When Stephanie Mulholland, co-owner of the Historic Big Chief,decided to grow her business, she did so literally. Mulholland planted a garden behind the restaurant to save money and to add garden freshness to Big Chief’s menu. She calls gardening her second passion.
“The thought came when I was doing invoicing and realized I had spent over $100 in fresh basil in one month. That’s when I decided I could grow my own basil for about $1,” Mulholland said.
After two growing seasons Mulholland now plants five different types of basil along with an array of produce, from spring/summer crops such as tomatoes, kale, lettuce and peppers to fall crops such as potatoes, greens and winter squash. Vegetables and herbs have become the catalyst for Big Chief’s seasonable menu, debuting each spring and fall.
“We’ve grown into our menu,” Mulholland said. “We do a spring/summer and a fall/winter menu.”
She said some customers can’t wait for summer to end and the fall/winter menu, which rolls out Oct. 1, to begin. Featured during cooler weather are stick-to-your-ribs specialties such as Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken Fried Steak.
Of course, certain Big Chief menu classics are available year-round, along with Saturday garden specials prepared by Big Chief chefs based on what is harvested that day.
“With all the tomatoes and peppers in the garden the chefs have featured homemade stuffed peppers, fresh bruschetta and Caprese salads. A few weeks back we made fried green tomatoes and kale chips,” Mulholland said.
No matter the season, Big Chief’s signature items are a solid selection of entrees, pasta, sandwiches, pizza and salads. Dishes feature smoked meats such as pork, chicken and prime rib and made-from-scratch sides, dressings and sauces.
“We use cherry wood to gently smoke our meats and make all our own sauces and dressings every day. We’re very proud of that,” said Chef John Fox who, as co-owner, oversees the menu from starters to desserts.
“Our most popular starters are our jumbo wings,” Fox said. “They’re not your average wings. They’re big wings that are smoked then flash fried and sauced how you like them.”
Big Chief’s Smoked Jumbo Wings can be tossed with buffalo sauce; however, consider trying the chipotle barbecue sauce or the teriyaki with pickled ginger and pineapple glaze. Other great in-house sauces featured on Big Chief dishes include the roasted garlic cream sauce, which drapes the three-cheese Stuffed Baby Portabellas and the wasabi ranch dressing dip paired with lightly breaded fried green beans.
Pomodoro tomato sauce is coupled with the garlic cream to make Toasted Lasagna, a one-of-a-kind dish that has become a house specialty.
Ranking high among customer favorites are the Chief’s Smoked Brisket and the Smoked Pork Chop, which is delicately smoked and brushed with a savory apricot jalapeno glaze.
The Smoked Beef Brisket Horseshoe plate stacks crisp French fries with Chef Fox’s 12-hour smoked brisket, drizzled with chipotle barbecue sauce and served with baked beans and cole slaw.
Menu items are paired with beer suggestions, reflecting the 12 brews on tap, nine of which are locally brewed. Non-beer drinkers can check out Big Chief’s wine list.
“We’re hosting a garden party wine tasting on Sept. 17 from 6-8 p.m.,” said Mulholland. “You can tour the garden, sample wines and then vote for your favorites. We want customer feedback on what they like because that’s what will make it on the menu.”