We have been meaning to try Big Jones ( 5347 North Clark Street) for a long time, and when we took a look at their Big Southern menu with elevated takes on lowcountry, cajun and creole classics, we certainly weren’t disappointed! Big Jones itself is very simple and clean, with wrought iron chairs, damask wallpaper and cool marble tables. The dark restaurant that is much deeper than it looks with lots of room for tables – seriously – it just keeps going. Big Jones has a slightly retro vibe, but certainly no kitsch, and that definitely set the tone for the night.
For those beverage connoisseurs, there was a huge selection of both American and imported Whiskey and Bourbon, and you can even join a Bourbon tasting club, where you can get a passport to stamp, and when you have gotten 46 stamps you earn the title of “Master Taster.” You are definitely spoiled for choice on other parts of the menu as well. M particularly liked the ability to build your own charcuterie plate. M sampled the Boudin Rouge ($6), a blood sausage he had tried on a visit to Baton Rouge, and tasso ($7), a heavily cured and spiced ham. The tasso came with a side of pimento cheese, made with our perennial favorite, Hook’s cheddar, which was fantastic.
First off, we were depressed that there were no biscuits available for dinner, since we will eat biscuits at any opportunity available. The waitress implied that we should have known that, but who doesn’t want biscuits ALL the time (Suggestion to Big Jones: have biscuits available all the time). We tried to fill the biscuit shaped hole in our heart with other sides. First up: cornbread with honey butter ($6). This cornbread come out in its own cute mini cast iron skillet, and was served with shallots, whipped butter and local honey, which was a real complement to the light and crispy cornbread. For another starter, we tried the cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes ($8), tasty but not as memorable as the cornbread.
We tried to get a sampling of dishes from the menu, and we heard especially glowing things about the fried chicken. The fried chicken, though a little expensive ($23 for a half) was an absolutely huge portion, enough for two: a breast, thigh, wing and drumstick. It also came with a side of chicken and dumplings and collard greens. The highlight of the fried chicken was the delicious buttermilk and cornmeal breading, and the crispy skin, which had been fried in fried in leaf lard, ham drippings, and clarified butter (not for the diet-minded). Though the chicken was not quite as moist as it could be, the juicy crust made up for this minor shortfall. Our other main entree was shrimp and grits ($17), made with heirloom grits dotted with cheese, mushrooms, tasso ham, and butter. The grits were extraordinarily velvety and creamy, but with a very strong tasso flavor, in case you are not feeling bacon-y.
We finished up the meal with a decadent trio of homemade gelato: salted caramel, chocolate and the more unusual mamey fruit flavor. We really enjoyed our meal at Big Jones, it was an elevated southern experience that wouldn’t have been out of place in the restaurant scene of Savannah or Charleston. We appreciated the obvious care they put into the sourcing and preparation of their food, and their respect for Southern foodways. Especially on a cold night, it’s nice to be transported to the south.