Sitting down with Brad Holler, owner of The Black Pearl, the upscale casual eatery directly across the street from the Stranahan Theater, we get the obvious question out of the way first: “The restaurant is named after my grandma and we had black awnings. It’s not named after a Johnny Depp movie. I didn’t even think about it (at the time), but when we opened up, people were asking if we were pirates.” Yes, the movie came first. The Black Pearl, is an institution for many— going to a show at the Stranahan? Stop in and have an early dinner at the Black Pearl first— has only been around for seven years. But in that time, they’ve cultivated an atmosphere of accessible elegance with fair prices and quality meals. The Black Pearl and its eclectic menu has been a concept in the works for many years. “I owned HJ’s Prime Cut for 23 years,” Holler said. “It’s a similar menu. It kind of evolved over the decades.” As Holler put it, he’s been cooking in one form or another all his life. “I basically started cooking at a young age at the Twine House, here in Ohio,” he added. “I moved to Toledo and have been cooking here ever since.”
The menu spans from soups and salads to steaks, seafood, sandwiches and meatloaf. “Most of my recipes came from myself and my cooks and my partners,” said Holler. “I used to have a partner when we were HJ’s and we kind of developed things together.” And if you’re ordering from the Black Pearl, there’s a good chance that Holler himself directly contributed to your great experience. “We have cooks and a kitchen manager too, but I still spend 80 percent of my time cooking. I like the kitchen.” Holler deflects some of the credit for the Black Pearl’s enduring quality to his Executive Chef Cory Cook. “He’s been with me a long time,” Holler reminisces on their 13 years, side by side, cranking out an assortment of entrées and appetizers over a hot stove.
When it comes down to selecting his favorite menu item, Holler doesn’t mince words. “The prime rib.” Slow-roasted to perfection, this premium cut of meat comes in two sizes: Queen Cut for $25.99 and Petite Cut for $20.99. Of course, you can’t ignore the signature dish, The Black Pearl, which is that same cut of meat, blackened and smothered in au jus with onions, bell peppers, garlic and peppercorns for $21.99. “I know that’s cliché, but that’s what I eat the most,” Holler added. Although it’s easy to focus on the meats, pay attention to the rest of the menu as there are a lot of excellent options. “One of the things that’s important about us is that we’re a family atmosphere. It’s kind of like coming home. A lot of the menu items are stick-to-the-ribs kinds of things. But we also have a diverse menu, we’ve got a lot of pastas and sandwiches, some things that are healthy.”
Above and beyond
What really sets The Black Pearl apart are the little considerations. “I think we’re a unique thing nowadays— we concentrate on fresh food. We’re proud of our service. Of our cocktails, I like to say, ‘We put booze in them,’” Holler laughed. “A lot of time when I go out to dinner, I’m spending $9 or $10 for a drink that’s basically whatever your mix is.” Perhaps most important these days, is that the restaurant not only takes reservations, “We hold them,” Holler assures. “A lady came in after seeing Jersey Boys at the Stranahan and she was 20-25 minutes late. And she thought she blew her reservation and we still had it.” That level of service is rare anywhere, but The Black Pearl clearly has the Toledo-cultivated sense of going above and beyond.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
3lbs. Chicken breast, chopped 15 Pepperoncini 1 Red pepper, diced 1 Green pepper, diced 1 Onion, diced ½ tsp.Chili powder 7 shakes Tabasco 1 tsp. Cumin ¼ tsp. Cajun Magic 1 Tbsp. Fresh garlic 3 cups, Rice 5oz. Chicken base 1 gallon saucepan water Mix, heat and serve.
11:30am-9pm, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday; 11:30am-10:30pm, Thursday-Saturday; 3:30-9:00pm, Monday. 4630 Heatherdowns Blvd., 419-380-1616 | blackpearltoledo.com