Bistro on the Greens Brings Southern Flavor and Jazz Music to LaPorte
LAPORTE — The jazz music that wafts through the air at Bistro on the Greens, combined with the flavors of the dishes it serves, tells John Moultrie’s story one note at a time.
Formerly called Bourbon Street Bistro and located in downtown LaPorte, Bistro on the Greens changed its name in 2017 when it moved to its current location next to the pro shop at Legacy Hills Golf Club. The restaurant serves Southern-style cuisine with a little jazz on the side.
“I think (the decor) goes a lot with the food,” Moultrie says, pointing to the large paintings of great jazz musicians and musical instruments hanging on the wall. “Plus, it tells a story through and through, from my background in conjunction with food, as well as cultural history and how it connects to everything.”
Bistro on the Green — which Moultrie hopes to soon turn into a Friday night jazz club — serves Southern favorites such as chicken and waffles, gumbo, jambalaya, smothered chicken, and blackened chicken.
“Louisiana cuisine is a hodgepodge, a total mix of everything because part is Spanish influenced, part African, Indian and also French influence,” explains the restaurateur. “So we pull from all of those backgrounds, and it’s married into the food.”
For those intimidated by fried alligator, salmon croquettes and catfish, the restaurant also offers flavors from a little further north, like its bourbon apple pork chop.
“We have to have a little for everyone,” says Moultrie. “We recognize that not everyone will like Cajun food or southern food, but as long as someone who enjoys it brings someone who doesn’t, we can feed that too.”
For those unsure of Southern cuisine, Moultrie can probably find a flavor to suit everyone’s taste buds. He says if he had to have a food philosophy, it would be “tasty foods made simple.”
“I always tell everyone here that we’re in the flavor business, and that’s what it is,” he says. “I think our cooking is simple, and if it’s done well, it doesn’t have to be avant-garde. It just has to taste good. »
According to Moultrie, there are two common misconceptions when it comes to Southern cooking. The first is that it’s really spicy.
“We don’t see our food as spicy, we see it as tasty,” he says. “A lot of people misunderstand what Cajun food is and think it’s cayenne over other ingredients that impart flavor and not heat.”
The restaurant makes its own Cajun seasoning, combining 12 different spices to achieve just the right flavor.
The second misconception about Southern food, Moultrie says, is that it can’t be healthy.
“Not all Southern foods are unhealthy,” he says. “We do not use products containing MSG. We have made vegan and vegetarian items to go along with the Southern dishes. Not everything is cooked in lard or bacon fat. I think this is another misconception about food.
Bistro on the Greens is not Moultrie’s first restaurant. During the 90s, he owned more than a dozen establishments. Several were located in the Chicago area, including a nightclub called Jazz Oasis.
“It was the first African-American-owned jazz club in downtown Chicago,” he says.
After selling his business — which included all of his restaurants — in 2001, Moultrie served as operations manager for Downtown Disney, worked for Wolfgang Puck and helped organize jazz festivals throughout the region.
“For the past 20 years, I was doing everything except what I was supposed to do,” he says. “I wasn’t cooking.”
Although Moultrie grew up in Chicago, her passion for Southern cuisine stems from her family’s roots in the South.
“My uncle was the first African-American head of the Santa Fe Railroad,” he says. “So I always grew up around someone who cooked.”
The owner of the restaurant admits that at a young age he believed that the kitchen was only for women. He changed his mind after his uncle died and his mother and aunt explained the depth of his family’s culinary history.
“My great-grandmother was a slave in Louisiana,” he says. “It was bought and sold by a Spanish plantation and then bought back during this period. I believe in 1910 she eventually emigrated to St. Augustine, Florida, where she opened a restaurant. She died shortly after the restaurant opened. The restaurant didn’t really make any money, because she felt guilty charging people who couldn’t afford it. She only sold what my grandfather could catch.
With an interest in cooking piqued by family history, Moultrie attended the Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute, where he learned to put his own spin on family recipes.
Today, with Bistro on the Greens, the restaurateur is able to combine his passion for jazz music – which he also enjoyed due to his family’s southern roots – and serve cuisine inspired by his own history.
“I’m most proud of this restaurant because it reminds me of all the places I’ve been, rolled into one,” he says. “…When I look at my jazz club and see all the paintings, and then when I look at the food itself that goes on the plate, it’s my childhood on the table.”
• What: Southern cuisine
• Where: 299 W. Johnson Road, LaPorte
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. CDT Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. CDT Friday and Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. CDT Sunday
• Prices: $28-$6
• For more information: Call 219-575-7272 or visit bistroonthegreens.com