Bluegrass BBQ in Glen Ellen

RESTAURANT CLOSED

Any worries I may have harbored for the future of Bluegrass Bar and Grill–tucked away in what was once the ghostly quiet Jack London Village–melted away the second we turned into the parking lot. Jammed.

Several months in, the Southern BBQ spot has already hit its
stride, with reservations on Friday and Saturday night booked solid. And BiteClub isn’t a bit surprised.

The restaurant has been transformed into a light, airy spot with to-die-for outdoor seating,
huge windows overlooking the creek for indoor diners and an almost hypnotic view of the spinning mill wheel from the bar. Not to mention the whisky flights (see below for details).

But ambiance is only a small part of the equation. If the food isn’t rocking, then
forget it. Fortunately, the menu has some very solid contenders for the
restaurant’s assertion of “Best BBQ in Sonoma”, namely the St. Louis Ribs ($16.99 half).
These are a smoked and rubbed version, so the gloopy, gloppy is at a
minimum, though sauce is served on the side. They’re tender,
fall-off-the-bone tasty with just enough spice to be noticed. Not
enough to be offensive.

A close second is the Texas style brisket (($16.99),
also smoked and dry rubbed. Sliced up, there’s enough fat to keep the
meat moist and tasty. Not enough to be stomach-turning. Again, served
with a side of sweet, smokey sauce that puts control firmly in your
fingers.

Tasting through a good part of the menu, there seems to be synchronicity in most of the dishes,
including the sides. Flavors mostly meld well, not leaning too heavily
on spices or heat for flavor. Instead letting the natural flavors shine
through with an assist from smoke, complimentary sweetness and
well-considered spices.

Don’t make choosing your sides an exercise in frugality. Order liberally, starting with the smoked baked beans, hand-cut fries first, moving next to the insanely spicy Adobo mashed taters and apple mint coleslaw.
If you’re going to skip anything, pass on the bacon and egg potato
salad (which couldn’t stand up to the intense flavors of the BBQ) and grilled corn.
All main courses come with two accompaniments, so if you’re eating with
a pal (or several), you’ll likely get a chance to taste through most of
them. Portions are generous, but entirely reasonable.

Rotisserie chicken (which
is often a weak concession to non-red-meat-eaters) gets serious respect
here, moist and juicy, brined with herbs and citrus. Kudos as well for
the cornbread with honey butter that comes to the
table as soon as you’re seated. Studded with jalepenos, its a great way
to start the meal.

We found the sliders ($11.99)–one of
the most popular dishes–to be the only slight misstep on the menu. The
pulled pork slider was dry and uninspiring, with a waxy coat of white
cheddar. Brisket was slightly better, but again, the waxy white cheddar
is a real off-putter. I’d suggest reconsidering. We were also of mixed
opinions about the smoked pork nachos ($12.99) Piled skyscraper
high with pulled pork, salsa, roasted corn, cheese, beans, avocado and
sour cream, it’s questionably appealing to look at. It’s also a bit
difficult to navigate. Frankly, I enjoyed it, though the rest of the
group was a bit dubious.

For dessert, the Georgia peach crisp
($6.99)has returned to the menu. It’s made to order, but the hard
peaches (fresh frozen?) killed the homespun vibe. Hot apple fritters
($6.99) are a better bet. But for the money, I’d spend the calories and
cash on a whisky cocktail like the Man ‘O War. Um, which as I recall was really good and really strong. Things get fuzzy after that.

Damn good drink. Damn good BBQ.

The restaurant is currently open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
Plans are in the works for lunch. Stay tuned. Bluegrass Bar and Grill,
14301 Arnold Dr, Glen Ellen 707-935-4488
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

(PREVIOUSLY)
Is there any decent BBQ in Sonoma County? BiteClub has asked that
question quite a few times now, and we never seem to come to consensus.
There are the occasional parking lot smokers, Red Rose Cafe
(which seems to cause a stink every time I bring it up) and the
occasional joint that ends up disappearing before we can get the sauce
off our faces.

Heck, even Napa’s got BarbersQ, Bounty Hunter and Busters, which kick our tri-tip to the curb. So what gives?

Chris and Jennifer Kennedy are fixing to fill the void with Bluegrass Bar and Grill which opened Tuesday night in Glen Ellen.

After a busy opening night, Chris confirmed that the preview menu
on their website is pretty accurate, with a mouth-watering lineup of
everything from hot links to St. Louis ribs, Texas brisket, rotisseried
chicken and pulled pork nachos. Sides keep the homestyle vibe alive:
Potato salad, beans, grilled corn, fries and cole slaw. Peach crisp got
a last minute boot (sadly, it was too much work for the kitchen), but
key lime pie and lemon bars are solid stand-ins.

And BiteClub
just got another reason to go: Whiskey tastings. Chris has about 20
Kentucky faves, from 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle to the always thrifty
Old Crow. Taste through several 1/2 shots (sorry, not the 23-year-old
stuff though) to get some serious perspective. Or a buzz. Your call.

The
spot’s always been a tough sell, with a number of restaurants
trying and failing at the somewhat remote Jack London Village. But hope
springs eternal for SoCo’s newest roadhouse BBQ spot. It’s yet to be
seen how the couple will pull of this ambitious undertaking, but
BiteClub’s got no doubt you’ll be out in force with bibs and forks in
hand.

(PS, Thanks garlicgrouton for the tip!)