As practically every Chicagoan knows, there are scores of Southern-themed restaurants in our fair city.
Some feature cuisines from specific parts of the South, like the South Carolina-based fare at Lowcountry, the Louisiana-themed items at Luella's Southern Kitchen or the Mississippi-oriented offerings at the forthcoming spot Delta.
Then there are more expansive placeslike the ( relatively ) longtime Andersonville restaurant Big Jones ( 5347 N. Clark St.; BigJonesChicago.com ), which has a website that says it's "inspired by the people, places and history of the American South."
The decor at the restaurant ( that business/life partners Paul Fehribach and Mark Armantrout co-own ) does not necessarily scream "Southern," although it does say "welcome." However, the looking at the items on the menu is pretty likely to make one think of sultry summers, pleasantly twangy accents and mint juleps.
Cocktails make refreshing ways to start the meal, and I really liked the Jasper's Rum Punch, although there are plenty of other options, including the Chatham Artillery Punch ( citrus, brandy, bourbon, rum, green tea and muscatel, topped off with cava ).
The crawfish-and-cheese hush puppies were a solid culinary start to the meal, and my dining companion and I really took to the sweet-potato bisque. However, the wonderful boucherie board ( in the "Starters and Snacks" section ) might constitute an entire meal, with various breads, spreads, preserves and meats. ( Potted duck and tete de cochon, anyone? )
I had heard about the fried chicken here, so I had to give that a whirl. The verdict? It's quite good, although the late, great Table Fifty-Two will always set the bar for me regarding fried chicken in Chicago. Big Jones' shrimp-and- grits dish is also worth savoringas did the concluding rum bread pudding. ( The only item that left me wanting was the skillet cornbreadand cornbread, interestingly, seems to be the Achilles' heel for several Southern-themed spots in this city. )
However, cornbread aside, this restaurant deserves your patronageand I do plan on restaurant to try the scores of other dishes that remind me of my grandmother's home by a dusty road in the South.
Note: Restaurant/bar profiles are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.