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Prairie Grass Cafe - Northbrook, IL


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I'm excited about the well-deserved three-star review!

I've noticed the seemingly underdoneness (is that a word?) of the crust of the pies, but the taste is there, 100%.

Don't miss the opportunity to try the chocolate cake - not the liquid center one, but the plain ol' chocolate cake, which is little more than chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. It's superb!

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My boyfriend left a copy of the review on my desk this morning, which presumably means he wants to go now. (He has to be dragged kicking and screaming anywhere new, and then wants to go once a week until I'm sick of it. He probably though the name meant it was vegetarian.) I'll be interested to see how the menu changes for summer.

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With its current popularity, is this a place that one needs a reservation for?

Or can I just walk in here unannounced on a weekday? From what you guys have been saying, it sounds pretty busy every day.

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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With its current popularity, is this a place that one needs a reservation for?

Or can I just walk in here unannounced on a weekday? From what you guys have been saying, it sounds pretty busy every day.

Lately it's been very busy and even before the holidays, it was hard to get a weeknight reservation for as early as 6 pm. That said, when we've walked in at or before 5:30 on weeknights, we've been seated without a wait. I know that's pretty early, but in our current configuration, it works for us.

I do recommend making a reservation, regardless. I have a feeling that this latest review from Mr. Vettel isn't going to make getting a (walk-in) table at PGC any easier.

I'm very happy for the folks at PGC. This most recent review should further solidify their business for quite some time. And, at least for now, they seem to be proving that there is no such thing as a "cursed" location.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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We had a fantastic brunch there this morning. We arrived at 10:00, and the place started filling up by the time we left at around 11:45. Service was, as usual, non-rushed and informative.

Now I'm not a brunch person because I'm not overly fond of brunch-type foods, but I'd heard that some of the more popular lunch items were on the brunch menu as well, so I figured I'd be able to find something to eat. Do I look like a person who goes hungry often?!? Anyway, to my surprise, there were wonderful brunch offerings - so many that I had trouble making up my mind. I settled upon the potato skins stuffed with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese, topped with crumbled Neuski's bacon, sour cream, and scallions (Lipitor extra, alas.) Fantastic! Others in our party had the spinach Benedict; the salmon Benedict; and the challah French toast, which was a HUGE piece of challah stuffed with ricotta and fresh strawberries. As sides, we sampled the ancho chili breakfast sausage, the ENORMOUS cinnamon roll (enough for four to share), and the fruit and yogurt parfait. Needless to say, we all walked away stuffed and satisfied.

Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Tonight I read this topic from top to bottom (Man oh man do I need to get myself down there!), and I saw that someone had inquired a while back as to whether or not PGC offered take out. This intrigued me, so I called them up and I am happy to report that they do, indeed, offer carryout.

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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Tonight I read this topic from top to bottom (Man oh man do I need to get myself down there!), and I saw that someone had inquired a while back as to whether or not PGC offered take out. This intrigued me, so I called them up and I am happy to report that they do, indeed, offer carryout.

Thanks for the information, Ben. Thursday is my day to choose lunch for the office and your post has inspired me. :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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About how casually can you dress in there on a weeknight?

I've gone in jeans and khakis and in neither uniform did they kick me out. :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Tonight I read this topic from top to bottom (Man oh man do I need to get myself down there!), and I saw that someone had inquired a while back as to whether or not PGC offered take out. This intrigued me, so I called them up and I am happy to report that they do, indeed, offer carryout.

Thanks for the information, Ben. Thursday is my day to choose lunch for the office and your post has inspired me. :smile:

=R=

It should be interesting to see if the food is still up to snuff...For me at least, presentation is an important part of the fun of a great meal.

Edited by bentherebfor (log)

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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Tonight I read this topic from top to bottom (Man oh man do I need to get myself down there!), and I saw that someone had inquired a while back as to whether or not PGC offered take out. This intrigued me, so I called them up and I am happy to report that they do, indeed, offer carryout.

Thanks for the information, Ben. Thursday is my day to choose lunch for the office and your post has inspired me. :smile:

=R=

It should be interesting to see if the food is still up to snuff...For me at least, presentation is an important part of the fun of a great meal.

Yeah, there's no question in my mind that it won't be as good as eating in the restaurant; for a variety of reasons.

Still, I'll try to order something that looks like it can travel well and hope for the best. In the end, I will be comparing it with other PGC meals I've actually eaten on premises. That said, the lunch menu looks almost completely different from the dinner menu, so it won't be a direct comparison by any means.

A more useful comparison -- and one that I know I will make -- is between carry-out lunch from PGC and carry-out lunch from other, similar places that we hit on a regular basis. A few that come to mind (in the same approximate price range) are Bluegrass, Player's Grill, Rosebud (Highland Park) and Miramar (Highwood).

FWIW, their current lunch menu looks outstanding and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's lunch.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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The menu does look fantastic!

Interesting that we happen to be discussing this on the same day that the NY Times publishes almost an entire "Dining In" section on how-to's for take-out and delivery in New York.

Perhaps you could apply some of the tips found here :biggrin::biggrin:

B.

PS. All the articles can be found here

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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Lunch today, from PGC, was outstanding. I had the skirt steak with chard and white beans. It was cooked perfectly, held up well in transit and tasted great. I also had the cream of parsnip soup which I really enjoyed. The items ordered by my cohorts (burger, penne, salads) also made the trip well and all 6 of us were happy. Packaging was good and condiments, napkins and utensils were included in abundance.

As expected, the overall experience wasn't quite as good as eating in the restaurant. One big difference is that you don't have baskets of hot, freshly-baked bread being dropped on your table throughout the meal. :biggrin:

But, it was damn good for carry out and really compared favorably to those other places I mentioned upthread. It was as good or better food-wise and was in the exact same ball park, price-wise. I'm fairly certain PGC will become part of the regular lunch rotation here at our office.

I also really can't wait to try out their brunch menu, something that I plan on doing, on premises, asap. :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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It's been a busy week but I did not want to neglect mentioning the fantastic brunch we had at PGC last Saturday morning. I had the best order of eggs benedict I can remember ever having (even better than I had at the Ritz, and far superior to what I've ever been served at Brennans). My wife ordered the eggs in crispy potato skins topped with sour cream and scallions -- Yum! A truly inspired dish. The boyo had the scrambled eggs, potatoes and sausage which was also a great plate. Just like the lamb and italian sausage on PGC's dinner menu, these sausages are made by Chef Bumbaris on premises and are simply tremendous. In the case of the breakfast sausage, it was flavored with ancho chilis and is intensely satisfying -- a surprisingly perfect match for the eggs and potatoes.

The potatoes were also noteworthy. Flavored with a hint of onion they were diced into cubes which were tender inside, crispy outside and intensely flavorful. We also ordered a hot cinnamon roll for the table. This is normally an item I wouldn't even bother with -- but because we were at PGC -- we decided to give it a whirl and we were literally fighting over it before we quickly polished it off. Damn!

There was a also a long list of very tempting alcoholic and non-alcoholic breakfast beverages. This time around I passed but at the proper occasion, I could easily see myself quaffing a few Deluxe Bloody Maries (topped with jumbo shrimp and bleu cheese) or a Cranberry Fizzes. On this occasion, it was a diet coke with a slice of lemon.

My only minor qualm is that -- compared to breakfast at other venues -- it was a bit pricey. The brunch was $43 plus tax and tip for the 3 of us. But again, we ordered couple extra "taster" items and for the quality of the food we were served, I would even go so far as to say it was a value. So, it is relatively expensive for breakfast (not necessarily for brunch) and absolutely worth the extra bucks if you're in the mood for a top-quality dining experience.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  • 4 months later...
We're stopping in there tonight--I will report on the summer fare.

Can't wait to hear about your experience.

We were just there last Friday and the place is still chugging along. Service was as sharp as ever and the food was fantastic. In spite of the season, I opted for the braised short rib (special) which was among the best I've ever had. I figured that since I wasn't doing any braising this time of year, it'd be a nice change of pace. It was far beyond that . . . so happy I ordered it.

Appetizers were also satisfying. We order the grilled veggie pizza, the (re-worked but still delicious) crab cake and the baked feta with banana peppers. The 4 of us snarfed them down rapidly.

Wife had the delectably tender halibut served with fingerling potatoes and opiatic broccoli puree. BIL had the always-delicious home-made italian sausages with polenta and arugula. SIL had the vegetable struedel, which was sublime.

For dessert we shared the baked pear in almond cake which was as good as I remember it being and a warm slice of blueberry pie a la mode. It was just a near-perfect dinner; nothing fancy, but a really satisfying and well-prepared meal which made us so happy. Being able to take out-of-towners there was especially fun because it's so nearby and so consistent. PGC is definitely a go-to when you absolutely want to be sure that your meal and your patronage won't be taken for granted. Every plate there says "we care."

Who says that location is cursed?! :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Ronnie, you will be glad to know we had an excellent dinner!

I called at about 3 p.m. seeking a table for 6:30 and was told I could have one at 5 or 7:30. That surprised me a bit--I would have thought 7:00 was the prime reservation hour, not earlier. 7:30 was fine with us. When we got there the place was packed--all the bar tables full, and a few people with reservations waiting to be seated. We were offered our table within a few minutes (a square one in the main room fairly close to the front door). Previously we have been seated farther back in the restaurant or in a booth. The spot we were in last night was very noisy. The waiter had trouble understanding what we were ordering and repeated back "short ribs" after my son ordered "skirt steak." At least he repeated it so we could correct it. Not that it would have been a bad deal to eat the short ribs, but we'd been wanting to try some of the steaks. I also had steak--the filet--while my husband had the lamb sausages with goat cheese and grilled vegetables, a dish I'd loved on a previous visit. We liked all of our food very much.

Backing up a moment, let me say that I was surprised to see how little the menu had changed since my last visit during the winter. Somehow I thought there would be more "seasonal" items. The desserts reflected that more than the rest of the menu, with special offerings of peaches w/vanilla ice cream and blueberries w/lemon sorbet. There was also a strawberry cream pie on the regular dessert menu (as opposed to say, the pumpkin pie featured last time we were there). I noticed that the shepherd's pie was not on the menu (but they did have the special of braised short ribs); also, there was a special of soft shell crabs served as a salad (I didn't see anyone ordering that; most of the plates going by seemed to hold steak, short ribs, or salmon).

For our first courses we had the baked feta (am I remembering correctly that this used to come in a tomato puree? this time it just had a few tomato slices as garnish), the crab cake, which is served in a shallow pool of jicama accented gazpacho, and an unusual salad of fennel combined with three cheeses: gouda, chevre, and parmesan. We shared our plates (I was eating with my husband and 17 year old son) and it made for a nice starter tasting menu.

The steaks were great--my filet was perfectly rare (by my standards)--quite pink but warm, and the ancho skirt steak was tender yet resilient--I think I may have preferred it a bit to my own choice of filet. The lamb sausages were still delicious. My husband and I shared a bottle of 2001Starwood Pinot Noir--a great choice. For dessert we had the seasonal specialties. For me the sorbet was a little too tart--a couple of bites was enough, and the serving was huge. The strawberry cream pie separated the berries and cream into separate entities--in others words, a white cream pie with glazed strawberries on top. Simple and pretty, though not terribly exciting. The best dessert turned out to be the peaches and vanilla ice cream.

In earlier discussions of this restaurant we wondered if a lot of people would bring their younger children. Not on this particular Saturday night. Most of the groups seemed to be middleaged and older couples eating together, not family groups. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the demographic in Northbrook, but it did skew a bit older than I might have expected. I guess the younger crowd was at Miramar :rolleyes: . We saw a few men wearing shorts, but for the most part there was a slightly dressed up ambiance--but few jackets. A couple of women in skimpy tops clutching their pashminas against the air conditioning, if that gives anyone a clue.

One more thing: they don't seem to be on Opentable anymore. Also, we ordered the roast chicken to go for our daughter, who was working and couldn't join us, and the waiter/kitchen timed it to arrive hot just before we left (we told the waiter when we ordered it that we'd be having dessert). It travelled well, and she was thrilled.

Edited by Midwesterner (log)
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I've found, after many visits to Prairie Grass, that the menu changes quite often, but the changes are small. An accompaniment will be changed on the halibut, for example, or the pizza will be reworked. I rather like this style, as it gives me the impression that they're trying to tweak their more popular items to make them better (or more season-appropriate). Once in a while they'll have a new item which started life a few weeks earlier as a daily special. While major changes in menus to reflect the season are always welcome, one of the reasons I like Prairie Grass so much is that I can always rely on past favorites; I find I actually look forward to re-ordering dishes I've had in the past. I'm thrilled that they've added the fennel salad on the menu - it's superb. Noise levels can be a problem during peak hours, but we usually go early (about 6pm) or late (after 8:30) so we're really not affected by them as much.

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I don't remember the baked feta coming with a sauce, but -- especially given what George said above -- it wouldn't surprise me if it had been served that way at some point in the past.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the meal, midwesterner. That "Bill Kurtis" beef is really an attraction of its own and should not be missed.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  • 6 months later...

I wanted to come back and redeclare my ongoing love for Prairie Grass Cafe. I've been back several times over the past few months -- for brunches, lunches and dinners -- and the food and service continue to satisfy.

I just returned from having a fantastic breakfast at Prairie Grass. It's 5 degrees F outside and I have plenty of groceries -- that's how much I love it there. This morning I had a delectable plate of traditional eggs benedict. Everything about it was textbook: the hollandaise was rich and creamy, the eggs were plump and perfectly soft-yolked, the Canadian bacon was sweet, salty and tender and the sourdough English muffins were slightly tangy and perfectly toasted. I also managed to find room for one of chef Bumbaris' Ancho breakfast sausages, to which I've become addicted. The breakfast potatoes, as I posted upthread, are also amazing and completely obliterated my hash brown craving.

My wife ordered the Banana Bread French Toast stuffed with Sweet Cream Cheese and topped with Candied Banana Planks. This was a massive portion of french toast made from delicious banana bread. The french toast was formed into a sandwich in which the sweetened cream cheese was the filling. Atop the beautifully sliced and plated wedges of the stuffed french toast sandwich were whole banana halves, sliced lengthwise, which had, I imagine, had their flat sides covered with brown sugar and been placed under the salamander. The net result was a perfectly wrought layer of translucent 'candy' completely covering the span of the banana half -- it was as smooth and flat as a layer of stained glass -- and completely over the top.

Service, provided by Adam and crew was wonderful, as usual. As I was leaving, Dan the manager/host and I chatted about Charcuterie. A few weeks back I'd brought Ruhlman's book in to read while I ate. That ultimately prompted chef to send out a plate of delicious Duck Terrine which he had been serving that week. Wow, was it great! Today, I told Dan that I was destined to go home and make some sort of sausage, since when it's 5 out, there's not much else to do. Dan quickly replied that, on the other hand, it was perfect weather for doing some cold smoking. That's how it is at Prairie Grass Cafe -- everyone in the place knows a lot about food. That kind of passion is rare and it shows up on every single plate served at PGC.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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We had dinner last night at Prairie Grass; we've been going at least once a week for a long time now. The service and quality are consistent as always. If I posted about a new discovery each and every time I had one there, I feel I'd come off sounding like a broken record, as each and every item I've sampled has never failed to impress me.

Last night's revelation was the new Banana Cake on the dessert menu. This two-layer banana bread cake was sandwiched with a light, sweet cream cheese layer and the entire cake frosted with a thin buttercream frosting. Almost like a dessert version of the breakfast menu's amazing Banana Bread French Toast, this cake is light and delicious.

The ancho-marinated skirt steak remains stellar. The now-ubiquotous Non-traditional Shepherd's Pie is being served in a slightly taller, crock-like vessel. Flavors of the short rib base are rich and satisfying as ever.

Bill Kurtis's Tallgrass (all-grassfed) Beef is now being featured on the menu; in NY Strip and Tenderloin versions it's simply grilled, and it also turns up in the Shepherd's Pie's short ribs. Wonderfully complex, the beef has rich mineral notes.

As usual, the menu changes ever-so-subtly every week or two, which helps to keep things interesting.

This place is one of the shining stars of the North Shore.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Abby Polonsky has a great piece about Tallgrass's grass-fed beef -- and Prairie Grass's use of it -- in today's Chicago Tribune:

Stegner, now co-chef/owner of Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, uses Tallgrass meat for every beef dish on the menu and has noticed a spike in beef orders since the restaurant began serving it in December.

Committed to using sustainable yet flavorful products whenever possible, Stegner believes such grass-fed beef will become a staple in the culinary world.

Gaining ground with grass

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Abby Polonsky has a great piece about Tallgrass's grass-fed beef -- and Prairie Grass's use of it -- in today's Chicago Tribune:
Stegner, now co-chef/owner of Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, uses Tallgrass meat for every beef dish on the menu and has noticed a spike in beef orders since the restaurant began serving it in December.

Committed to using sustainable yet flavorful products whenever possible, Stegner believes such grass-fed beef will become a staple in the culinary world.

Gaining ground with grass

=R=

d*amn you chicago-residents who can take-part in wholesome feasts on a regular basis! *envy* :hmmm:

u.e.

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Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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