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July 2014
Summer is finally here, and while the weather has been on the cool side, we're not
Patio with lanterns 1
Our intimate outdoor patio is your best choice for home-cooked Southern food, cocktails, and local draft beers
complaining! Summer means not only lovely outdoor seating on our back patio, but also abundant fruits and vegetables from our family of local farms. This means an uptick in our vegetarian and vegetable-based options, and our summer menus are in full swing. We still have favorites such as the pimiento cheeseburger and fried chicken which make great summer eating, but now is the time to take advantage of the more than two dozen heirloom fruits and vegetables we bring in each week from local farms!

We're taking it a little easy with summer events this year, to catch our breath ahead of the release of The Big Jones Cook Book on University of Chicago Press early next year, but we have a few favorite events where you can see us and help raise money for good causes. Of course we are here seven days a week and hope you will stop by and see us soon!
Sea Island Pea Fritters are made the same way as falafel, with a certified organic heritage red pea from South Carolina
The Green City Market Chef Barbecue is next Thursday, July 17 and is easily the coolest culinary event of the year. Join us and eighty of Chicago's other top restaurants as we get out our coolers and grills and showcase market produce like you won't see anywhere else all year! The barbecue raises most of the funds needed for new farmer outreach and children's programs. There are still tickets available but it will sell out in advance, so buy soon!

BLU at the Shedd Aquarium is Saturday, July 26 and is a spectacular event which takes place throughout the aquarium, with top restaurants and mixologists serving sustainable seafood and delicious drinks. The event is one of the essential fundraisers for the Shedd's Great Lakes conservation program, a key link in the protection of Chicago's home watershed.

Taste of the Nation is Wednesday, August 13 at the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom. A spectacular event in a magnificent space on Lake Michigan at the end of the pier, most of Chicago's best chefs will be there, along with top mixologists and confectioners. It's a fundraiser for Share Our Strength, one of the country's leading nonprofits combating child hunger. Come see us and let's feed some hungry kids!

Summer menus are out and the cool new dishes are too many to list but we're proud to say our produce, meat, and dairy are nearly 100% local now through the end of the growing season - it's the best time of year to eat at Big Jones, so we hope you'll come see us regularly and often!

The best part of cooking in the summer is featuring our local farm produce. And wild Alaskan Salmon!
Sometimes a simple slice of homemade blueberry pie with local fruit is just the best!

Book Corner


Soul Food
The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine 

In the wake of the closure of many of Chicago's iconic soul food restaurants such as Army and Lou's, Izola's, and Soul Queen, we often receive calls inquiring if we are a soul food restaurant.

It's always been a tough question to answer, because we definitely serve many dishes that are part of the soul food lexicon - fried chicken, vinegary greens, butterbeans, and fried catfish, but as a regional Southern restaurant, it would be dishonest to lay claim to that legacy. Soul food, while deeply rooted in Southern home cooking, is more like Southern cooking's northern cousin - an urban creation of African Americans yearning for a taste of home after a move north, or to the big city.

We've learned to answer that question with a welcoming, yet qualified, explanation that while we are a regional Southern restaurant, much of our menu is so closely related to soul food that they will find many dishes on the menu that fit the bill, but the selection won't be as extensive as you might find in a restaurant that specializes in soul food. Yet, as more of Chicago's soul food restaurants close, it's a keen interest of ours to make a place at our table for people looking for this particular and delicious American cuisine. This is a book that's helping us piece the stories together and make them fit.

Paul met Adrian Miller a few years ago at a Southern Foodways Alliance symposium over lunch, and the conversation meandered around obscure heirloom varieties of collard greens, the evolution of chitlins from Big House cooking to African American holiday tradition, red drinks, and ultimately, the ambitious book Miller was working on about the origins and evolution of soul food.

Soul Food: The surprising history of an American cuisine was released earlier this year on University of North Carolina Press and has garnered critical acclaim, including the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Scholarship and Reference. Lovingly and obsessively researched and footnoted, Soul Food is a great read in and of itself but its bibliography yields dozens more sources for further reading, the mark of a truly great book.

Miller eats his way across the country in more than a hundred soul food restaurants and documents his findings, and builds a model soul food meal around a handful of the most iconic soul food dishes, relating the history and legends behind each one. Why is fried chicken, which likely came to the U.S. by way of Great Britain, a soul food? Why are black eyed peas and greens a thing on New Years? (the answer will surprise you) And what of red drinks? Banana pudding? Cornbread? He lays it all out in easygoing prose, impressive for a scholarly book, and with a healthy dose of good humor to make it fun.

Soul Food is highly recommended for anyone interested in culinary history, African American foodways, Southern home cooking, or just acquiring some great recipes to work with at home.

July's Whiskey of the Month:
Clyde May's Conecuh Ridge Whiskey

We are pleased to introduce Clyde May's whiskey as our July Whiskey of the Month. Clyde May was a farmer and WWII veteran who decided to make moonshine to supplement his income, a common pastime in his home territory around the Conecuh Ridge in Southern Alabama. One of the unlucky ones, Clyde found himself doing time in a Federal penitentiary, yet upon his release he did what any moonshiner at heart would do - he went right back to making moonshine.


Clyde May did a couple of things which were unusual for a moonshiner - he aged his whiskey in charred oak barrels, as was common for Bourbon. In the hot climes of Southern Alabama, the whiskey would age relatively quickly.  He also added oven-dried apples to his barrels, to smooth out the whiskey and give it a little extra fruit character.


In 2002, Clyde's son Kenny May decided to go into the family business, legit this time, and opened a distillery. Since then, they have been making a unique and delicious whiskey according to Clyde's old formula, which he liked calling "Alabama Style." Their efforts have been rewarded with many awards and gold medals at prestigious tasting events, and an excellent rating of 93 from the Wine Enthusiast. We encourage you to give it a try, it's unlike any whiskey you've ever tried, and probably the smoothest, in spite of its bottling at 86 proof.


The mash bill consists of corn, rye, and malted barley. On the nose, caramel and coconut leap out of the glass, and on the palate the malty grain flavors are still in the forefront, typical for a 4-year whiskey, but the fruit flavors of dried apple and orange peel take over mid palate, as a rich, boozy cream character envelops the tongue. The finish of black tea, candy apple, and charcoal is as refreshing as it is intriguing. Heady stuff. Bring in your passport for a complimentary pour any time during July!


It's free to join the Big Jones Bourbon Society, just ask your server or bartender to sign up on your next visit. You'll receive a passport to forty of our more than sixty whiskeys. On each visit, members are welcome to one complimentary pour of the Whiskey of the Month (WOM) which will usually (but not always) be a straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Big Jones Bourbon Society members will also receive invitations to members-only events such as whiskey tastings and whiskey socials.


Shrimp and Grits, a classic since the day we opened
Filling homemade devil's food cake with local cherries and pastry cream 
Refreshing new dessert of coconut macaroon with rum custard, raspberries, and mint
Thanks for reading!

Paul and Mark at Big Jones

Big Jones � 5347 N. Clark St., Chicago � 773-275-5725

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