Baltimore’s Favorite Restaurant: Blacksauce Kitchen

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It’s 8 a.m. on a Friday morning when I pull the glass door open to the humble storefront of Blacksauce Kitchen on 29th Street. Cars zoom past me on their way to the I-83 on-ramp just beyond the restaurant. The closing door swallows the sound and leaves me in a renewed morning silence. I greet Damian Mosley, Blacksauce co-founder and owner, who is standing behind the counter seasoning beef short ribs with an ancho chili coffee rub. He tells me he’ll just be a few minutes as he throws slabs on the grill. The sizzle beneath the fat cap mingles with his deep and even voice as we talk about the weekend’s menu. 

In a traditional restaurant, Friday mornings would be bustling with cooks and chefs cutting, dicing, and prepping for service later that day, but the kitchen is quiet except for our casual banter and the grill. If you ask around town for the best restaurant, Blacksauce Kitchen is almost always among the top ten, but the brick-and-mortar shop is only open two days a week—Thursdays and Saturdays. Miss out on that, you’ll have just one other opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about: Saturday mornings at the Waverly Farmers Market. 

The ribs go into the oven and we sit down at the only booth in the small restaurant. As a long-time fan of the food, my first question is, why not do more? “I guess I could try to give you this complex answer,” Damian says. “But the truth is I don’t want to have a large squad. I don’t like managing a bunch of people, a bunch of personalities, a bunch of scheduling conflicts. I don’t like turnover.”


Damian Mosley prepares a lobster corn empanada
Blacksauce Kitchen's doubles
I want to be very close with the food that we’re putting out. The only way that works is if we don’t try to put it out everywhere.
Damian Mosley

Blacksauce Kitchen has been operating for fourteen years and many of its employees have worked for the business nearly as long. Denzel has been there for over a decade. Michael, Blacksauce Kitchen’s first employee, started cooking in 2010. Laura held several positions over eight years and has documented the time in over 10,000 photos. Marie, despite taking another full-time job after years of working at Blacksauce, still works three to four shifts a month. 

In the post-pandemic era, many restaurants struggled with labor shortages. Emerging out of the trauma of COVID has changed a lot of things about labor and work, most notably the demand for better working conditions and higher wages. After facing the threat of death, our connection to life and meaning has increased.

I can’t hide my delight as I watch Damian list his workforce by name, almost always knowing the month and year they started. Michael has been full-time since 2011, Damian shares. “I know there’s things he loves about this and I know that there’s things that he’s gotta be tired of. I try to think about ways that he doesn’t get too close to burnout. He’s been amazing and it’s been amazing to have a person here that long.”

Damian’s intentional and authentic style does not stop at management, it’s also obvious in the food. “I want to be very close with the food that we’re putting out. The only way that works is if we don’t try to put it out everywhere.”

Blacksauce Kitchen undeniably has the most popular booth at Waverly Farmers Market. Their booth operates fifty Saturdays out of the year. Nearly every single one of those days you will find Damian at the grill, intensely focused. He tells me, “I always wanted to make food that seemed better than what you should be able to get just walking up to a tent outside. Or that seemed more thoughtful…” 


Michael and Denzel in Blacksauce Kitchen's storefront
Sweet potato beignets
General Tso's Chicken
Bkacksauce Kitchen's booth at the Waverly Farmers Market
The Blacksauce menus are an exegesis of 400 years of Black cuisine in the colonized West, with influences from West Africa, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Southern US.
Nani Ferreira-Mathews

I recall my visit to Blacksauce Kitchen’s booth in February. It was a chilly morning, but very sunny. When the sun dipped behind the clouds, the feel of winter came on full force, but none of those sensations mattered when I took the first bite of my breakfast sandwich. Perfectly seasoned and cooked jerk steak exploding with flavor—smoke, char, allspice, and garlican over-medium egg. The yolk burst and turned into velvet in the mouth. All squeezed between a legendary biscuit with a dense and buttery crumb. It was a memorable bitethe kind that pushes an audible moan from your throat. It’s almost embarrassing to eat something so good in a place so public.

“Good food has compensated a lot for us sometimes being late on a delivery or having last-minute menu changes,” Damian shares, interrupting my vivid memory. I nod and stumble back into our conversation. “Good food makes up for me having a bad day.” His face softens as if he’s recalling something specific. I don’t pry. Food service can be stressful and we’re only human. “We want to put out the best food possible in every scenario. People really remember good food.”

I agree emphatically.

The Blacksauce menus are an exegesis of 400 years of Black cuisine in the colonized West, with influences from West Africa, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Southern US. “If you grow up in the American South, you get tricked into thinking that there’s just one way to be Black, in terms of your consumption habits, your style, your speaking vernacular until you realize that there’s all these other whole worlds of Black people, Black culture, and Black cuisines.” 

Damian shares that some of his most influential food experiences came from living with roommates from the Caribbean. “My college roommate was Jamaican and sometimes his mom would cook for us and it was different than the food my Mississippi-born parents were cooking,” he says.

While attending culinary school, he lived with a couple from Trinidad and Tobago where his interest in Caribbean food expanded. “In culinary school, the only techniques they’re gonna talk about are gonna be from France, Italy, and Spain, andin terms of bakingmaybe Austria,” he says. “Nobody’s really talking about what they do in the Caribbean. It doesn’t find its way into the curriculum.”

Despite its massive influence on the West, the Caribbean is often left out of academic discourse according to sociologist Mimi Sheller. In her book Consuming the Caribbean, she says, “Not only does each Caribbean society embody and encompass a rich mixture of genealogies, linguistic innovations, syncretistic religions, complex cuisine, and musical cultures, but these [islands] … have also exported their dynamic multi-cultures abroad, where they have recombined and generated new diasporic forms.”

“The Caribbean has really appealed to me for those reasons,” Damian says of its multicultural Black histories. During his time in culinary school, Damian left to work and cook in a hotel in Senegal. “That and living with a couple from Trinidad… really enriched my food experience while I was in culinary school getting these professional skills.”


Wood roasted snapper sandwich
Shaunielle at Blacksauce Kitchen's storefront

Both a scholar and a chef, Damian holds a master’s degree in food studies from NYU where he studied food and race in Harlem during the Great Migration and the impacts of gentrification. It was during grad school that he started to tweak his biscuit recipe.

“When I was in New York for grad school, I also was teaching to pay for school. Very often on the first day of class, I would make biscuits for the students.” I marvel at the thought of being served a biscuit on the first day of class. “I did it as a good gesture and part of the hospitality that’s just embedded in my DNA,” he says.

It was his thoughtful nature and mindfulness of migration and gentrification that inevitably led to the famous biscuit sandwich. The first market for Blacksauce was in Highlandtown, a historical immigrant and working-class neighborhood in southeast Baltimore. “Many people in that neighborhood don’t speak English as a first language,” he says. “I wanted to do something that just felt common… and of all of the things that felt common to me, biscuits were really high on the list.”

Fourteen years later, Blacksauce Kitchen is still serving biscuit sandwiches, sometimes dishing up to 600 of the stout, buttery vessels in a single day. Their weekly menus are posted on Instagram and feature many of those inspirational flavors of the Caribbean. 

>fried shrimp on coco bread
>jerk chicken w. coconut rice & peas
>escovitch snapper w. coconut rice
>curry eggplant roti
>brown stew beef cheek patty
>baked macaroni & cheese
>roasted corn salad
>peach rum cake
>smoked blackberry cobbler

The restaurant’s cult-like following would gladly take more if it were offered, and maybe as a fan, I press again if he sees more Blacksauce locations or operating days in the future. He says no, but shares that he’s rekindled his interest in writing. 

“As I start to think about transitioning away from being in front of a grill or stove all the time, I think about what that might look like. One thing I was really good at was writing. Now, I think I could do a cookbook,” he says.

For now, we will have to enjoy savory biscuit sandwiches and ancho coffee-rubbed short ribs on Thursdays and Saturdays, and hope that the cookbook comes out soon. If there’s one thing I respect from our conversation, especially being a business owner myself, it’s Damian’s commitment to not scaling up for the sake of business. In that sense, Blacksauce Kitchen is the antithesis of business, and it seems to be working out just fine.


Visit the shop and Instagram to see Work Shoes, a photo series curated and documented by long-time employees photographer Laura Ferrara and sneakerhead Michael Singleton. The photo series features distressed and wizened shoes worn by Blacksauce Kitchen employees over the years alongside facts about the shoes, including brand, intended use, and length of time worn. 


Jerk Chicken
Cherry slab pie
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