Dining A La King: Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub brings Southern to north Elkhart
If you look at the menu for Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub, you might think the name is tied to the way pork stars here.
There’s bacon on the deviled eggs, in the waffles served with fried chicken and in the aioli (mayonnaise). There are pork rinds and country ham and tasso ham and andouille sausage and pork pastrami.
So, it’s fitting that Bacon Hill is the name of the neighborhood where this Southern gastropub sits in a shopping center at 4000 E. Bristol St., on the northeast side of Elkhart.
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Chef Zach Lucchese opened the spot in the former Firehouse with his brother, David. It’s where these two young men, 30 and 28, respectively, have crafted a restaurant with “Pulp Fiction” characters on the wall, Avett Brothers playing over the speakers and as many as 100 griddled burgers coming out of the kitchen every day.
4000 E. Bristol St., Elkhart
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 to 11 Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 9 to 2 Sunday
The brothers aren’t doing the Italian food of Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant, where they both worked at one time.
Instead, they’ve brought Southern food to Elkhart in a different way than anyone else has, and are making it with northern ingredients when they can, including DC Meats and Kruse vegetables.
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The food at Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub isn’t super fancy or pretentious, but isn’t simple either. The dining room and bar, as well as the menu and website, show David’s graphic design skill.
The BLT has fried green tomato, pork belly, greens, pimiento cheese and comeback sauce – a condiment they make by mixing mayo, ketchup and other items – on Texas toast ($10). It’s a solid sandwich, but wouldn’t be confused with a conventional BLT.
The brothers were anticipating selling bottles of wines and entrees, but are actually selling more burgers and craft beer than they expected.
About half the those ordering burgers are building their own. The other half order the Bacon Hill Burger ($11) with American cheese, housemade pickles, griddled onions, bacon and comeback sauce on two patties.
Those expecting the cheap food and beer of the Firehouse might be in for a surprise, but the Luccheses say they worked to build a menu that can fit nearly any budget. They know the restaurant is near residential areas, as well as an industrial park, so the demographics vary widely.
At $8 to $11, Bacon Hill’s burgers and sandwiches are less expensive than some other spots locally, but depending on the entree and drink, the bill total will mount.
As often happens with a first menu, there’s irregularity with the pricing. You can get a deluxe burger with potato salad, fries or pub chips for $8, the same price as six deviled egg halves with chives and a bit of bacon. There aren’t many restaurants where you can order deviled eggs and Zach said those sell well, but are a bit pricey for now. The same goes for the appetizer of pimiento cheese with a few crackers for $7.
Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays has been popular. That’s also where pastry chef Jessica Ippilito is shining with baked goods. I haven’t had the cronuts or cinnamon rolls at breakfast, but her other desserts mirror the inventiveness and good flavors in the rest of the menu.
The salted caramel ice cream between two snickerdoodles with caramel sauce was massive and hard to stop eating, though the next version’s cookie should be a bit more tender.
The flavors are full and good, but the biggest issue with Bacon Hill right now is how much it is a carnivore’s menu. While dishes can be customized, most of the offerings have meat, something fried or both. Adding fried goat cheese or fried green tomatoes to a salad is a great idea, but there should also be something for those who want something lighter.
The star of the menu might be the humble fried green tomatoes, which are $8 as an appetizer. A number of customers have been ordering them and relishing the nostalgia that seems to come with them, David said.
Zach said he served a grilled portabella slider at his pop-up at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, which could be on the menu soon.
For now, those who eat gluten- or meat-free will have to work to be satisfied at Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub.
The corn on the cob with cilantro lime butter or asparagus are on the menu as the veggies, but could use some company. Most of the entrees come with cheddar grits or buttermilk mashed potatoes.
What customers can’t do is come in and order a favorite cocktail with big-name vodka. Bacon Hill has Journeyman spirits made in Three Oaks, Mich. Some customers have balked, but many have tried the local spirits and have come to love them.
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“For the most part, people are willing to embrace the Journeyman thing,” David said.
Like the owners, much of the service staff is young. By and large, the servers are fairly attentive. The owners said there will be a transition as the students they hired go back to school and they continue seeking good help.
People are embracing this new restaurant with its funky Southern food, its brunch and the Bloody Mary that comes with a skewer of pickled okra, a shrimp, bacon and a pickle slice.
“It’s good to be back in Elkhart,” Zach said.
Elkhart is good with this kind of Southern food.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.