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.
Im pretty sure that is what has kept me from going, Tallgrass is not the last minute, Oh, lets 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 cant tell you how many times while dining Ive 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 shouldnt 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 Ive 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.
Im 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 Ive had in my life.
The house cabernet I enjoyed while waiting for the parents to arrive was terrific, finest cab Ive had in awhile.
To start, Pop ordered a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The bouquet was amazing.
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 wont be near as long until I visit again.
1006 S. State St.
Lockport, IL (near Joliet)