flat. The Alexandria Flatbread ($13.50) was topped with tomato pesto, figs, blue cheese, and a lot of arugula (though it wasn’t listed on the menu). The crust was mightily disappointing: spongy and limp, reminding us of the amateur error of cooking a Tombstone frozen pizza on a sheet pan instead of directly on the oven rack. The limpness was mysterious, as our side of pita bread was well-marked by a grill, and crisp — couldn’t Blackstone do the same for the flatbreads? The toppings, meanwhile, clashed in a dissonant mess of bitterness and blue-cheese funk.
Sandwiches were workmanlike, and expensive. The Lamb Burger ($16) was ordered medium but arrived well done, and was generally forgettable, though filling. On the side was a commercial-grade coleslaw that we picked at reluctantly. The Spicy Casablanca Wrap ($16) was better, with lots of veggies and some good sliced sirloin tucked into a warm pita.
Our server (plucky, capable, attentive, point-of-sale swipe card jangling from her apron) recommended the Moroccan Lamb Shank as one of Blackstone’s signature items, so we gave it shot. It came out looking lovely, but it lacked any hint of Moroccan flavors. The shank itself was beautifully braised, falling off the bone, and clearly well-sourced, but not done any justice by the underseasoning. The side of curried couscous helped some, but the bed of bland, institutional sauteed veggies had that steamed-under-plastic flavor reminiscent of an in-flight meal circa 1996. At a price of $34, we didn’t feel the flavor-to-value ratio was even close to parity.
The two tastiest bites of the evening came by way of the bread basket and a bowl of soup. Warm, crusty rolls arrived with small sides of whipped feta and tomatoes, herbed butter, and pickled artichokes. The Onion Soup ($4 for the small size) was downright delicious. Served like a classic French onion soup, it had an umami-rich broth that was clearly made from good stock. It hit all the right notes, while bringing some real depth of flavor to the party, with hints of that Moroccan spice we were missing in the lamb shank.
As much as we all love a hip, chef-driven neighborhood spot that does six things incredibly well, we also need machines that simply feed a lot of people adequately. Blackstone feels like such a machine, but an overly expensive one. It’s Mediterranean for the SUV set — safe, vaguely theme-y, good for the kids, yet classy enough for an eHarmony date (no Tinder-ing here). We wouldn’t go out of our way to dine here, but if you’re in St. Louis Park and need to find a place that serves a falafel sandwich, lobster thermidor, barbecued ribs, and pasta bolognese under the same roof, Blackstone Bistro is your spot.
Mediterranean-fusion in St Louis Park, MN
3808 Grand Way
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
OWNER / CHEF: Sharif Wagdy Mobasher
HOURS: Sun-Thu 7 a.m.-midnight
Fri-Sat 7 a.m.-1 a.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $32-$54