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Bluegrass in Highland Park

Bluegrass in Highland Park
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  • Bluegrass in Highland Park

    Post #1 - June 4th, 2007, 10:45 am
    Post #1 - June 4th, 2007, 10:45 am Post #1 - June 4th, 2007, 10:45 am
    Last night we had dinner with my family at what I thought would be the next in a long line of suburban fern-bar cum sports themed Bennigan-clone restaurants. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Bluegrass because it had more of a roadhouse feel (ala Charlie Beinlich's) than TGI Claim Jumpers. The restaurant is small (by suburban standards), seating only 85 diners and had an eclectic menu of Cajun, BBQ, fish and salads.

    The food was very well prepared, even if they did fall prey to the oversized portion school of service. Normally the big portions are used to make up for the lack of taste in the food, but not here. The food was quite good. My cup of chicken and sausage gumbo was well within the good range and my walleye was perfectly fried and moist. The Chow Poodle's Spinach and Grilled Chicken salad was very fresh and good in every way. A few at the table ordered the house "special" talapia in some sort of Asian sauce that seemed to be enjoyed by all and one person ordered the BBQ ribs which, along with the BBQ chicken, are on some sort of Sunday Night special. Although I shied away from trying the BBQ with its liquid smoke smelling sauce, I did try some of their pit smoked BBQ beans, made with peanut brittle. The jury is out on that dish. I found the beans to be good, and the addition of peanuts to be inspired, but the "brittle" part of the equation just didn't do it for me.

    Overall, I liked the place. Even though I probably won't be making the trek up to Highland Park/Deerfield to visit Bluegrass as a destination on my own, I wouldn't hesitate to go back if someone else suggested it. In fact, I'm hoping it becomes a family favorite for these type of get togethers. It's far and away better than most of the suburban competition of its ilk.

    Bluegrass
    1636 Old Deerfield Road
    Highland Park, IL
    847-831-0595
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #2 - June 4th, 2007, 10:56 am
    Post #2 - June 4th, 2007, 10:56 am Post #2 - June 4th, 2007, 10:56 am
    HI,

    Thanks for the review. I haven't been there.

    For those looking for Bluegrass when approaching on Deerfield Road, then turn south onto Richfield Rd (between the Toys R Us - Pet Store strip mall and the Highland Park Police Station) at a traffic light. Proceed a block to the T-intersection, you will be in front of Bluegrass.

    Bluegrass is immediately across the street from the Police Station. It is just a bit hidden.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #3 - June 4th, 2007, 3:50 pm
    Post #3 - June 4th, 2007, 3:50 pm Post #3 - June 4th, 2007, 3:50 pm
    I've been meaning to try Bluegrass for ages. I absolutely loved Crawdaddy Bayou and have missed it since they closed.
  • Post #4 - June 4th, 2007, 8:53 pm
    Post #4 - June 4th, 2007, 8:53 pm Post #4 - June 4th, 2007, 8:53 pm
    Dynamite calamari, the mushroom broil is unreal, pecan crusted tilapia w/ the sassafras sauce is excellent...but beware that you can come away disappointed with some items as well. They need to work on their consistency, but all in all it's a great addition to the area.

    Steve...just one thing...I am having trouble figuring how you got the same "roadhouse feel" from Bluegrass that you do from Beinlich's. What similarities in the decor / feel of the place did you find? "Roadhouse feel" would be one of the last ways I would describe the interior/atmosphere of Bluegrass to someone...
  • Post #5 - June 5th, 2007, 6:50 am
    Post #5 - June 5th, 2007, 6:50 am Post #5 - June 5th, 2007, 6:50 am
    TonySpilotro wrote:Steve...just one thing...I am having trouble figuring how you got the same "roadhouse feel" from Bluegrass that you do from Beinlich's. What similarities in the decor / feel of the place did you find? "Roadhouse feel" would be one of the last ways I would describe the interior/atmosphere of Bluegrass to someone...


    I meant it in the sense that it is a relatively small place (as opposed to the mega-suburban theme park style places ala TGI Fridays, Claim Jumper, Magiano's and their ilk) that has a nice bar as you walk in and a (relatively) few tables. Perhaps "roadhouse" is not quite the correct word to use, but it had more of a personal feel to it rather than the feel of being cattle one gets in some of the other places.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #6 - June 7th, 2007, 7:40 am
    Post #6 - June 7th, 2007, 7:40 am Post #6 - June 7th, 2007, 7:40 am
    Right on Steve, I now see where you were coming from.
  • Post #7 - June 8th, 2007, 2:58 pm
    Post #7 - June 8th, 2007, 2:58 pm Post #7 - June 8th, 2007, 2:58 pm
    I love Bluegrass, but I must report I am biased -- the chef/co-owner is one of my husband's best friends from high school, and the other co-owner was a classmate of one of my brothers. We go to Bluegrass for birthdays and anniversaries, and we had our wedding rehearsal dinner there. (It was a piece of cake, ha ha, to arrange, by the way: a few emails back and forth, a price range, a ballpark head count, three entrees and the rest of the menu quickly decided, and everyone had a great time.)

    The chef used to be at Crawdaddy Bayou, which may be why he always likes to have some gumbo and jambalaya and bananas Foster on the menu. If I have the story right, the owner of Crawdaddy Bayou decided to move the operation to California, and invited the chef to go along, but he, the chef, decided to stay in Chicago and take the next step to owning his own restaurant. Dave, the chef, learned the business young: if I have this story right, when he was growing up, his parents ran the Buffalo House restaurant in Buffalo Grove. My husband remembers going there to help mix up big batches of salad dressings and such on the weekends.

    There are some New Orleans natives in my extended family, and many New Orleans lovers in the family who are not natives, so I try not to leave Bluegrass without taking some gumbo or jambalaya with me to give to someone else. I often order one of those dishes, or a pasta dish (for a while I was always ordering the penne/tomato sauce/italian sausage dish); my husband always likes the ribs. If your looking for something smaller, the appetizer of calamari and dipping sauce in a giant martini glass is enough for two or more people.

    When I was growing up in HP, the building that Bluegrass is in now housed the best Chinese restaurant around, and part of my still misses it. But Sweet Baboo and I love how the current owners have renovated and remodelled the place, and I personally am happy to see a nice restaurant in the space again. I think the bar looks beautiful. I also like that fact that though it's an upscale dining place with high-quality food, kids and families are always welcome. I just wish I could go to Bluegrass more often.
  • Post #8 - June 8th, 2007, 3:35 pm
    Post #8 - June 8th, 2007, 3:35 pm Post #8 - June 8th, 2007, 3:35 pm
    Katie wrote:When I was growing up in HP, the building that Bluegrass is in now housed the best Chinese restaurant around, and part of my still misses it.


    Was this Yu-Lin's dumpling house? If so, I miss it as well.
  • Post #9 - June 8th, 2007, 4:41 pm
    Post #9 - June 8th, 2007, 4:41 pm Post #9 - June 8th, 2007, 4:41 pm
    gastro gnome wrote:
    Katie wrote:When I was growing up in HP, the building that Bluegrass is in now housed the best Chinese restaurant around, and part of my still misses it.


    Was this Yu-Lin's dumpling house? If so, I miss it as well.


    Yes.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #10 - June 8th, 2007, 5:26 pm
    Post #10 - June 8th, 2007, 5:26 pm Post #10 - June 8th, 2007, 5:26 pm
    I've had mixed experiences, food-wise, at Bluegrass. Service has always been great and everyone who works there is very friendly. Given some of the recent positive comments here, perhaps I'm due for another visit. It's very close to my house.

    I do receive their e-mails and they seem to host special (wine and beer pairing) dinners fairly often. Has anyone ever attended one of those?

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #11 - June 8th, 2007, 7:34 pm
    Post #11 - June 8th, 2007, 7:34 pm Post #11 - June 8th, 2007, 7:34 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I've had mixed experiences, food-wise, at Bluegrass. Service has always been great and everyone who works there is very friendly. Given some of the recent positive comments here, perhaps I'm due for another visit. It's very close to my house.


    Ronnie,

    I am not discouraging your visit, but please take my comments in context. This is not life changing food. It's just better than average food for the type of place that my parents would go to.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #12 - June 8th, 2007, 11:00 pm
    Post #12 - June 8th, 2007, 11:00 pm Post #12 - June 8th, 2007, 11:00 pm
    stevez wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I've had mixed experiences, food-wise, at Bluegrass. Service has always been great and everyone who works there is very friendly. Given some of the recent positive comments here, perhaps I'm due for another visit. It's very close to my house.


    Ronnie,

    I am not discouraging your visit, but please take my comments in context. This is not life changing food. It's just better than average food for the type of place that my parents would go to.

    Thanks for the clarification, Steve.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #13 - June 10th, 2007, 9:19 am
    Post #13 - June 10th, 2007, 9:19 am Post #13 - June 10th, 2007, 9:19 am
    One of the interesting stories about that location is that the Chef/owner of a previous restaurant there, Richard Chen of Windows on Cuisine, went on to be the chef at the asian place at the Penninsula downtown, and is now the named chef at Wing Lei at the Wynn resort in Vegas. I always thought that he made good food, and he was classically trained at the CIA, i think, but he moved up fast from fairly humble beginnings.

    -Will
  • Post #14 - June 10th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    Post #14 - June 10th, 2007, 11:40 pm Post #14 - June 10th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    stevez wrote:I am not discouraging your visit, but please take my comments in context. This is not life changing food. It's just better than average food for the type of place that my parents would go to.


    I've already acknowledged knowing the owners, so perhaps I shouldn't say much, but I would point out, if you've lived a long time in the area, you appreciate a place like Bluegrass because you know what a wasteland for fine dining Highland Park was for such a long time. This was in no small part due to an anti evils-associated-with-alcohol, if not actually teetotaling, long-serving mayor who happened to be the liquor commissioner as well, and had no intention of the total number of liquor licenses given out by the city ever exceeding twelve (and country clubs probably had at least half of those). As a result, all the good restaurants and the nightlife were up in Highwood (and later, also, on Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling), while Highland Park had nothing more than a Baskin-Robbins (and heck, half the time we piled into the car and went up to The Scoop in Highwood for ice cream anyway). Things loosened up later ... twenty years later ... but still there aren't many places around there for a nice dinner. Cafe Central. Carlos's, which technically is in HP, but is really in the Highwood restaurant neighborhood, not that I could ever afford to go to Carlos's anyway. What else? A few newer places around the new downtown mall, the names of none of which come to mind.

    By all of which I mean to say that Bluegrass is a noticeable improvement to the HP nighttime dining scene, and arguably the best restaurant from Milwaukee Avenue east from at least as far south as Lake-Cook Road to at least as far north as the middle of Highwood (I draw the line there just because I have sentimental soft spots for Gabriel's, Del Rio's, Scornovacco's (gone now, sigh), and My Favorite Inn (gone now too? what's up with that? does anyone know?))

    Life-changing, I don't know, depends on your life; but neighborhood-changing? Coming from that neighborhood, I would say so.
  • Post #15 - September 25th, 2007, 1:40 pm
    Post #15 - September 25th, 2007, 1:40 pm Post #15 - September 25th, 2007, 1:40 pm
    We recently ate at Bluegrass and thought it was wonderful-
    We had an incredible, beautifully presented app of calamari, way enough for four to share,
    The ribs come out of a smoker out back and were awesome. The jambalaya was ALMOST as good as mine, and the crawfish etoufee was great, and as for the blueberry martinis, well, I do think I will be having one of those again.
    And now that I hear there is a Buffalo House connection I like it even better.

    We used to LOVE that place when we lived out in wheeling and were so sorry when it turned into yet another pizza place- like we need more pizza...
    yes I know there are Malnati's fans in the world, but pizza is just not my thing.

    While Bluegrass totally does not have a roadhouse feel for me, the food was just right, and I will be back.
  • Post #16 - February 20th, 2009, 2:53 pm
    Post #16 - February 20th, 2009, 2:53 pm Post #16 - February 20th, 2009, 2:53 pm
    At my house today we are very sad about the news of the sudden passing of Dave Teichman, the co-owner and executive chef of Bluegrass in Highland Park. He previously worked at Bob Chin's and Crawdaddy Bayou. He grew up learning the restaurant biz at the Buffalo House in Buffalo Grove, which his parents ran.

    Dave was one of Sweet Baboo's oldest and closest friends from high school. He was, as one friend wrote to the Tribune, "a prince of a man"; someone who never seemed to say or think an unkind thing about anyone, who was always optimistic and cheerful, who never took a day off from school or work. With determination, hard work, and a love of cooking and serving people, he overcame a difficult upbringing and made himself into a successful and fantastic chef. We miss him.
    Last edited by Katie on December 18th, 2016, 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
  • Post #17 - December 18th, 2016, 8:48 am
    Post #17 - December 18th, 2016, 8:48 am Post #17 - December 18th, 2016, 8:48 am
    Using LTH as my go-to guide for new restaurants and not seeing any posts on Bluegrass for 7 years, I wanted to try them a few times before commenting.

    In short, it's my new favorite frequent-diner haunt. What put me over the top was last night, probably our fifth of sixth visit. I started out with a small version of their Bluegrass salad, with included greens, shaved red onion, Gorgonzola and pine nuts in a pear balsamic viniagrette. Outstanding. Then, being a BBQ lover but certainly no aficionado, I moved on to the pit-smoked baby back ribs, which also were toothy & excellent, served with a quasi-Carolina sauce, peanut brittle baked beans and potato wedges.

    Other entrees shine such as the skirt steak sandwich and shrimp jambalaya. Even the Bluegrass burger is proportioned perfectly and is great-tasting. The tasty desserts, including ice box pie and Bananas Foster, are available in 3 sizes for individuals or group sharing, a nice touch.

    Not sure why Bluegrass has been under the LTH radar for so long. Prices are a tad high, but I'll pay for lack of BS and then taking care of business with quality ingredients & preparation. Although others would differ, I like the location, in an office-building heavy area just west of 41 and Deerfield Road, technically Highland Park. I will say that once I figured how to get there efficiently from Mundelein, it was decided this location was tons easier than dealing with downtown HP parking on a Saturday night. Easy in, easy out, no valet.

    We were the first diners in last night at 5:00--early dinner, then watch the Hawks--and by 6:15 every table was full and there was a line. I used to think the Bluegrass diner demographic skewed a tad geriatric, but on recent visits I've seen many family get-togethers, larger parties--call it multi-generational. And I've used Bluegrass as a convenient 'halfway' dinner venue with family and friends living in the city.

    As Stevez stated upthread, this isn't life-altering fare, but it's better-than-average--I'd say much better than that. I like this place, a lot.


    Bluegrass
    1636 Old Deerfield Rd
    Highland Park, IL 60035
    847-831-0595


    http://www.bluegrasshp.com
  • Post #18 - September 10th, 2017, 7:57 am
    Post #18 - September 10th, 2017, 7:57 am Post #18 - September 10th, 2017, 7:57 am
    Mrs Willie & I went to Bluegrass last night with my parents.

    Mrs Willie & I split a bowl of gumbo, nice but I was looking for more depth of flavor.

    Mom & I split a starter of the Mushroom Broil which is a combination of domestic and wild mushrooms, set atop grilled crusty Italian bread with melted Gruyere cheese. The mushrooms were fantastic, full of flavor, the cheese had good flavor, the only thing lacking was the crusty Italian bread, which is a shame as had the bread been crusty, this would have been an outstanding starter.

    Both parents are soft shell crab fanatics so they both ordered the special of soft shell crabs. Bluegrass sauté the crabs with a lemon butter sauce, and they are served with two sides: orzo asiago and green beans (which were VERY fresh, excellent).

    I had the Jambalaya with andouille and chicken, nice but again, no real depth of flavor.

    Mrs Willie ordered the Asian Vegetable Noodle Bowl Stir - fried bok choy, shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, tofu, scallions, ginger, garlic, udon noodles in a vegetable broth, topped with diced tomatoes, a splash of soy sauce, cilantro & sesame seeds. I tasted the broth & it was good.

    Overall I'd agree with stevez's assessment
    stevez wrote:This is not life changing food. It's just better than average food for the type of place that my parents would go to.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.

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