Black Sheep Cafe has been serving upscale Southwestern Native American food in Historic Downtown Provo for the last two and half years. Chef Mark Daniel Mason specializes in traditional Navajo, Pueblo and Hopi recipes interpreted and presented in a modern way. Motivated by the Fernand Point quote, “If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.” Mason has established one of the most unique and talked about restaurants in the state. Comfortable and stylish, Black Sheep Cafe is ideal for a date night or casual lunch.
The first thing you notice is the cheerful staff. Service is friendly, professional and attentive. My husband and I were welcomed and seated near the door, allowing a peek into the kitchen. I was fascinated with the busy line of cooks skillfully preparing each dish. As I caught a glance of each gorgeous plate leaving the kitchen, my mind reeled with possibility. My husband and I placed our orders and eagerly waited for our dishes. With a restaurant so beloved, well reviewed and celebrated, my expectations were high.
Our server was quick and knowledgeable, thoroughly explaining the restaurant’s unique concept and sharing her favorite dishes. Our drinks arrived first. My husband ordered the famous cactus pear lemonade. Bubblegum pink and served in a carafe, it was slightly sweet and tart, and well worth the six dollars. The Cactus Pear Lemonade also made an appearance in a margarita made with local favorite, Vida Tequila. Possibly the prettiest drink I’ve seen, it was hot pink, accented with a slice of green lime and pink sugar.
We ordered the Green Chile Frites for an appetizer. Covered in green chile sauce, cheddar and jack cheeses, and a generous dollop of crema topped with green onions, the house fries became meal-worthy. A few deliciously messy bites in (my husband told me I had cheese on my neck) and we were left with too much crema and sad, soggy fries. The chef suggested a fried egg atop the fries. I will try that next time and plan on digging in with a fork and knife, like a southwestern poutine.
My husband ordered the Pork Jowl Tacos made with braised hog jowl, maple-bay leaf barbeque sauce, pickled jicama slaw in a tasty grilled blue corn tortilla. The cured meat was very sweet, not quite what he was anticipating. Served with pinto beans slow cooked in pork au jus and tasty cilantro-lime rice, the dish was $19. A bit much for two tacos, but they do have a cult-like following. We’re both curious about the other tacos and plan to eat our way through the menu.
Since I was curious about the meatless dishes, I ordered the Black Sheep Pinto Navajo Taco. Fry bread, a staple in native households, is a traditional and favorite food. Pinto beans, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, a wonderfully spicy ranchero salsa and menonita cheese, a mild white cheddar, topped the fry bread. A great value at only $11, this dish was filling and satisfying.
A look around the restaurant, along with the satisfied look on the diners’ faces, convinced me that the burgers are worth checking out. There are quite a few things on the menu that require further tasting. We will be back. Black Sheep Cafe is a welcome addition to Utah’s dining scene, honoring the rich heritage and tasty food of our native friends.
Black Sheep Cafe 19 N University Ave, Provo, UT Mon-Thu: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Fri – Sat: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm