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The Black Sparrow: Still Soaring

Indulge, if you will, a rumination on time’s swift flight. I recently revisited a favorite movie, “Grosse Pointe Blank,” in which Jeremy Piven’s character – releasing bottled tension upon a pal’s sudden reappearance after a decade away – leans on his horn while driving.

“Ten years, man!,” he shouts. “Ten! Where have you been for ten years?!”

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As I laughed, it similarly hit me that Abby and I have lived here for nearly 10 years … roughly twice as long as we thought we would. (Don’t worry. This isn’t turning into a farewell piece.)

Live anywhere that long and you come to appreciate culinary freshness and familiarity in equal measure. Restaurants morph into institutions. Your place. “The usual or you wanna try something different?”

Nestled near Lafayette’s Wabash River Bridge, the Black Sparrow is one such spot for us — with specials as wildly unpredictable as they are delectable, eclectic ambience and graffiti-ed bathrooms, rotating cocktail curiosities, and more than 100 beer options. Better yet, the Sparrow is adventurous and affordable; the priciest item on the regular menu is a generous baseball-cut steak-frites (steak and fries).

Of my many turns through the menu, here are my favorites:

  • The Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich served with chicken, pâté (a spreadable, spiced mix of meat and fat) and dangerously delicious discs of real-deal jalapeños I like to snack on as a side.
  • Add chicken or tuna, and the Mediterranean Salad becomes a meal unto itself, with Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, green beans, tomato, hard-cooked egg, and even red potatoes.
  • Among five pizzas, the El Diablo puts a spicy curve on a traditional sausage pie with a red pepper-based romesco sauce, while the El Capo goes “supreme” with a goat cheese change-up.
  • The bacon-wrapped dates are one of the area’s most delectable dishes – perfectly proportioned in size, flavor and sweet-savory contrast. Don’t dive right in, though. They’re served piping hot.

Then there are the libations – which include the daily $5 beer-and-a-shot, eight lines of local and craft beers on tap, and a treasure trove of mixology cocktails. My usual: Scarlet with the Revolver, a cherry heering liqueur cut with bittersweet Cynar.

A couple more tips: Their Facebook page lets you know what’s coming soon to its rotating taps so you can plan accordingly, and you’ll want to hit up their brunch on the last Sunday of each month.

For this visit, I went (mostly) off-book with specials. (Couldn’t pass up the dates.) I chose the lamb burger on a yogurt wheat bun (in which I swear you could still taste the yogurt) with olive tapenade paste and baby arugula, and a cup of creamy, savory Hungarian mushroom soup.

Past delights have included Korean or Mexican burger variations and a pepper-spice roulette – an appetizer in which most peppers were snackably sweet … with an occasional four-alarm fire interspersed.

Of all the Sparrow dishes over the years, perhaps that one best sums up its continued ability to surprise while serving superb staples.

If you go


  • 11 to 3 a.m., Monday-Friday
  • 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturday-Sunday


$3.50- $13






Rotating beer taps and craft cocktails, wine, bottled beers


  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates
  • Banh Mi
  • El Diablo Pizza
  • Steak-Frites

Picture of Rob Ford

Rob Ford

Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015. Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.

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July 3, 2024
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