Blackbird Kitchen, the stylish restaurant that opened on Ninth Street downtown in 2012, is locally famous for two things: chef/co-owner Carina Lampkin’s culinary creativity, and being closed for months at a time.
Blackbird shut down suddenly in September 2013, after the business became unsustainable. Lampkin reopened in early 2014, with new partners but without Blackbird’s signature $2 raw-bar oysters, the latter deemed too financially slippery a proposition.
Blackbird 2.0 added an emphasis on craft beers and attached “Beer Gallery” to its name. This new bent, and Lampkin’s persistent ability to craft distinctive takes on New American cuisine, helped the restaurant regain much of its former buzz.
Things were going well enough, this past May, for Lampkin and crew to throw a boisterous public party in the alley next to the restaurant. Two weeks later, the revival literally burst. A broken pipe caused flooding that ruined the restaurant’s wood bar and flooring.
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Hammering out details with the insurance company delayed repairs, Lampkin said. But Blackbird will reopen, with a new bar and concrete floor, Dec. 1.
But it’s cold in December. So on Friday, Oct. 23, when the weather likely still can accommodate it, Lampkin is throwing a second alley party, to reintroduce the restaurant. The event will carry a theme appropriate to a business that has been down a few rabbit holes.
The “West End Wonderland” pre-Halloween costume party, starting at 5 p.m. in the alley next to Blackbird (1015 Ninth St.), will feature DJs, bands and local artwork.
A suggested admission fee of $10 includes a drink. Fellow friend to alleyways Federalist Public House will handle food. Since Blackbird isn’t open yet, she doesn’t want leftover food supplies to spoil, Lampkin said.
The Bee caught up with Lampkin last week.
Q: What changes, besides the bar and floor, can we expect when Blackbird reopens?
A: We will work the menu out in phases. But we are focusing on our happy hour. Blackbird 1 had a great happy hour. We’ll be bringing back the oyster bar, which I’m so happy about.
Q: Wasn’t the oyster bar cost-prohibitive?
A: I have formed a relationship with an oyster farmer. I can get them for (less money) now, so I am going to wrap ’em up … and probably sell (oysters) for about $2 each. I never wanted to abandon the oyster bar. It was a concession I made to my new partners. (But) I think they realized it was the magic formula and really the way I like to express myself. Clean, simple, fresh flavors.
Q: You’re going to dress as the king from “Alice in Wonderland” Friday night. Why such a minor character, when you’re Blackbird’s protagonist?
A: I have a lot of operational responsibilities that night, running back and forth (from alley to restaurant). The king also has operational responsibilities. I am the king of Blackbird (laughs).
Q: Did you ever despair the restaurant would not reopen?
A: Maybe for like a quick 10 seconds. But by this time, I have been bucked off the horse so many times (adopts a cowpoke accent) I ain’t scared o’ it no more. I believe in myself, and I believe in Blackbird.
West End Wonderland alley party
What: An “Alice in Wonderland” public costume party featuring drinks, food, artwork and musical acts
When: 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23
Where: Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery, 1015 Ninth St., Sacramento, and the adjacent alley (between Ninth and 10th and J and K streets)