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Tallgrass -- fine dining in the SW suburbs?

Tallgrass -- fine dining in the SW suburbs?
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  • Tallgrass -- fine dining in the SW suburbs?

    Post #1 - December 30th, 2007, 4:08 pm
    Post #1 - December 30th, 2007, 4:08 pm Post #1 - December 30th, 2007, 4:08 pm
    I did a long search on the forum to see if there was a dedicated thread to this restaurant, or even any discussion at length about a meal eaten here, and I couldn't find one, save for a comment from nsxtasy in this thread.

    In any case, this place has always been highly regarded as a "top" restaurant, not just in the suburbs, but in the Chicago area. I was particularly interested because their menu suggested they use a lot of local and organic ingredients and meats, something my husband is always pushing for. I was going to wait for a "special occasion" to go here, but it turned out we had a particularly good Christmas and the opportunity for a 'date night' presented itself.

    We went last night...

    Since this was discussed on other threads, I thought I'd mention: we made the reservation on Open Table, and it specifically mentioned the dress code on the reservation page -- that jackets (but not ties) are required for men. Incidentally, all the men I saw there were in jackets, so that dress code apparently stands pretty firm.

    When you go into the restaurant, someone meets you in an empty lobby just below street level where they take your coats and your name. My husband commented that it was very "private club"-esque. After that, they lead you upstairs to the small dining room, which is very nicely decorated with mirrored walls, a small, wood-carved bar area with (I noticed) an interesting selection of single-malt scotches and white wines on ice. It's a very pretty room; it reminded me of Ambria.

    Here's where it gets interesting, and I'm wondering if this point will spark some debate. Very soon after we sat down, a young man came by and started pouring water for us. I stopped him and asked for "still water" instead. He was confused by this, so my husband clarified that we always drink bottled water, and could we have that instead? He said he didn't think they had it, so I asked if they had sparkling water -- Pellegrino, Perrier? He said he'd check, and came back a couple seconds later, stating that they only had tap water. We let him pour the water and leave.

    At this point, my husband looks at me, and I just know what he's thinking. I comment that it's kind of odd that a restaurant of this caliber wouldn't have any kind of bottled water. Of course, he says he's going to ask our waitress about it.

    She comes over after what seems like an extended period of time (this seemed to be habitual throughout the meal), and when he asks her about the water issue, she explains that it's one of the measures that the restaurant is taking to be more "environmentally friendly." I knew this would prickle my husband, and of course it did -- he waited until she left, but made a comment to the effect of, "Well, when it is going to stop? Are they going to stop serving wine in restaurants because they come in bottles, too?"

    We (my DH, particularly) has specific reasons for not drinking tap water, the main one being that he's concerned about the chlorine levels in city water. I've grown accustomed to the cleaner taste of bottle water, and prefer it as well (especially since I drink very little wine these days!) I guess my thinking is, if you're going to offer only tap water, why not at least filter it? Or is this environmentally unfriendly as well? Why not recycle?

    He couldn't help himself from making a further point to the waitress (much to my chagrin, I'll admit) about the fact that they're taking these particular steps to be "green," yet they have items on their menu that come from various reaches of the world, and doesn't that counteract what they're trying to do?

    Of course, the waitress responded somewhat tersely that they're taking whatever steps they can at this time, etc.

    After that, while our server was cordial, I don't think she made much of an effort to visit our table that often. My husband's wine glass wasn't refilled until another member of the house staff noticed it was empty and made a point to refill it. (!!)

    So. While it wasn't the best start to the evening (*sigh*), I always take every portion of a meal with an open mind and set myself up for some excellent food. The menu is laid out in five sections: Vegetarian, Seafood, Poultry, Meat, and Dessert. You start off by deciding whether you want a three, four, or five course meal ($45, 55, 65) and then choose your courses, letting the server know which one you want as your main course, which they will make "bigger" than the rest.

    [A lot of the items have a +$ amount next to it, indicating that there's an upcharge if you choose that item. I didn't pay a lot of attention to that, but it's something to know if you're watching how much you're spending on your meal.]

    I wasn't sure how many courses to order, but I overheard the table next to us comment that the portions were pretty "small" so I figured (being a person of much indecision, anyway), to go with a five-course tasting. Let me tell you right now: the portions are not "small." I wouldn't call them "Macaroni Grill-huge" but they're certainly not tiny tasting portions, either. I personally think any typical person would fare well with a four-course menu, including dessert, but that's just my opinion. I couldn't eat most of my main course.

    In any case, a quick run-down on the good and the bad:

    The good:

    - Our wine. I asked our server for a rec on a good Oregon Pinot Noir and she offered two choices. I told her to deliver either, whichever she thought was better. She chose the more inexpensive of the two: Sharecropper Pinot Noir. Their wine menu, incidentally, is quite nice, with a good range of reasonable ($30 on the low end) to decent, high-end selections. I'm not a wine connoisseur by any means, so I usually rely on past experiences and/or help to find something good. Ours was really good.

    - The appetizer plate. On the specials, they had a five-item appetizer plate with seafood items, including a lobster ravioli, smoked salmon gnocchi, lump crab beignet. Already I knew I was in trouble, because everything was extremely buttery and rich. Very nice preparation on this dish.

    - Trio of soups: I believe there was a spinach-based soup, a potato-leek soup and my favorite, a lemongrass soup. The presentation was particularly inspired, as they served all three of the soups in one large, shallow bowl. Amazingly enough, they kept their autonomy and didn't blend into each other unless you purposefully blended them. The potato soup was a bit bland, but the fresh pepper helped liven up a bit.

    - The chocolate souffle. It was, as our server described it, "extremely rich," but had a lovely, perfectly crusted top. If I hadn't eaten too much already, I probably would have finished this off, no problem.

    The okay:

    - I ordered a ceasar-type salad with asparagus. It was all right. Probably not an inspired choice on my part.

    - The poultry trio special, which had roasted duck in a peanut sauce, capon breast, and a duck confit. The three servings seemed mismatched and odd, particularly the asian-inspired duck. I probably should have read the menu better as well, because peanut-sauce is not really my cup of tea. My husband had a full-sized portion of this and was similarly unimpressed.

    - Organic, aged strip steak that my husband ordered. It was served with a rich cream sauce with a layered potato dish. The steak was nothing to write home about. I tried some of it, and it just didn't really have any flavor. Topped with the cream sauce, it seemed to lose all sense of personality it might have had, save for the overwhelming peppery flavor the sauce emulated. (He said the potatoes were good.)

    - Our tap water was served barely cooler than room temperature. He commented: "If they're going to serve tap water, the very least they could do is put a little bit of ice into it." The water was a little warm for my taste. Eh.

    - The pace of the service. It was a little too slow at times. I think some of it was the general pace of the restaurant (the tables around us didn't get their food any more or less quickly than we did, and we were served by a very pleasant food-runner). Some of it, like the general ordering procedure, seemed to take forever, i.e., she took our wine order, then left, came back with the wine, then left again without asking if we were ready to order our meals yet (even though our menus were on the table.)

    Not to mention that I was a little confused at the end of the meal -- our server left the check, which another person picked up for us. We waited for someone to come back so we could inquire about our coats, which were checked when we came in. The same guy that took the check came back, asking Wes if we were all set. He was about to leave again, when we asked about the coats. He took our number and disappeared into the kitchen. At this point, we didn't know whether to wait or go back downstairs, so I took the lead and we went back downstairs. The guy then said to us, "Oh, I was going to show you out the front door [on the main level]." No harm, no foul, but I didn't want to wait around in the main dining room awkwardly anymore. It would have been less confusing if he'd said, "I'll bring your coats to you," when he'd taken the ticket. That could just be a case of my not knowing the way the restaurant does things.

    Conclusions:

    Overall, while I think this is a "nice" place, I just wasn't 100% impressed with our experience. About half of what I ordered was decent, the other half was just okay. My husband said his, overall, was just "okay," nothing impressive. I asked him, by point of comparison, how did he feel about a place like Vie, which is comparable in price-point and cuisine to a certain degree, and he said, "Oh, Vie is definitely better." I'd have to agree. Granted, this place is a little more "traditional" than Vie (maybe comparing Tallgrass to Courtright's would be a better comparison -- but even Courtright's is more 'homey' than Tallgrass), but overall, I think I like Vie better. I've just had very good experiences there and feel that they're much more innovative and put-together when it comes to their food.

    Final comments:

    Part of going to a fine restaurant is the experience of getting something that you're not going to get when you're at home. Fine ingredients, interesting preparations, a white-glove treatment, etc. That being said, I expect certain things when I go to a restaurant I have to get dressed up for. If you're not going to serve "bottled water," then maybe at least filter the water? If you're going to serve fine wine and drinks, why serve plain tap water (which tasted like tap water)? If you want to be more green, why not focus on a more local menu? Paul Virant at Vie has proved that you can really create an interesting, creative menu using local, seasonal ingredients. Maybe I'm nitpicking about something that doesn't really matter, but in my mind, it's like going to a restaurant where they tell you to wear a jacket, but make you take your shoes and socks off at the door. It doesn't fit the profile.

    Anyway, thanks for listening to my involved diatribe. I'd love to hear some thoughts from anyone else who's been to this place, either recently, or in the past.

    Tallgrass Restaurant
    1006 S State Street, Lockport, IL
    (815) 838-5566
    - Reservations only -
    Last edited by GreenFish on December 30th, 2007, 9:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    -- Nora --
    "Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want." ~Gael Greene
  • Post #2 - December 30th, 2007, 4:48 pm
    Post #2 - December 30th, 2007, 4:48 pm Post #2 - December 30th, 2007, 4:48 pm
    GreenFish wrote:I did a long search on the forum to see if there was a dedicated thread to this restaurant, or even any discussion at length about a meal eaten here, and I couldn't find one, save for a comment from nsxtasy in this thread.

    That's odd; I don't see where I mentioned Tallgrass in that topic. In any case, though, yes, I ate at Tallgrass earlier this year. I still consider it my very best meal of 2007, which is high praise indeed in a year when I also ate at some other extremely wonderful restaurants, including Avenues, Vie, North Pond, Oceanique, Le Bernardin, and one sixtyblue - all of which were excellent, but my dinner at Tallgrass was the best of all of them. Here's what I wrote about it at that time...

    This is the second time I have eaten there. The first time was a long time ago, perhaps 1990 or thereabouts. It was a wonderful dinner at that time, and for the past seventeen years, I have been saying that I would like to go back, but just haven't had the chance or gotten up the initiative to return. This is one of the downsides of living in an area with as many great restaurants as Chicagoland; there are so many to choose from, with new ones opening constantly, that returning, even to one that I enjoyed, just doesn't happen that often. But a few weeks ago, friends said that they were planning their birthday dinner there and asked if we would like to join them, so we jumped at the chance.

    Our previous visit, we had sat in the small (30 seats) main dining room on the first floor, a few feet above street level; the main dining room has traditional decor, with wood paneling, tin ceiling, etc. This time, there was a special dinner and jazz concert taking place there, so we were seated in the lower level dining room; it's even smaller (six tables seating 2-4 people each) and has ultra modern decor.

    I was a bit surprised to see people dressed casually (business casual attire, gentlemen without jackets) at a couple of the other tables, as opentable.com specifies "formal attire", which usually means jacket and tie is customary/required. Perhaps, with the jazz concert and the fact that it was a Sunday night, this was a more casual time of day/week, or perhaps the attire there has evolved since the opentable listing was written.

    We were presented with our menus, and the server explained their approach to us. The menu contains groupings of items (vegetable, seafood, meat/poultry, and dessert/cheese, with a separate page of specials). Each person orders three ($48 ), four ($58 ), five ($68 ), or seven ($75 ) courses from these items. With the 3-, 4-, and 5-course options, one course is specified (by you) as an entree and comes in a larger portion size; with the 7-course option, all are smaller portions.

    Two of us decided to get five courses and the other two decided to get seven courses. We ordered the various dishes we wanted and asked the server to bring them in whatever order made the most sense.

    Here are some of the dishes we had:

    Vegetable...

    Asian Pear, Mixed Greens, Goat Cheese, Pecans, Currants, Tangerine Vinaigrette

    Saute Fresh Northwest Morel Mushrooms & Fiddlehead Ferns (specials page)

    Seafood...

    Wild Alaskan Sea Scallops, Cashews, Carrot Terrine, Orange and Parsley Sauces

    Tempura Calamari, Pont Neuf Polenta, Spiced Wild Honey Glaze

    Lump Crab in Three Styles: Gratin - Salad - Beignet (specials page)

    Meat/Poultry...

    Saute Heartland Veal Sweetbreads, Creamed Savoy Cabbage, Bacon, Mustard Sauce

    Tallgrass Beef Tenderloin and Short Rib, Potato Terrine, Red Wine Sauce

    Trio of Birds: Roasted Capon Breast, Grilled Duck Breast and Saute Duck Confit (specials page)

    Dessert...

    Assortment of Five Mini Desserts: Lemon Panna Cotta, Apple Puff Pastry, Chocolate Souffle, Raspberry Brulee, Baba Rhum (they have the assortment on the main menu, but they identify what the five are on the specials page)

    Mango Puff Pastry, Vanilla Glace, Caramel Sauce

    Virtually EVERYTHING was absolutely WONDERFUL. And not just the main ingredient of each plate, but the sauces and sides as well. The carrot terrine, for example, was layered like a lasagna, fluffy, light and moist, and was to die for. The sweetbreads were amazing, the short ribs were incredibly tender, and on and on and on. It's one thing to come up with creative cuisine, but quite another to make everything taste incredibly delicious, and Chef Burcenski manages to do both.

    There were only two tiny flaws in the entire meal, both on the dessert assortment - the mini chocolate souffle was underdone (I know the center is often served while still basically liquid, but the only part of the souffle that was solid at all was the top skin) and the baba rhum was a bit dry. On the other hand, the other three desserts were exquisite! The apple puff pastry consisted of minced, spiced apple over a small piece of puff pastry and it was perhaps the best apple dessert I have ever had in my life. The raspberry brulee was served inside an egg shell, the shell of a whole egg with only the very top neatly sliced off (how does he do that? another item was also served the same way), stuffed with the creme brulee in the top half, and the raspberries in the bottom, served with a tiny spoon. Amazing! And oh, the lemon panna cotta... mmmm...

    The service was efficient, friendly, and unobtrusive. Our decision to leave the sequencing and pacing of the dishes to the staff was a good one. The dishes were paced perfectly, without us feeling rushed or having to wait too long. What was particularly intriguing was that there were a couple of instances in which different people ordered the same dish but it was served as different courses at different times to them, rather than both receiving the same dish at the same time. Maybe that sounds like it doesn't make sense, but it absolutely worked.

    One other note. I don't normally comment about the design of the bathrooms unless there is a problem of some sort, which there wasn't. But the styling of the bathrooms at Tallgrass is... well, I'm not going to spoil the surprise, but I can tell you that whoever designed the fixtures has a great sense of humor. You WILL laugh when you see them.

    Looking back on this wonderful meal, I have several thoughts about it. One, of course, is the immense satisfaction of having such delicious food that I'm still thinking about how delicious everything was even days and weeks later. But there are two other things that are, I think, fairly unique about Tallgrass:

    1. One is just how MANY foods you can try there in one meal. Chef Burcenski doesn't just present an item with a garnish and a sauce, like most chefs; instead, in many cases, one course consists of three or even five main items. The dessert assortment is one example; you order the assortment, and you get five different desserts. Similarly, the lump crab was served three ways, and there was the trio of birds. Another example on the menu was the appetizer assortment plate, in which one course (one dish) consisted of all of the following items: Lobster Lasagna / Parmesan Egg / Lump Crab Beignet / Smoke Salmon Gnocchi / Mushrooms, Artichokes, and Asparagus. So even though you may be ordering three or five or seven courses, in many cases each of those courses consisted of three to five different items. Thus 3-7 courses can easily turn into as many items as a 12-20 course tasting menu elsewhere.

    2. The other thing that struck me was the tremendous value. I should note that a few of the items had small surcharges: $5 for the appetizer assortment plate, $7 for the lump crab three ways, $3 for the dessert assortment plate, etc. But still, the prices at Tallgrass are extremely reasonable for all the different kinds of food you get, and are significantly less than you would pay for similar variety of food at many other top restaurants with tasting menus. The bottom line including moderate alcohol and tax/tip was under $120/person, which is what many of our best casual fine dining restaurants with three or four courses often comes to. The experience is far beyond those, and is closer to that of the uber-expensive top tables in Chicago that often cost twice the price or more.

    Tallgrass is just an amazing dining experience, with spectacular food, and a terrific value to boot. It is one of the very best restaurants in the entire Chicagoland area, and is worth a long drive for those who don't live nearby (which I don't). I HIGHLY recommend it (and I can't wait to go back!).

    Tallgrass Restaurant
    1006 S. State St.
    Lockport, IL 60441
    (815) 838-5566
    www.tallgrassrestaurant.com
    Last edited by nsxtasy on April 2nd, 2008, 7:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #3 - December 30th, 2007, 5:07 pm
    Post #3 - December 30th, 2007, 5:07 pm Post #3 - December 30th, 2007, 5:07 pm
    You obviously have a much better memory than I do -- it sounds like the menu you ate off of was virtually identical to what we had!

    I don't remember anything in particular about the upstairs bathroom, with the exception of the fact that they have cloth towels instead of paper towels. (Not a bad idea; I actually liked that.)

    I also agree with you that overall, the price point is very reasonable, which is one of the reasons we ended up going there "just because" as opposed to waiting for a special occasion (like our anniversary). Our dinner with the bottle of wine, was around $120 pp with tax/tip. I expected something more in the $150-175 pp range.

    Again, maybe it's just my taste, but a lot of the dishes weren't that outstanding to me, and I think the experience with the water sullied things in the mind of my husband. It's funny how little things can sometimes color an entire experience. Thanks for giving your input.

    ETA: I fixed that thread link to your mention -- I don't know how but I had the wrong one there. Sorry about that.
    Last edited by GreenFish on December 30th, 2007, 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    -- Nora --
    "Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want." ~Gael Greene
  • Post #4 - December 30th, 2007, 6:47 pm
    Post #4 - December 30th, 2007, 6:47 pm Post #4 - December 30th, 2007, 6:47 pm
    GreenFish wrote:I don't remember anything in particular about the upstairs bathroom

    Perhaps the men's is different from the women's. In any case, if you saw what I did, you would remember it; someone there has a great sense of humor. (You have mail.)

    GreenFish wrote:It's funny how little things can sometimes color an entire experience.

    Indeed. FWIW, I don't remember whether anyone in our party ordered water other than tap water.
  • Post #5 - January 4th, 2008, 3:18 pm
    Post #5 - January 4th, 2008, 3:18 pm Post #5 - January 4th, 2008, 3:18 pm
    My one visit to Tallgrass probably was about 10 years ago. Needless to say I do not have any notes at this remove, but I can share my feelings.

    Very, very old school. Nouvelle cuisine of the earliest vintage (so mostly Escoffier with the temerity to offer some dishes without cream), served in a pleasant enough place, but the overall sensation was a place that had been frozen in time, maybe in 1980, and had not changed since. Stately, surprisingly formal (this is in Lockport after all) service that was clearly informed by the same concept of what fine dining was in France in the 70's as the cuisine.

    The food was good, the experience pleasant enough. But the whole experience seemed old, stale. So while I really have nothing bad to say about it, I have also never felt any desire to go back - unlike you NX.

    I think the disconnect GF experienced is actually the intended service style from that type and vintage of restaurant - the formality of the interaction is intended never to rush you and to maintain a polite reserve that would prohibit them from telling you how they are going to do things, or asking you how you wish to do things. The assumption is that there is a proper way to do things and a proper pace, and that is how things will be done. It is possible to assume control of the transaction and tell them how to do things, but as you discovered with the water, one runs the risk of being considered a cretin unless you make it clear up front that you know more than them. It is a very Gallic formality, mostly foreign to Americans of the 21st century, and a strange thing to encounter in Lockport.

    So for me, Tallgrass is like a little piece of France put into a Victorian storefront in Lockport in 1980 and preserved in amber. All very proper and pretty well done, but there is a reason why that style is out of date in France, and even more so in the States. I suppose I should go back to update that impression, but I there are way too many other places I want to visit first.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #6 - January 4th, 2008, 6:35 pm
    Post #6 - January 4th, 2008, 6:35 pm Post #6 - January 4th, 2008, 6:35 pm
    Thanks for the feedback on this. You really pinpointed my other feeling about this place; that it was almost "stuck in time" in a sense. The food wasn't bad (and like I said, I had a couple really good courses), but didn't seem inventive to me whatsoever. I just felt like I could go to any number of other places and have something more interesting. Of course, I got a similar feeling when we went to Ambria, so maybe I'm not so much a fan of a more "traditional" restaurant. I don't need an edible menu, or the latest beet & white truffle popsicle with foie gras sprinkles, but, you know. I just felt like it didn't "wow" me.

    Plus, I found (something I didn't mention earlier) that some of the items on the plates repeated themselves; i.e., there was a parmesan egg (mmm, that was rich, BTW) on both the appetizer sampler and on my ceasar salad, so I got that twice. My husband ordered the full duck entree, and my three-bird sampler came with that same duck, only in a smaller portion. You just have to pay attention to what you're ordering, I guess.

    I would hate to discourage someone from trying it if they've never been; especially if you enjoy a formal, old-school dining experience. (Just make sure you bring your own Perrier. ;) )

    Still. If I had a urge for that type of food again, I'd probably be more likely to end up at Courtright's, which fits the profile, but I've found to be more interesting and varied cuisine-wise. Plus the atmosphere is a bit warmer, while the staff is still professional and knowledgeable. (They have a fantastic wine cellar, too.)

    On the note of Lockport restaurants, however -- has anyone been to Public Landing? I know it's owned by the same people, but is the menu different? I know it's supposed to be less formal and more inexpensive, but that's about all I know.

    I'm also curious to see if more nice restaurants don't open up in the SW suburbs now that the 355 extension is in. The problem I've found is that "nice" in the suburbs tends to have a different meaning than it does in the city. Particularly in this neck of the woods. Sorry to ramble...
    -- Nora --
    "Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want." ~Gael Greene
  • Post #7 - January 4th, 2008, 6:40 pm
    Post #7 - January 4th, 2008, 6:40 pm Post #7 - January 4th, 2008, 6:40 pm
    dicksond wrote:I think the disconnect GF experienced is actually the intended service style from that type and vintage of restaurant - the formality of the interaction is intended never to rush you and to maintain a polite reserve that would prohibit them from telling you how they are going to do things, or asking you how you wish to do things.

    We never got that feeling in any way. Our server was outgoing and friendly, and as informative as at any ultra-new hip place, going so far as to solicit our input on which order in which to serve the dishes or to leave it to their discretion (we took the latter option, as noted above), etc.

    dicksond wrote:So for me, Tallgrass is like a little piece of France put into a Victorian storefront in Lockport in 1980 and preserved in amber.

    Hey, you visited in the 1990s! Maybe instead of dredging up memories from years ago, it's worth another visit to see what they're doing lately.

    GreenFish wrote:has anyone been to Public Landing? I know it's owned by the same people, but is the menu different?

    Public Landing was originally opened by the folks at Tallgrass, but it was sold to someone else a while ago and no longer shares any relationship with it.
  • Post #8 - January 5th, 2008, 7:33 pm
    Post #8 - January 5th, 2008, 7:33 pm Post #8 - January 5th, 2008, 7:33 pm
    Fair points nxstasy - I agree that your experiences and GF's are much more relevant. And I did ask myself whether it was worth posting impressions from a meal 10 years ago.

    As for Public Landing - I end up going there every couple of years, though I generally restrict myself to dessert these days. I like the room in the old warehouse by the canal, and the bar is warm and pleasant. But the food attains a level just a notch or two above a Greek Family Restaurant, at prices of $15-$20 per entree, not that the price matters.

    Not that it is trying to do exactly the same thing, but for upscale dining in that area I enjoyed Truth, a bit south in Joliet, though I have not been in a couple of years. They have a similar level of ambition as Public Landing - fancy comfort food really, but executed it much better. The room is not as nice but it is a warm and pleasant place just the same.

    Truth Restaurant
    808 W. Jefferson Street
    Joliet

    Public Landing
    State St & 8th St
    Lockport
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #9 - January 6th, 2008, 9:01 pm
    Post #9 - January 6th, 2008, 9:01 pm Post #9 - January 6th, 2008, 9:01 pm
    We visited Tallgrass for our anniversary last July and I loved it. We ordered the largest chef's tasting menu they had with wine flights to match. We asked that the chef give each of us different plates for every course so I think I ended up tasting 14 or so plates. They were not skimping on the wine either. The end of the night was blury but I am looking forward to going back and doing it again. Our waitress was not very knowledgable, but the young guy that was chosing and pouring our wines was very cool and knew what he was doing.
    Overall a great experience, and it should be given the cost.
  • Post #10 - January 9th, 2008, 3:25 pm
    Post #10 - January 9th, 2008, 3:25 pm Post #10 - January 9th, 2008, 3:25 pm
    I was just there over the summer, and my experience was almost identical to dicksond's. Almost every dish was heavy, and laden with cream - in the middle of July! I won't be back either, as there are way too many better options in the 'burbs and city to explore.
  • Post #11 - January 9th, 2008, 9:30 pm
    Post #11 - January 9th, 2008, 9:30 pm Post #11 - January 9th, 2008, 9:30 pm
    I could have sworn I posted this awhile back, but oh well here goes again, an experience from a few years ago.

    Tallgrass, what took me so long?!! I know, it must be the fact that Tallgrass is located in the town of Lockport near Joliet which for most cityfolk and northsiders is like going to Louisville, Kentucky.

    I’m pretty sure that is what has kept me from going, Tallgrass is not the last minute, “Oh, let’s go to Tallgrass” kind of place, it takes planning for the trip south. So when my parents asked if they could treat my wife and me to dinner for our birthdays, I suggested Tallgrass. Everyone was in agreement that they have heard and read that Tallgrass has always been in most top 10 lists etc etc, but Tallgrass has consistently been there, not a onetime achievement. So everyone was in agreement that we should go.

    Now for the brilliant planning, we choose a 5:30pm time on a Friday. This is not any usual Friday, it is a wicked rain and thunderstorm Friday AND there is construction on 53. My oh so brilliant planning made the drive a 2 ½ hour marathon and for my parents coming from further away almost a 3 hour tour. UGHHH! As I mentioned, planning!

    Thankfully the dinner was worth a drive twice that.

    Lockport is a quaint Victorian like town. As one can imagine there are the ubiquitous pizza and sports bars on the main drag, but also many seemingly neat little shops which my wife and mother were quick to pick up on. Clearly the planning will include some shopping on our next visit to Tallgrass.

    The main room at Tallgrass has shoulder high dark rich wood on the walls with mirror above that. A tin ceiling tops off the room. I say main room, because one is let in through a garden level door by means of a buzzer, almost speakeasy like. In this garden level there is a smaller room that is used on the weekends for alternate seating times. By all means try to get the street level main dining room as the lower level is quite dark.

    Onto the food/wine.

    The menu is divided into 5 sections: Vegetarian, Seafood, Poultry, Meat and Dessert.
    One chooses a 3,4 or 5 course menu, price being $45, 55, 65 respectively.

    Trying to make a decision is further compounded by the fact that you may choose any dish as a starter or main course. This proved to be wonderful as I can’t tell you how many times while dining I’ve wanted an appetizer to be a main course and vice versa.

    One thing about our family, rarely do we allow each other to order a similar dish as that does not allow us to get the most out of what a restaurant offers. Such conversations occur such as “oh you are getting the X well then I must get Y, but if you are getting T we shouldn’t get G”. It is also expected in my family to share a taste of any dish when asked.

    Our family had the following dishes:

    Deconstructed Chilled Ratatouille Soups: Zucchini-Basil, Onion-Eggplant, Sweet Red Pepper-Tomato. This was an incredible dish, served in the same bowl, only their colors showing the boundary of where each ends/begins. Thankfully this was my choice so I did get to enjoy most of it.

    Grilled Scottish Salmon: Celery, Caper, Manchengo Cheese and button Mushroom salad, Lemon Oil. Ever since having Pacific salmon, I shy away from Atlantic, the flavor is just not there for me (or my wife). I will now change my way of thinking as the richness of the Scottish Salmon was full and powerful like I want a salmon to be.

    Exotic Basket of Sauté Lobster, Scallops, Diced Mango, Cashews, Belgian Endive, Chervil, Vanilla Crème Sauce. This sounded so good that against our family dining laws, my father and I both ordered this dish. The basket was actually a sweet, crispy crepe like bowl. The natural sweetness of the seafood, the rich caramel sweetness of the basket, the crunch fullness of the cashews, the sharp endive and smooth vanilla sauce all combined to an epiphany of flavor. One of the finest dishes I’ve had in my life.

    Roasted Niman Ranch Rack of Pork: Carrot loaf, Pickled Red Grapes, Baby Greens, Dijon Herb Vinaigrette. This was the “mediocre” dish of the group. I say mediocre in relation to the other stellar dishes we were enjoying. I love pork, but to me it makes a great “low-scale” dining meat, one does not have to dress it up to make it special. As a result, it rarely achieves greatness IMO when it tries to become upscale. As a result I steer away from pork when dining upscale. In no way was this dish bad, there is just far better on the Tallgrass menu.

    Sauté Foie Gras: Citrus-Onion Jam, Smoked Moulard Duck Breast. What can I say, anytime for our family when fois gras is involved it is a winner dish. Pair it w/the jam and duck; it becomes a super winner dish.

    Seared Rare Ahi Tuna: Caper Berries, Boiled Potato, Sundried Tomato, Sicilian Black Olives, Provence Extra Virgin Olive Oil. While a good dish, I think the seared Ahi Tuna dish has been played out for me. I just do not get excited about it as I used to. I also have become quite good at cooking it at home and making raw tuna pokes (dish from HI), which I get much more excited about. This was a good dish, not great.

    Sauté Seven Spiced Pekin Duck Breast: w/Duck Leg Confit, Peanuts, Crepe, Scallions, Plum Sauce and Natural Juices. Duck in our family is as prized as foie gras. Another great dish, duck prepared perfectly.

    Crispy Capon Confit: House Whole Wheat Noodles, Peanuts, Haricot Vert, Scallions, Mixed Greens, Tahini Dressing. As soon as I saw this dish, I wanted it for my main course. The earthy goodness of the noodles, greens, dressing, mixed w/the richness crunch of the capon confit, peanuts, was heaven, just incredible.

    Only my father and I ordered desserts.

    Pop had the Hot Mango Puff Pastry Tart with Caramel Sauce. Quite good.

    I’m not really a dessert fan, unless a dessert calls out to me, needless to say, the following dessert did.
    Caramel Bananas, Roasted Pecans, Crème Brulee, Chocolate Sauce. The warm chocolate sauce, bananas, rich pecans, mixed w/the cool sweetness of the brulee was intoxicating. Easily one of the best desserts I’ve had in my life.

    The house cabernet I enjoyed while waiting for the parents to arrive was terrific, finest cab I’ve had in awhile.

    The bottle of Merlot was so-so; I should have stuck w/the house cabernet.

    Service was flawless, wonderful. Helpful, but not preaching. Very attentive.

    So again, I find myself asking what took me so long to visit Tallgrass? After my experience last night, it won’t be near as long until I visit again.

    Tallgrass
    1006 S. State St.
    Lockport, IL (near Joliet)
    815.838.5566
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.

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