When I dine out, I try to order things from the menu that I cannot make for myself at home. Not being very skilled in the kitchen, this opens up a wide range of options for me. Considering that I was the girl who, up until around age 20, would rarely stray from ordering chicken fingers and French fries at a restaurant, I am quite proud of the recent expansion of my palette and the type and variety of foods I have now tried (and liked). I certainly needed this culinary curiosity on my recent trip to Bluegrass. Bluegrass brings down-home cooking with a contemporary edge to the Federal Hill restaurant scene through their innovative, Southern-inspired menu – it’s a unique departure from the norm in Federal Hill and like nothing else I’ve seen (in my admittedly recent and limited experience).
As with many Baltimore restaurants, Bluegrass makes its home in a renovated row house. I found the initial atmosphere and style of the restaurant to be similar to what I have come to expect from the neighborhood – brick exterior, hardwood floors and stylish furnishings without being pretentious. I met my friend and dining companion at the second floor bar area. I settled in and perused the Specialty Cocktails menu. Although Bluegrass boats its very own sommelier who has carefully chosen an impressive wine list to fit the categories: classy ladies, big and lusty, the gentlemen, and the incredible hulks– a creative touch which I LOVE – I decided to start with the Pamatini. It’s a fact that I am instantly attracted to anything pink and served in a martini glass. The mixture of citrus vodka, pomegranate liquor, cranberry juice, and fresh lime was the perfect way to unwind. Balancing my Pamatini in my right hand, I begin to look over the menu with my left. A few of the items that stuck out were an Iced Tea Brined Duck Breast, Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope Loin, Gunpowder Bison Strip Loin – I had a very Dorothy-esque “we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore” moment.
We had decided to order an array of appetizers to get a well-rounded taste of Bluegrass’ offerings. My dinner partner went with shoestring fries, crawfish hush puppies, oysters, rabbit and beet salad, and the Grand Southern sampler. The first three of his choices I was in agreement with, the later made me a tad apprehensive. With a sip of the Pamatini and a shrug of my shoulders I conceded to his choices. As I began to devour the shoestring French fries with some sort of mayo remoulade and crawfish hush puppies with a tomato aioli, all was right with the world. The dishes offered the perfect mixture of flavorful sophistication paired with comforting tastes I knew and loved. As we finished off the last few bites of our first course satisfied thus far with what the restaurant had to offer we moved forward with round two!
Enter the Rabbit and Beet Salad and the Grand Southern Sampler – including Benton’s ham, rabbit pate, duck speck, deviled eggs, and pickled okra. The only item from that list I had any certainty I would be able to stomach were the deviled eggs. It was time to order another drink, only this time the Havana Side Car. If I was going to put a piece of rabbit pate into my mouth I would certainly need something a little bit heftier than a Pamatini to do so. The rabbit and beet salad made its way out and to my surprise was not a salad at all, if your definition of salad includes lettuce which mine does. Just the rabbits, and the beets………upon further inspection the rabbit was wrapped in bacon, now there was something I could get down with. I placed a small piece of the rabbit on my fork and into my mouth it went. That was all I needed to know that rabbit was not my thing. My dining companion on the other hand went to town on that rabbit. The Grand Southern Sampler platter was full of interesting bold flavors, and one VERY delicious deviled egg.
If you are looking for an adventurous dining experience and some really great food and drinks I would definitely recommend Bluegrass. While I’ll admit some of the flavors aren’t for the gastronomically timid, after sampling the backwoods-cuisine-turned-haute you will be able to cross a few food items off of your bucket list of things to try. Click HERE to review their full menu, and please note that reservations are recommended.