Best New Restaurant: Black Tree (Readers’ Choice)

Black Tree Online
A special pulled pork sandwich from Black Tree. Photo by Alex. M. Smith.

When we visited Black Tree one November afternoon, co-owner Sandy Dee Hall was on his way to pick up a 200-pound pig from the Union Square Greenmarket, as is his habit every couple of months. Pretty much everything on the menu, from the freshly butchered meats, to the produce, to the locally produced gin and whiskey, comes from regional food purveyors.

Black Tree is technically a sandwich shop, but one look at the narrow space on a rapidly gentrifying block of Orchard Street, just above Delancey, and you’ll know this place is a full-service restaurant with big ambitions. The low lighting, reclaimed wood tables and hip-hop soundtrack set the scene for Hall’s imaginative cooking.

The seasonal sandwiches change every few weeks, based on available ingredients. During our recent visits, a sandwich of delicious pork belly braised in Sixpoint IPA and accompanied by quince preserves, chocolate mint and cheddar was the star of the show. Another sandwich featured balsamic braised portobello mushrooms, roasted and pickled beets and ricotta. But there were also interesting small plates, including a pot of pickled cucumbers and other vegetables, a black Caesar salad accompanied by a fried egg, and duck wings with homemade hot sauce.

Hall and partner Macnair Sillick say the whole idea at Black Tree, which opened in May, is to showcase farm-fresh ingredients in dishes that are a lot more affordable than your average “seasonal menu.” Sandwiches range from $11 to $13; most starters are $5 to $15. The concept was born at the Crown Inn in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

There are some growing pains. Like many new LES dining ventures, the food here is more proficient than the service. But Black Tree’s creative approach and gentle prices are obviously winning a lot of local fans.

Black Tree
131 Orchard St.
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