Black Sheep Tavern and Oyster Room soft-opened on Edgewood Avenue in late March in a sprawling 5,000-square-foot space in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District that was formerly home to the Eagle’s Nest Ministry Church.
First-time restaurant owner Andy Kober describes Black Sheep as a “classic tavern,” adding that the concept was influenced by his Wisconsin and Chicago-area roots.
The build-out features several distinct dining areas, defined by plank and tile flooring, and seating at a mix of high-top tables and banquets. A private dining room, patio and bocce ball court are still in the works.
Right now, though, the spacious cocktail bar of 20-plus seats seems to be the favorite perch. And, nearby, there’s a cozy oyster bar, where you can check out the daily selection of raw oysters — or watch while the signature charbroiled oysters are dramatically doused with butter sauce and flamed on a special grill.
Beyond oysters, the menu offers a good number of shareable appetizers, including wings, Italian nachos, Wisconsin-style white cheddar cheese curds, and wonton mozzarella sticks. Salads, an array of sandwiches with a choice of sides, tacos and the eponymous Black Sheep Burger round out the pub grub offerings.
The beverage menu has a little something for everyone, with bottles, cans and a dozen rotating draft beer selections that range from local craft to old-school classics such as Guinness and PBR, plus a small international wine list. Seasonal house cocktails currently include the F A Farmer, with vodka, arugula, lemon and soda, and Orange Is the New Earl, with gin, black tea, honey and orange.
Last week, Kober sat down at a table at Black Sheep Tavern to talk about his background in the restaurant business and what he hopes to bring to the Atlanta dining scene.
“I’ve been in Atlanta almost eight years now,” Kober said. “But all I’ve ever done, pretty much my whole life, is work in the restaurant business. At 13, I was the snack bar boy at a country club. I moved up to managing bars and restaurants. I was at Six Feet Under, at both locations, for three years. But this is the first venture that I’m doing all by myself. I thought it was time to give it a go and see if people liked my ideas. And now we have Black Sheep.”
Surprisingly, perhaps, Kober admitted that before working at Six Feet Under he didn’t know much about oysters.
“The first oyster I ever had was here in Atlanta, and I hated it,” he said and laughed. “But I kept seeing people order them, and I learned more about oysters and how they’re like wine grapes. They’re a terroir kind of thing, based on where they’re grown, and can be night and day as far as how they taste. But I call our charbroiled oysters our training wheels. People that are a little wary about oysters usually love them. With butter, garlic, Parmesan and herbs, what’s not to like?
“I wanted this to be a classic tavern, where you could get oysters and you didn’t have to be at a white tablecloth place. That’s Black Sheep. You can get a shot of tequila and a Tecate and a dozen oysters and never blink twice, and then maybe order another dozen and another round. A comfortable, approachable neighborhood bar was the idea. We have TVs, but we don’t want to be a sports bar.”
Asked about the menu, Kober said it was “at least 90 percent” his doing.
“It’s just things that I’ve grown up with and things that I’ve come across working in other restaurants and bars,” he said. “And there are things I’ve taken from my hometown, like the cheese curds. That’s a Wisconsin thing. The Italian nachos are a Midwest thing that’s like a nacho-style pizza. The fried bologna sandwich is from a place in Waukegan, Ill., I used to go on Saturdays with my dad when I was a kid.”
330 Edgewood Ave. S.E., Atlanta. 470-355-3964, blacksheeptavernatl.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Black Sheep Tavern and Oyster Room
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