I've discovered that I am very much a product of my generation. Much like every other young-ish person, I enjoy the occasional brunch outing that is normally accompanied by socially acceptable morning drinking and easy going weekend feasting. Recently Black Dog in Champaign introduced brunch on their Sunday menu, and I was immediately excited with the prospect of what that could possibly mean for my future. I love breakfast. I love barbecue. What could be better than combining them into one splendiferous meal? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Black Dog's Champaign location is really perfect for something like brunch. There is plenty of space in the old train station, which can accommodate quite a lot of people at once, so I knew that it would not take too long to be seated. The restaurant is not currently taking reservations, so it's first come, first served, which made me worry a bit. However, I showed up right at opening time (10 a.m.) and luckily beat the any long waits.
The brunch menu itself was limited in its options — six to be exact — which is always a good sign in my book. It shows me that the restaurant values quality over quantity. Likewise, the menu is subject to change, so I have the feeling next time I go there could be different options.
The very first item on the menu was a coffee rubbed brisket hash for $12.95, and I knew I had to get it. Often when I was a kid, my mom would pour coffee over our pot roast and it would add a lot more complexity to the meat, making it rich and flavorful. Paired with beautifully roasted carrots and potatoes that absorbed all the juices from the roast, it was heaven. I was hoping that Black Dog's brisket hash would allow me to have a similar experience. My dining companion ordered the smoked wild caught trout hash, which sounded equally as tasty and also $12.95.
I first tried my order. The appearance of the dish was most appetizing. The brisket hash came with two poached eggs drizzled with Red Eye barbecue sauce placed on top of a bed of potatoes, onions, roasted red peppers, and the coffee rubbed brisket. The very first thing I did was cut into the poached egg. There is nothing I like more then slicing into a beautifully poached egg.
The eggs were well done, and the center was just slightly gooey — the perfect consistency for mixing with the hash. The vegetables were perfect in texture and were nice and smokey, standing up to the richness of the poached egg. The coffee rubbed brisket was equally as tasty. The outside was nice and crispy, and the coffee rub did give it more depth in flavor, adding to the overall decadence of the dish. It was not quite like my mama's pot roast, but it was pretty amazing.
Next I tried the trout hash. I have never had trout, so I had no idea what to expect. I am a fan of mild fish and was concerned that the taste would overpower everything else, but luckily the dish was perfectly balanced. It was served with two poached eggs, potatoes, onions, red peppers, creme fraiche, and dill. The richness of the eggs paired well with everything else, especially the trout. The trout itself was not too fishy, but definitely strong enough to stand up against the other flavors like the dill. It had a buttery mouthfeel that was extremely pleasant. Occasionally when I have fish in my hash, all the flavors get muddled together, but the dill prevented that, brightening the dish so all the flavors seemed enhanced. Overall I felt the dish was perfectly seasoned and definitely the best part of my meal.
My brunch experience at Blackdog was great, though I wish there was a sweet dish, like French toast or pancakes, that would really stand out against the other dishes. For the most part the meals were very similar to the regular menu and it would have been fun to see what they did with something like French toast. Despite this, I think it is well worth a trip to Blackdog for their brunch.
Black Dog Champaign is located at 320 North Chestnut Street, Champaign, and open for brunch on Sundays at 10 a.m to 1 p.m., or until gone. The regular menu is avaialable beginning at 11 a.m.
All photos by Merry Thomas.