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Blue 5 Restaurant 1
Blue 5 in downtown Roanoke offers an array of Southern-inspired dishes in a setting that is "sultry and appealing."
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Blue 5 Restaurant 2
Whether you're in the mood for an entire meal or just a few drinks with friends, the live entertainment at Blue 5 makes it the perfect spot for a night on the town.
Blues and good Southern cooking go together like biscuits and gravy, and Blue 5 in Downtown Roanoke blends the two into a delicious mix, all tied together in a sultry and appealing atmosphere. The decor fills in the bottom with a steady rhythm of veteran guitars, dark wood and blue lights that evoke the Memphis skyline twinkling off of the Mississippi. A loft with extra seating shaped like the prow of a riverboat completes the image.
There were plenty of choices to slake our thirst on a recent Friday; from an ambitious list of 16 premium draft beers (conveniently demarcated into “Dark” and “Light” categories), to a number of specialty martinis.
Once we were watered down and settled in, our meal began with a basket of shot-glass-sized corn muffins with garlic and herbs. This is bread worth filling up on. Go ahead, that’s why God gave us Styrofoam.
We soon moved on to an array of Southern-inspired dishes that tasted like Lightnin’ Hopkins sounds. Prices ranged from $11.50 for the moonshine chicken sandwich to $28.95 for the eponymous “Filet.” The chicken & biscuit soup begged to be ordered and lived up to expectations: creamy with something surprisingly tangy like sherry (apparently it’s a state secret, and our friendly and knowledgeable waitress Nikia wasn’t talking). It came served with the top half of a buttermilk biscuit riding on top like Jake and Elwood’s fedoras, which was mouthwatering, but a bit chewy for some diners’ tastes.
The pan-seared scallops appetizer came lightly browned, tasting fresh and flavorful without being too greasy, and plated with a salad of arugula drizzled with a blood orange reduction and topped with shaved parmesan. This was a winner at our table, but the crab cakes on fried tomato appetizer was a bit of a let-down. The crab cakes themselves were meaty and tasty, but the tomatoes were dry, too tough and somewhat lacking in spices. Mamma made hers with a lot more pepper, cayenne and garlic powder.
The Moonshine Ribs (winner of two first-place awards at the 2008 Big Lick Blues Festival Rib Cookoff, as Nikia proudly boasted) were a lot like my first wife: not as tender as I’d have liked, but plenty saucy. Dry-rubbed and basted at the last minute with a garlicky moonshine sauce (this recipe is apparently as top-secret as that of the soup; no threats or bribes would induce the waitress to sing), they pack plenty of flavor and a touch of heat.
But the fried chicken stole the show and might be the best symbol of Blue 5. Crisp and flaky, and pleasantly non-greasy, with a flavor that will make you smack somebody. This chicken was dirty enough to love, but clean enough to bring home to Mamma.
Blue 5 Restaurant, 312 Second Street, 540-904-5338