B2 – The Harlem mainstay known as Billie’s Black has transformed itself into a new restaurant, ostensibly reflective of the “new” Harlem.
—By Angela Bronner Helm. Harlemworld forever. Follow her food and drink exploits on IG at @atthehelmmedia
When owner Adriane Ferguson opened the original Billie’s Black in 2006, it was unapologetically black in its soul food menu (the catfish was called “crackfish”) and clientele, often hosting rousing karaoke nights that included Broadway stars belting out soul hits. There were some issues, though, and so Billie’s temporarily closed ove the summer and re-opened in September as B2.
That being said, the only thing that B2 and Billie’s have in common is the address. The new space, designed by HGTV regular Mikel Welch, is richly appointed in rich shades of gray with chic lighting fixtures and quirky table and chair settings, giving off a sophisticated but not too stuffy vibe. The stage is no longer there, and the bathroom has been moved, leaving a more modern, open, sexy room.
B2’s menu is seasonal, so were just able to get Chef John Creger’s stuffed zucchini blossoms with manchego, farro, corn & parmesan fondue, before it was gone. As a nod to its roots, there was fried catfish as a starter, and the hot sauce was served in the most adorable medicine dropper. It’s attention to details like this that make the B2 really special.
The sea-centric menu boasts signature dishes such as a Seafood Tower and Squid Ink Pasta with King Crab as entrees. We had the Pan Seared Sea Bass with corn & farro/ragout, black garlic aioli, green garlic “onion ring.” We also sampled the chicken under a brick with with soft cheddar polenta, pickled red onion & chimichurri (yes, there are other options besides seafood).
The food was good, but the cocktails were incredible. We each had two drinks – my whisky-connoisseur pal had the Smoke & Mirrors, served with one of those big ice cubes that was actually branded with a big B (again, details). It had shaved chocolate, served on a sizzling platter of smoke. I first went fruity with Westside Stories, a festive cocktail that packed a nice punch. Next, we went classic and my pal had an Old Fashioned and I opted for a margarita. Yet, there were always upscale touches, even on classic drinks such as cherries with the Old Fashioned and dried orange in the margarita.
We happened to be there when the city Inspection team came by, and B2 got a A. Though not on the periodic table, that letter sounds about right for the food, drinks and décor.