Minnesota Nice, meet Southern Hospitality.
Sift through the menu at Uptown’s newest restaurant, BoneYard Kitchen and Bar, and it’s like flipping through the recipes of Chef Jason Bush’s youth.
Growing up, Bush spent his childhood in his grandmother’s Georgia kitchen, learning the ins and outs of southern cuisine. Now, he’s taking what he learned and sharing the flavors with Minnesota diners longing for an authentic taste of the south.
“The way I describe the menu is a trip across the American south through grandmothers’ kitchens,” he said. “The way that I cook my food is that I like to cook food the way a grandmother would. The whole goal is people come in here and feel like they’re having Sunday supper at grandma’s house.”
That translates into a pimento cheese dip that appears under the dips & spreads, as well as the base for a delectable mac and cheese, plus the true traditions of real barbecue. But the crème de la crème has to be Bush’s bacon wrapped duck meatloaf from his Aunt Duane.
Why duck meatloaf? Aunt Duane’s son — Bush’s cousin — had a duck and quail farm so there was always plenty of bird to go around. Instead of ground beef, a common sight was seeing Aunt Duane with her trusty hand-crank grinder preparing a batch of ground duck.
“And that’s how she’d make her meatloaf,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that whenever I eat that dish, it’s like I’m an 8-year-old boy again. I’m sitting there at the supper table, with my uncle right next to me, and we’re all sitting down together as a family having dinner. That’s what a lot of this food does.”
Taking pages from Aunt Duane’s decades-old recipe Rolodex certainly presented its challenges, especially when cooking was done from the heart and to taste — not to exact measurements.
“She’s the sweetest lady, God rest her soul – she’s not with us anymore – but when she measured stuff, she measured stuff in half eggshells,” Bush said. “So I actually had to get a half eggshell and measure it out and see, OK that equals two teaspoons, so that’s the conversion for it.”
And, of course, cooking for the dinner rush at a trendy Minneapolis restaurant is a bit different than for a family around the supper table. So Chef Bush worked to ensure preparing a dish for 400 would still feel like a warm, intimate, home-cooked meal.
After about nine months of editing, Bush had a menu he felt good about, thanks to input from his staff and a few tweaks here and there.
Serving everything from brunch to late-night snacks, the selection focuses on specific regions — a Texas-style brisket, pulled pork from the Carolina’s and Kansas City-inspired pulled meats. Bush said he wanted his menu to be a true representation that covers a wide map of the south.
“We do it up the right way,” he said. “It’s an uncompromising version of the south. It’s not like southern food for Minnesota tastes.”
That also means, doing things low and slow — brisket and pork shoulder smoked in a southern fried smoker for 12 hours, ribs smoked for four hours and all the chicken and shrimp smoked in-house.
But what’s a good smoked brisket without a tasty, strong drink to enhance the experience? Bush said the two really go hand-in-hand — the drink menu features an extensive whisky list with more than 40 bourbons, ryes, scotches and more. Not to mention the church organ-inspired tap system, ready to pour more than 25 craft beers.
BoneYard is also the latest offering from the Kaskaid Hospitality group, best known for creating CRAVE restaurants, figlio and Union — to mention a few. And if it has the chance, Chef Bush admits he’d love to see BoneYard expand beyond its Uptown location.
“I would love to see BoneYard be the catalyst for southern cuisine making it nationwide. That would be excellent,” he said. “To be able to represent my family across America is a dream.”
Though they’ve only been open a week, Bush said he feels they’re on the right track.
“I had one lady from Pensacola, Fla. that told me the snapper dish that we do here brought her back to being home in Pensacola. You can’t do anything better than that. That’s the dream right there,” he said.
With spring around the corner, guests can look forward to a three-season outdoor patio and bar with a retractable awning and a nice, backyard feel.
And until then, Chef Bush is just happy to welcome Minnesota residents to a seat at his family’s dining table — with flavors that will, hopefully, make them feel right at home.
“I want everyone to just feel comfortable,” he said. “I want them to feel like they’re at home when they’re here. And I want them to have a smile on their face when they’re eating. And I want them to go away satisfied and I want them to come back for more.”
BoneYard is located on 2831 Hennepin Ave. S. in Minneapolis. For menus, hours and more, check out their website.