Calling The Blackbird Waterhouse unconventional, unusual or the tired adjective “unique,” would all be understatements.
Located in a former inn at 4896 Paw Paw Lake Road in Coloma, with a menu that covers every flavor profile from smoked blue cheesecake to short rib ravioli, Blackbird is a wholly different dining experience draped in history and creativity and housed in a funhouse-like manor.
Walking into The Blackbird Waterhouse is like walking into an entryway to the entryway. The front-most façade of the building is an addition that covers the front of the original inn, still preserved with its brick and roof protruding into a foyer.
To the right of the humble inn front is a bar area for several taps with both domestic and locally brewed beers, and the Blackbird Waterhouse insignia covers what used to be an upstairs window that overlooks the spacious entryway. Aside from beer, the bar also has a variety of wines and specialty cocktails with ornate garnishes and classic flavors.
Through the original doorway to the inn is a room called the aviary, a cozy waiting room reminiscent of European study or a good ol’ boys’ smoke room, where today, parties waiting for their tables can enjoy a drink by the gas fireplace and survey Blackbird merchandise.
Through the aviary is the main dining area, an open space complete with a stage for live music or buffet table for special events. The dining room is tall and overlooked by a loft called the crow’s nest.
The crow’s nest leads to another upstairs dining area for extra seating during regular business hours, or special events like rehearsal dinners or the activities of the culinary education Blackbird will eventually offer in-house.
Wandering through the many rooms and diverse spaces of The Blackbird Waterhouse is similar to the feeling of perusing the restaurant’s menu with its array of high-end and ethically sourced items.
The appetizer menu has choices like the Charcuterie of cured meats, cheeses and house-made crackers, or the Goat + Tom with local chèvre, heirloom tomato, balsamic pearls, lava salt, arugula, lemon, and chive oil. Blackbird’s menu also displays an assortment of salads and soups, some determined daily.
The entrée portion of the menu covers the needs of any eater with plates like the Ribeye, a 16 oz. cut of steak served with baked mushroom mac, vegetables and smoked honey and lavender barbecue sauce, or the vegetarian Rainbow Carrots dish with herb roasted organic carrots, cauliflower croquet, sorrel salad, smoked Alderwood salt, lemon and evoo.
Other entrees include the Bouillabaisse with shrimp, mussels, salmon, crab claws, lobster, tomato confit, saffron clam broth, lemon, Cholula aioli and herbed focaccia toast and chive oil, Blackbird Tacos, the Blackbird burger, and a full plate of baked mushroom mac.
Blackbird’s distinct menu was designed under the leadership of head chef Don Jennings and the vision of owner January Loheed-Immer to bring culinary excellence to Coloma. January’s partner, Lynzee Krohne, described their search for a chef and establishment style as a search for “passion” and a “tastemaker quality.”
“We didn’t want to be somewhere that just had recipes and cooks,” January says. “We wanted to be somewhere that had an amazing chef, or series of chefs, really managing a true-to-form kitchen.”
In December 2018, January bought the building where Blackbird resides with her husband because she was ready to take on a restaurant venture that encapsulated the best combinations of locally produced ingredients and artistic and innovative dishes. After the purchase of the building, January’s former colleague and friend, Lynzee, joined her as a partner, at which point Blackbird started hatching from an idea into a coming reality.
“We did have a really, really robust vision of wanting to have the tastemaker quality, farm-to-table and utilization of local, fresh ingredients,” January says.
“Blackbird — the name — really resonates within how we operate with that idea of freedom, expression, and freedom of expression,” Lynzee says.
In April, The Blackbird Waterhouse team refined its process with soft openings and came into full operation and regular hours in May. Whether for an evening of sipping on cocktails, or a long-awaited expensive date night, a trip to The Blackbird Waterhouse is simultaneously adventurous and comfortable, predictable and malleable, high-end, but local.
“Part of our vision is making this place sort of what you want it to be,” January says.