George Bumbaris and Sarah Stegner, co-owners of Prairie Grass Cafe, are the culinary version of Bogart and Bacall. Â They’re not romantically involved, as the magnificent screen team was, but as a legendary local kitchen duo, their stars shine just as bright.
Veterans of Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton, they shelved the four-star glitz in favor of more personalized four-star comfort, with a serious commitment to locally focused cooking at Prairie Grass.
Using organic vegetables from Chicago’s Green City Market (Stegner was one of the founding chefs) and Bill Kurtis’ hormone-free Tallgrass Beef, they are conscious chefs. Â And on Sept. 16, they hosted a discussion and cooked an all-local lunch to celebrate the end of the Chicago Localvore Challenge, where participants spent a week attempting to eat only locally grown and produced foods.
Q: What do you wish you could change or pickle and preserve about the Chicago restaurant/ food/drink scene?
Stegner: Â I really like what is going on in the drink “scene,” with using local ingredients to make the most amazing cocktails. Â I had a local cherry sangria at Nacional 27 that was great. Â At Prairie Grass Cafe, we serve a local strawberry-infused North Shore Vodka drink.
Bumbaris: Â Chefs have greater access to seasonal ingredients; our food tastes that much better, and the community and environment win, too.
Q: What would your last pastry be?
Stegner: Â A slice of my mom’s pie.
Bumbaris: Â A chocolate eclair made by our old pastry chef at the Ritz, En-Ming Su.
Q: Where do you eat or drink before or after a shift?
Stegner: Â I spend most of my time with my daughter before work. Â We go to Lulu’s in Evanston on weekdays, and on Saturdays, we go to the Evanston Farmers Market for fresh fruit from Morlock Farms.
Bumbaris: Â My wife makes the best coffee in town, so we kick back and drink her coffee before I head out for the day.
Q: What’s the can’t-miss dish at Prairie Grass?
Stegner: Â I’d say our shepherd’s pie or braised short ribs, with homemade barbecue sauce and mashed potatoes.
Bumbaris: Â Weekend brunch. Â The PGC benedict — our take on the traditional eggs benedict: two poached eggs, sauteed spinach, Nueske’s bacon, English muffin and roasted-tomato hollandaise. Â Or our potato skins, covered in scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, Nueske’s bacon, scallions and sour cream.
Q: What should we know about Prairie Grass that we probably don’t?
Stegner: Â We make our sausage by hand.
Bumbaris: Â Our moussaka is a version of my wife’s family recipe.
Prairie Grass Cafe; 601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook (847) 205-4433