I’d never heard of Bluegrass restaurant in Highland Park, IL, until Father’s Day. My sister suggested we take him there for dinner — and it was awesome. The place was packed at 5:30 PM on a Sunday, which is always promising. As soon as we walked in, the head chef, Warren Jones, noticed I was wearing a Piggly Wiggly T-Shirt and made a beeline for me, giving my tiny child-sized hand a manly handshake.
“I haven’t seen one of those logos since I left Louisiana!” He exclaimed, clearly excited.
“Yeah,” I said. “Got it in North Carolina last year. Isn’t it awesome?”
We talked for a while and laughed about the grocery chain and the chef left to go greet other customers. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen much, in my experience, so it was pretty cool to meet the guy who created the menu. I felt special. I am special. That’s what my mother tells me. Sometimes, I don’t believe her.
My father followed it up by asking, “Did you know that guy?”
“Dad, you were clearly not listening to our conversation. You’re sitting next to me. I’ve never met the dude in my life.”
Ten minutes later, my father asks, “Did you know that guy?”
Anyway, everybody ordered beer, except for me. Sis ordered the popular Tavern Pale, which was light, crisp, and clean, though not a ton of flavor. I had my father order the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale from Lagunitas, which is a summery hoppy American Pale Ale (I am admittedly not a beer snob, but I liked that beer. What’s even better is listening to your father try to order it with a Korean accent.). He liked it, turned bright red, and told our waitress we were 57th generation Cherokee Indian. Which is a hard lie to pull off if your whole family is Korean. Good one, Dad.
It was pretty good — the problem with piling fried food into a glass like this is that the bottom of the pile gets all the oil. The sauce had a good sharp flavor, as well as a mustardy kick to offset the richness of the fried spicy batter. Then we all ate the romaine lettuce garnish. True story. My family does strange things when we’re all together.
For our entree, we ordered the Sunday Smoker (offered only, well, on Sundays), which is just a sampler platter of barbecue. 1/4 smoked chicken, 1/2 slab of ribs, smoked corned-beef brisket, cajun/barbecue seasoned potatoes, and corn pudding.
Sorry if this picture is blurry, but cell phone pictures generally suck balls, so that’s what you get. This is a lot of food. The sauce was a Memphis-style sweet with a lot of black pepper and some spiciness. I really liked the char on the ribs, which is a really good detail — for me, finishing them that way makes them infinitely better. The chicken was moist, and the corned-beef brisket was interesting, though it had a strange pale color and I didn’t quite taste the corned-beef flavor. Fresh onions on the brisket, however, was a great addition. But that’s just me, I like scaring women away with my breath.
My sister loved the potatoes, but we all agreed that the corn pudding was really sweet. I think with barbecue, having rich meat with rich sides is a little much, but, that’s just me. Nobody respects my opinion anyway.
Verdict? Definitely eat here, fucker! The other dishes coming out looked really, really good too. And a special shout-out to our waitress, who was probably one of the best waitresses I’ve ever had. She cracked smart jokes, was really sweet to my parents, and made fun of my Dad, which is really what I like to see whenever we go out to eat.
1636 Old Deerfield Road
Highland Park, IL 60035