Advantage News | Fred Pollard
Executive chef Mike Cool manages the flame while preparing chicken grachsa, a chicken breast in a sherry cream sauce and sautéed with Portobello mushrooms.
With walls adorned by murals featuring the Piasa Bird and “Gentle Giant” Robert Wadlow, the all-new Bluff City Grill Restaurant and Bar has its roots planted firmly in local history.
“I am excited to have my restaurant right here in Alton,” owner Cathy Gross said.
Gross originally planned to open her new venture in Jerseyville. When those plans fell through, a friend suggested she check out the space available at 102 West 9th, the former home of Allstate Insurance and Copley’s West 9th Restaurant.
“I liked the location, but I didn’t think the space was large enough by itself,” Gross said. “When I found out the dry cleaner space next door was available, that sold me.”
She spent October through December on extensive renovations, including the removal of walls and plenty of paint and new furniture.
“We had a soft opening on Dec. 30,” Gross said. “We have not been doing any advertising at all yet, and yet we have been really busy, so I am really happy about that.”
On Thursday, Jan. 16, and Friday, Jan. 17, Bluff City Grill will have a Grand Opening featuring food and drink specials and live music from “one-man band” Jason “Gordo” Gordon.
“Jason will be playing from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. on the sports bar side,” Gross said.
The event also will give curious and hungry patrons a chance to check out some unique dining experiences such as fried banana peppers, white chicken chili, and a selection of the kitchen’s specially prepared steaks.
“Our wine list has gone over really well, and our draft beers are extremely popular,” Gross said. “The guac bites are a hit, as are the chicken grachsa and the garlic jalapeno tilapia.
“My expectations of exceptional service and great food are what will make this work. Our menu is unique and sets us apart, and our prices are reasonable.”
Gross employs around 55 employees from the local area, including executive bartender Amanda Smith and executive chef Mike Cool, who is a former owner of Bigelow’s Bistro in Edwardsville and is the mastermind behind nearly every dish on the menu.
“The crab stew is great,” Cool said. “It’s a recipe I learned in southern Georgia. It is known as more of a bisque in this part of the country, but we call it stew there.”
This is Gross’ first restaurant. After spending 10 years working for a local establishment, she longed to venture out on her own.
“I finally decided I needed to quit talking about it and just jump in and do it,” she said. “I wanted to have something for everyone; one side has a great sports bar feel, and the other is perfect for families and business dinners.
“It’s like having the best of both worlds.”
Bluff City Grill is open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. (with bar hours from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m.) Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations are available, and full catering is offered. For more information, call (618) 433-8288 or visit the website at www.bcgrill.com.