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Restaurants & Bars 2

Bluegrass Bar and Grill, Glen Ellen

bills | Apr 10, 2008 07:13 AM

It may be the best barbeque in Sonoma County, but what it truly is, is a California cuisine restaurant with a few barbequed items on the menu. Considering the barbeque competition in the county, there is none (in my opinion), their claim to be the best is easy to gain.

We went on a Thursday night and although not packed, the restaurant had a good crowd. No beers on tap, but there was a fair selection of bottles. The unusual grafting of modern staircase and balcony railing to the informal, rustic atmosphere of the main level has carried over from the former restaurants to this one.

How was the “best barbeque in Sonoma County?” It needs work, but shows some promise. With limited appetites, we skipped appetizers and salads, going to the large plate renditions of barbeque. I had the ribs, my wife the brisket. The pulled pork shows up as an appetizer, in nachos, and as a pair of sliders where it is served with white cheddar, among other garnishes unknown in barbeque country. Those are the three barbeque items on the menu: ribs, brisket, and pulled pork.

The menu says the ribs spend six hours in smoke, the brisket 12 hours. I can’t remember the time for the pulled pork. How were they? One slice of brisket was juicy, the other dry. The ribs showed promise. They had a rub, very mild, it didn’t bring out the pork flavor. A burnt end on the ribs showed promise; it was juicy, smoky, quite good. As I worked toward the larger ribs on the half-rack, the ribs got drier. We had been warned about dry brisket by a group leaving while we waited for our table to be cleared. The juicy piece had good fat along with the lean. The totally lean piece was dry, and not smoky enough, my impression was that both ribs and brisket had the same rub. I thought the rub did not enhance the flavor of either the pork or the beef. A small pot of sauce was served on the side. Again, a lack of character marred this item.

Overall, my best guess is that they are using too high a temperature in the smoker. This doesn’t help retain moisture. Some put in a pan of water, beer, secret ingredient, whatever, to help.

Sides. You get two with each entrée, or slider. We had potato salad with egg and bacon, apple mint coleslaw, collard greens, and smoked baked beans. Skip the first two. The potato salad had nicely cooked potatoes, but not a hint of egg or bacon. The coleslaw was large shreds of white and red cabbage. I picked up a hint of mint, one piece of apple, but the whole was woefully underdressed, seasoned, and too coarse to eat with pleasure. The beans were nicely cooked, in a tomato based sauce, smoke flavored, but perhaps a bit too sweet. They could have used some of the crispy ends of the ribs to add some depth. The collards were cooked with bacon, but I couldn’t discern that they had spent enough time together to have a melding of flavors.

Jalapeno cornbread is served.

We were told by customers leaving that the rotisserie chicken was good, as were the adobo mashed potatoes.

Service was good, (if you measure by how many times you are asked if the food is good, it was excellent). I think we got up to six queries before we asked for the check.

Overall, be cautious about the sides. Don’t look for really good barbeque here, but maybe they will develop some barbeque “chops” as smoke seeps into whoever does the smoking.

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