What’s new at Black Mountain Wine House in the Central West End

To get to the new patio at Black Mountain Wine House (354 N. Boyle), located in the former West End Grill space in the Central West End, you walk through the restaurant, along the length of the bar, and past the kitchen’s expo window. There, a side door takes you along an alleyway to a wooden gate; pushed open, it reveals an oasis-in-progress, where wrought-iron bistro tables and chairs, plants, and twinkle lights adorn the mulch-covered space. The centerpiece of the area is a nearly complete large clay oven, built by owner Joe Baker’s cousin-in-law, where Baker will bake his sourdough bread and experiment with a pizza menu.

“We decided we didn’t need our parking spots out back, so we mulched over them and turned them into this,” says Baker. “The idea is to be an extension of what we are inside out here.”

For the past 16 months, Baker has created an inviting neighborhood gathering spot centered around interesting wines and a small, eclectic menu. Now, Baker is adding more amenities to the already charming space, including the patio and a once-a-month oyster program, which launches Friday. With these two new elements, as well as additional plans in the works, Baker hopes that Black Mountain will turn from a best-kept-secret to a destination for those beyond the neighborhood.

“We still have a long runway with the city getting to know us,” says Baker. “We want to play around with things, but we also want the city to know that they can find something specific here that they want to come back for.”

The Atmosphere

The new outdoor digs, which are the size of a small city backyard, give the feeling of being at a friend’s alfresco dinner party. It’s the same charm that defines the restaurant and bar’s interior. Its transportive vibe and come-as-you-are feel makes it a natural heir to the former West End Grill and Pub, which occupied the space from 2007–2015.

“The idea is to bring people together over food and wine in a way that is not pretentious,” says Baker. “We want you to come break bread, have a glass of wine, and that’s it. It’s simple, easy comfort.”

Black Mountain’s interior lends to that idea. The space is transportive, as if stepping back in time to an old pub that would fit in as much in Dublin as Pittsburgh. A black wood-burning stove, wooden tables, and shelves filled with books and other decorative adornments make the room feel both comfortable and erudite. The vintage-style bar, which takes up most of the main room’s length, is filled with interesting bottles and antique candle holders.

That pleasantly worn feeling carries through to the secondary room, which has a seating area with a couch and comfortable chairs, as well as a large wooden table. The front of the space, separated by a wall with an open doorway, offers retail wine, displayed on wooden bookshelves, and an antique table where Baker conducts free wine tastings on Monday evenings. 

The Menu

Baker is excited to launch the First Fridays oysters program, which will feature rotating selections based on what is available and what stands out to him. He’s starting with West Coast oysters, a nod to his native Vancouver, served on the half shell and accompanied with mignonette and horseradish.

The oysters join a small, creative menu of shareable plates and individual items, ranging from a goat cheese tart with fresh beets to traditional poutine covered in gravy and cheese curds. The signature pork meatballs are large, tender spheres of succulent, garlicky meat. The accompanying marinara has enough of a kick to make your mouth tingle but not so much as to overtake the naturally sweet pork.

Panzanella salad, one of the seasonal offerings, features plump red and yellow tomatoes, shaved red onion, torn basil, and hunks of Baker’s excellent sourdough bread, which he’s been perfecting for the past 10 years. 

An industry veteran and sommelier, Baker has curated an interesting wine list, mostly focused on single varietals that give guests the experience of a grape at a particular place in time. He points to a current offering, a pinot noir from Victoria, Australia, as evidence of his approach. “Pinot noir is a grape people know, but we are featuring it from somewhere people might not always think of as a pinot noir producer,” says Baker, who’s also made it a point to keep his wine list reasonable. Glasses range between $10 and $13, and his hope is that by keeping it reasonable, guests will be willing to venture out of their comfort zones and try new things.

The Backstory

Black Mountain’s St. Louis storefront is actually not the first and only Black Mountain location, though you certainly would not call it a chain. The original location, still open today, is in Brooklyn, New York, where Baker first fell in love with the concept after moving to the city from Vancouver via Boulder, Colorado. Baker got a job at the restaurant and wine bar, fell in love with what owner Tyler Maganzini had created, and immediately felt that it was a concept that could exist in any city. 

He and Maganzini became close friends and talked about opening an additional location. They looked at a number of cities in search of the right spot—Vancouver, Los Angeles, Chattanooga, Nashville, Indianapolis, Sacramento—but never felt they’d found the right formula. He and Maganzini tabled the idea, and, in the meantime, Baker and his wife moved in 2019 to her native St. Louis, where he worked for the former Grove restaurant Tempus as a sommelier. After leaving Tempus, Baker got a gig as a facilities manager for a church; after a random bad day at work, he came home, where his wife told him about a space for lease adjacent to The Gaslight Theater, where she’d just auditioned for a play. Skeptical, he decided to check it out and was instantly struck that he’d found his spot. 

After a year or so spent renovating the space, Baker launched the St. Louis location of Black Mountain in March of last year and has been quietly building one of the area’s most unique neighborhood spots. Although he never wants it to lose its neighborhood spirit, he’s hoping that the patio and oysters will allow others from beyond the immediate Central West End environs will experience what he’s trying to create.

“We have a wine club in the works. Our regulars want me to start doing wine classes. We want to expand the bottle shop and do weekly family dinners. Who knows what we can get off the ground?” says Baker. “Really, we just want to provide an experience where people can enjoy wine and break bread over simple food that’s meant to be shared like you are at a friend’s house.”

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