Big Easy Eating with Chef Paul of Big Jones
Big Jones offers Southern Style cuisine in the heart of the midwest.
There’s something about New Orleans and Southern fare that comforts and entertains. The big bursts of flavor that you partake in when eating NOLA cuisine is kismet. There is nothing like it.
Spicy, fun, and not shy of ingredients, it’s a style that most of us have come to love.
Being in the midwest, it is hard to find that unique taste from the likes of The French Quarter. Tucked in the friendly enclave that is Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, Big Jones serves up dishes made famous in The Crescent City.
You can get a dose of faves like skillet cornbread, salmon croquettes, Gumbo Ya Ya, Shrimp and Grits, and so much more.
It is a charming fine dining establishment that offers Southern appeal in an intimate setting. According to their website, Big Jones is inspired by the people, places, and history of the American South.
Once inside Big Jones, you are temporarily transported to the Birthplace of Jazz. The bar is fully stocked with libations, and the wait staff are knowledgeable about the dishes offered as well as the ingredients.
The scene is comfy casual, but it is the food that is the star. Be prepared for an impressive wallop of flavor in every bite. It’s a full-on experience for the palate that you will enjoy and remember long after your meal is complete.
Brunch means partaking in tried and true favorites. I selected Twice Grilled Cheese griddled with Chandoka and Nordic Parmesan cheeses. It’s like biting into my grandmother’s sandwich.
Telie opted for a Southern-inspired dish of Braised Short Rib and Dumplings in onion gravy with butternut squash gnocchi, cabbage, purple hull peas, and hen of the woods mushrooms.
He is impressed with the taste and raved at how flavorful it was.
Brunch signals drinks of the adult kind, so mimosas were in play.
Telie drank a Savannah themed Chatham Artillery Punch made with citrus, brandy, bourbon, rum, green tea, and muscatel, topped off with cava.
Our food was delicious and memorable. In simpler terms, yummy!
What’s more, Big Jones believes in sustainability and uses local, seasonal, organic, and sustainable ingredients. A complete list of the farms they purchase from is on their website.
We were given the opportunity to chat with Big Jones’ owner Chef Paul Fehribach who gave us some insight into this soulful establishment.
Describe the experience a first-timer can expect at Big Jones?
That could vary whether they are coming for brunch or for dinner. You could certainly have a very quick and efficient drop by in the neighborhood experience or you can have a more long drawn out fine dining experience. But want we want people to come away with is a sense of being very welcome and finding us to be a friendly place with delicious food.
What keeps your regulars coming back?
The regulars come back because the food is carefully sourced, so people can feel good about the ingredients that they’re eating. We are certainly approachable and affordable as well.
What are some new flavors or ingredients being implemented for 2017?
The most exciting thing for us to work with this year is American chestnuts, which were wiped out by the big chestnut blight in 1910. In the 19th century, all over the East Coast and in the South, chestnuts were important because they were free. You could just go into the woods and pick them up. People would make all sorts of things with them.
In the 1950’s a gentleman named Dunstan figured out how to take American chestnut trees and graft them onto Chinese chestnut rootstock which would make them immune to fungal infection. We’re now working with chestnut mill which is a flavor that people in the south haven’t been able to taste in 100 years.
We also have Nast Rollei rice, which is a rice that came from Italy in the 17th century when they were initially trying to set up a rice industry. It’s considered to be the ancestrally correct rice to use for Sea Island Baugh. It’s a common ancestor of both Arborio and Carnaroli, the two great Risotto rices.
So it’s ingredients like that we are excited about. These are all old ingredients but they haven’t been available for quite some time so they are very new and that the big news in southern cuisine right now.
Is there a dish on the menu you have the most fun preparing?
I never get tired of making gumbo. I can stand over a pot of gumbo all day. Stirring the pot is a big commandment of Southern cooking. Anything that lets me stir a pot, that’s fun stuff.
How does the Big Jones staff make a positive impact on each guest’s table?
The most important thing is to make them comfortable. Southern food, the way we cook it, can be exotic to people in Chicago. So we have to make them feel at ease to have a completely different experience with the food.
We have to show them southern hospitality in the true spirit of it, which is kindness, generosity, and delicious food.
When it comes to creating an excellent experience surrounding regional southern cooking, Big Jones gets high marks! Genuine hospitality, expansive menu, and a Big Easy feel.
Laissez bon temps rouler!
Big Jones is located at 5347 N. Clark Street in Andersonville near Chicago. Visit their website HERE. Reservations are preferred on Open Table.