Restaurant review: Black Creek Bistro

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

You could show up prior to 7 p.m. and plow through a tapas-y buffet of colorful, inexpensive small plates. Or you could get a $10 nightly special like tropically tricked-out, grill-marked pork loin atop sticky rice and a fruity and tangy mango-tomato sauce all capped by a minty play on guacamole. Then again, a mix-and-match three-course option is available. However you decide to dine, though, Black Creek Bistro makes it easy to strategically cash in on great deals.

You know BCB, right? It's an artsy but consistently fun and unpretentious, local farm-based Olde Towne East standout where people eat in both shorts and suits. Oh yeah, and the economizing isn't limited to grub there, because BCB's bargains extend to its hooch - especially vinos. So grab a $6 glass of Hopler Gruner-Veltliner or splurge on a bottle of real champagne like Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut sold at the state minimum retail price of $53; then let the munching begin.

I'll start with the attractively plated appetizers - and so should you. They run $6-$9 unless you're smart enough to strike during happy hour (4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday), when they're $5 a pop.

Among these, BCB's sorta upscale nachos are a must. Both the Pork Delights (tender, barbecue-like pulled hog enlivened by a pickled corn salad) and the Duck Tostada (juicy, clean-tasting meat with creamy white beans, cotija cheese plus another spicy, almost-guacamole garnish) are crave-worthy crowd-pleasers. They're also typical of BCB's starters in that they're bold if borderline dainty-sized (just 4-6 perfectly loaded items) and they eat how they read on the menu.

Hooked on seafood? Then choose the plump and smokily charred Herb & Garlic Grilled Shrimp. They come with a nostril-tickling, horseradish-kicked, cocktail sauce-riffing roasted red pepper dip and puffy, fried pita chips.

Like salty, sweet and crispy altogether? Then pick the Ohio honey-drizzled discs of brittle little Pancetta Pear Crisps.

The daily changing $10 entrees (available all evening Monday-Thursday) are obviously outstanding deals. Plus they range from that aforementioned killer pork loin to a recent sausage, black bean and couscous-stuffed pepper to "vegan Thursday" specials to who knows.

These specials, along with a select group of entrees (like an open-faced real turkey and mashed potato comfort-bomb sandwich with curried gravy) can be combo-ed into shareable, $20 three-course cavalcades with any two picks from BCB's lists of appetizers, fine salads (e.g. Brussels sprouts totally "de-funked" by roasting, bacon and balsamic vinegar), and pastry chef-created desserts.

If this sounds complicated (it's not), and you're starving, then target the Flintstone-like, bone-in lamb shank goofily named Shankuver Emuch ($24; titled after how an overwhelmed eater - and you'll be one - might say "thank you very much"). Served with veggies du jour (e.g. herbed spuds plus a lively squash medley) and deeply developed roasting juices, it's bang-on-the-table delicious. Best of all, it features meat so tender and unctuous that it jumps completely off the bone, practically when you look at it.

BCB is a don't-go-home-without-eating-dessert kinda place. Of course the selections change frequently, but expect refreshing-not-heavy, sweet-restrained constructions with sophisticated savory accents.

Excellent cases in point: a Black Pepper Strawberry Shortcake - basil and balsamic syrup-drizzled fresh berries with a stack of buttery and pepper-speckled, crackery shortbread cookies spackled together with a whipped cream-like "goat cheese crema" - and two huge wedges of a cilantro-inflected, airy and citrusy (cheesecake-like) Lime Bavarian with a tequila-lime syrup and crunchy graham cracker crumble. Umm … yeah!

Black Creek Bistro

51 Parsons Ave., Olde Towne East