Midwestern diner offers modern menu

May 22, 2009 (CHICAGO) If you're going and don't want to stop for fast food, we have a suggestion.

It's tucked away near the Indiana Dunes - just a few yards from the Beverly Shores train stop.

Regulars to the area already know about the Miller Bakery Cafe in Miller Beach and the popular bistro 157 in Valpo.

Now, the husband-wife owners of both those local favorites have teamed up to give birth to their third restaurant.

It's an unassuming Midwestern roadhouse with a pretty ambitious menu. In other words, a perfect stop for any weekend excursion this summer.

Imagine the roadside diner in all of its nostalgia, but tweaked with a thoroughly modern menu, calling on top-quality ingredients. That's the mantra at Bartlett's Gourmet Grill in Beverly Shores where owners Gary Sanders and Nicole Bisonette have launched their third restaurant in the region.

"We're both chefs, we enjoy cooking, we've been successful at our two other endeavors thanks to the good people of Northwest Indiana and we always talked about doing a project together, because we each own our own respective restaurants, and we said that we wanted that third project that we did together to be simple food done well," said Bartlett's Co-Owner, Nicole Bissonette.

Certainly, you wouldn't find low country shrimp and grits with tasso ham in any Midwestern diner from the old days. And oysters play a major role on the menu - either raw or baked Rockefeller style with creamed spinach, a splash of Pernod, crispy smoked bacon and hollandaise. Even the burger is out of the ordinary: it has to be sauteed, since ground prime beef is stuffed with short ribs; homemade shoestring potatoes arrive alongside. Most of the meats, with the exception of the steaks, are smoked on site.

"We have a pellet smoker out back; on the menu we have smoked pulled pork, smoked pork loin chops, we have a great brisket and we feel that something that's unique is we smoke our chicken wings," Bissonette said.

Brined overnight, then smoked for a few hours, they're briefly fried and then tossed in a homemade buffalo sauce - simply delicious. A roasted beet salad has bright notes of citrus, plus peppery arugula and a balsamic dressing.. even the kids eat well here: homemade chicken nuggets with fresh fruit, or thick and hearty mac & cheese with a burnished breadcrumb cap. Desserts are all made on site, including a forest berry tart with a custard cream that's not too sweet. Bissonette says response has been overwhelming, from both locals and visitors to the area.

"They'll come out to Beverly Shores, hike in the state park - which is directly behind us - campgrounds is directly behind us, so this is just an added bonus to those people planning their camping weekends out in the Dunes," said Bissonette.

Incidentally, the name of the restaurant comes from Fredrick Bartlett, who developed Beverly Shores in the 1930s. The town itself took its name from Barlett's daughter.

Bartlett's Gourmet Grill
131 E. Dunes Hwy. 12
Beverly Shores, IN

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