To me, summertime and Spanish food go hand in hand, so when my friend Benjie suggested we grab a table on newly opened Black Bull’s patio, I could not say no. And Black Bull did not disappoint.
The restaurant’s long bar, high tables, tile accents, and dark wood give the place a friendly and comfortable feel. The atmosphere doesn’t exactly transport you to a tapas bar in Madrid, everything’s too new, but it does give off a good vibe. And though the restaurant only has a half dozen or so tables on its front patio, the whole front of the restaurant opens up so the ambiance inside spills out onto the sidewalk and vice versa.
The majority of Black Bull’s menu includes the typical dishes you’ll find in every Spanish tapas restaurant in Chicago, like patatas bravas, croquetas and the torilla, but a handful dishes, like grilled figs with pickled cherries and Cabrales give the menu some uniqueness.
For two people, we ordered four tapas dishes, which was filling but not overly so. The Pulpo a la Gallega, grilled octopus with olive oil, paprika and potatoes, was tender with that slightly smoky flavor Spanish paprika imparts. Pimientos de Piqullo Rellenos de Bacalo, rich red Piquillo peppers stuffed with salt cod and smothered in tomato sauce were meaty and flavorful. The Pimientos de Padron, diminutive green peppers that are blistered in hot oil then lightly salted, came with a lemon aioli. They were hot, crisp, and somewhat sweet, but every once in a while one would surprise you with bite of spiciness.
My favorite dish was the Vieiras a la Plancha con Citricos y Nueces; the scallops were seared perfectly, leaving behind crunchy bits of caramelization and were served with a nice accompaniment of sweet and crunchy citrus and herbs.
Drinks and Service
Like just about everything about the place, the service was solid. The server was there when we needed her, was knowledgeable and regardless of the newness of the restaurant knew her way around the menu.
Of course, being a tapas bar, Black Bull has a wide selection of adult beverages. They get kudos from me for serving beer in both pint and half pint sizes, though I don’t know who told them a “caña” is a pint.
Should I Stay (Home) or Should I Go?
In case it isn’t obvious to you, when you read this section you’re supposed to hum the Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go. Are you humming it?
Black Bull gets a thumbs-up from me. The atmosphere is lively and inviting. Overall, Black Bull offers a selection of good, solidly executed dishes. Both old tapas standbys and the restaurant’s unique creations are cooked and presented well, and though not cheap, the prices are reasonable, the only item on the menu over $10 is the Iberico ham.
The spot that Black Bull occupies, on Division between Ashland and Wood, has seemed like a revolving door for restaurants, but I hope Black Bull sticks around, I have yet to try their Sangria.
Black Bull is located at 1721 W. Division in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood.