10056 Main Street / Penngrove / 707-793-9480
Daily: 10am – 2am L – D
Breakfast: Sat & Sun only
Specialty: New Orleans Style Gumbo
Seasonal Patio Dining
Live Music – Fri & Sat evenings
***1/2 4/1 & 4/4/12 $$
Just like the popular TV sitcom, Cheers - “Where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came”, Mack’s already feels like home in the small town of Penngrove after replacing The Black Cat Bar & Grill in December, 2010. Gary Mack is the proprietor, and his business partner is Rick Gorell, who is also co-owner with John Graham of the famous 8 Ball in Cotati, winner of Best Bloody Mary in the County at a recent competition. These boys know how to make you feel welcome and keep you coming back.
Having lived through three incarnations of this bar/restaurant over the past 13+ years, starting with Kelly’s, then The Black Cat, and now Mack’s, I decided to wait for the dust to settle to write a review. Mainly because the former owner of The Black Cat went through more cooks than an episode of “Who’s the Next Food Network Star?” and the food was never consistent. Or I should say it was consistently bad. Turns out, Gary Mack is the brains behind the stove; having taken cooking classes in school and worked for Cattlemens for a time.
So. What’s on the menu? Pub standard fare: hamburgers, sandwiches and salads, but the specials board caught my eye on our lunch visit. Chicken and Sausage Gumbo ($11.50*****) served with a large dallop of steamed white rice on top. OMG! Best I have eaten outside of New Orleans. Rich in color and flavor, Gary knows how to make a proper roux, the secret to all sauces in the Big Easy. This is a meal in a bowl, accompanied by slices of toasted sourdough french bread; heavenly. Hubby tried another special, Black and Blue Burger ($8.95***) aged blue cheese perfectly melted on a thick hamburger patty with all the usual suspects on the bun: lettuce, tomato and a thick onion slice. Pickles on the side. Your choice of house-made potato salad, fries or green salad. Yummy.
My second lunch visit, I brought two friends with me. The specials board did not show the gumbo I had been tempting my friends with, so we opted for one Grilled Chicken & Pesto Sandwich ($8.95***) and two Crispy Chicken Salads ($8.95***) a chopped salad with lots of bacon crumbles, black olives, tomatoes, red onion and crispy fried chicken chunks. Choice of dressing. Really excellent salad and a meal-size portion. The sandwich I was told, was very good too. I guess so. Nothing was left on that plate!
If having a full meal is not what you’re after, Mack’s offers an array of bar snacks like wings, meatballs, fried calamari, garlic fries and nachos. I can recommend the Fried Calamari ($8.95 ****) rings and tentacales battered lightly and fried up crisp, served with tartar sauce and fresh lemon wedge. A simple enough dish that can be ruined if the fish is overcooked or the oil is old. At Mack’s it’s done right. The calamari is light in color, which indicates the fry oil is fresh and the texture is soft, not chewy.
Next time you are passing through Penngrove, and maybe looking for a little cheer, stop by Mack’s Bar & Grill and try some of Gary’s food. Great for breakfast too.
Future Note: Gary has promised to make Crawfish Etouffee soon! Oh, and I’ve since learned to ask for the Gumbo even if it’s not on the specials board…. it’s now a staple on the menu!