Southern roots and soul
Hebron Grille, “where everyone knows your name”
“Distinctively Southern, Soulfully Unique” is what Executive Chef Daren Harris says he likes to think he is serving his customers at the 6-year-old Hebron Grille, located in Boone County in northern Kentucky, and served by Owen Electric.
“My style of cooking is certainly influenced by the southern women who nurtured me and raised me—my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother,” says Harris.
“There is a family history of fantastic women managing a bunch of hungry farmers,” says Harris, who learned to cook at a very early age standing over his great grandmother’s stove. “I can remember the smells and the taste of the foods. My great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother would cook every meal. We rarely ate food out.”
Harris says he learned to appreciate food by working on the family’s 15-acre vegetable farm.
“I would wake up in the summer to sound of my great-grandfather’s tractor plowing the fields outside of my bedroom window,” says Harris. “We had fields of green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, corn, cabbage, zucchini, etc. The women would break beans and can vegetables, the kids would play and work—the boys would work in the fields. We also had a roadside vegetable stand where we sold vegetables by the pound and by the bushel to make some extra money, but mostly so the vegetables didn’t go to waste. I can remember selling tomatoes 3 pounds for $1.”
Harris says he took those southern roots and principles and put a modern, creative spin on them at Hebron Grille.
Along with Harris, and about 27 other employees, there are three sous chefs who, he says, bring very different styles and talents to the kitchen. “Chef Amanda Gunderson has her degree from Midwest Culinary Institute and has been with us since we opened. Chefs Ann Sloan and Troy Conley come from the corporate restaurant world and have been working in the industry for many years.”
Harris decided to get into the restaurant business because of a true love of foods and all that it offers. “I love the creativity, I love the rush from a server coming back to the kitchen and saying ‘Chef, table 23 said the food was the best thing they have ever eaten.’ That is the high that chefs chase. It isn’t the money.”
Known as a hamburger restaurant (how about a Bad Bama Jama, the Bleu Bayou or an Angry Angus?), Hebron Grille’s menu goes far beyond their specialty burgers.
Top customer raves go to the Alabama Potato and Alabama Tacos—“or anything with the Alabama white sauce”—as well as the Sunday Meatloaf, Catfish Grand Bayou and Hebron “Hot” Honey Fried Chicken.
Harris admits, “There’s one recipe that I’ll go to my grave before I’ll give it out. I’m known for my White Alabama BBQ.” He spent years perfecting the “white tangy-sweet, mildly-spicy barbecue sauce.”
Just how did he come up with that special sauce? “My father and I go fishing in northern Alabama every year and we would eat at this little sports bar that served this white, tangy-sweet, mildly spicy BBQ sauce. I had never had anything like it. I would come home every year and try to recreate it. After about three years, I got pretty close, but never had it exactly as I remembered,” says Harris.
“Finally, about three months before I opened Hebron Grille, I called the restaurant and asked for the owner/manager. I told him I was a chef and was opening a restaurant 300 miles away and shared my affection for their amazing concoction.” Harris explained that he was not trying to steal their recipe, but if he shared the ingredients he was using, would they tell him if he was right or wrong. “The man said, ‘Change one ingredient, X to X, and you got it.’ I did, and viola! Alabama White Sauce was born in Kentucky.”
Also a popular sports bar, Harris agrees the Grille is “where everybody knows your name,” just like on the 1980s television sitcom Cheers.
And, what’s a sports bar without music? Customers can enjoy live music on Thursday and Saturday nights.
“We have bands that come from Nashville sometimes, we have had artists here who were on The Voice and other TV shows,” says Harris. “Dallas Moore is by far the restaurant favorite. He packs the place most nights he is here. Dallas has such an infectious personality and his music is fun and creative and his talent is unmatched.”
Acoustic Blue is another house favorite, as are Ann and Brian Coleman from Indiana, who play about once a month.
“The boys at the bar anchor the restaurant every day from 3-6 p.m., watching horse racing and SportsCenter, says Harris. “They keep me grounded and put me in my place. And, of course, there is ‘The Hebron Social Club’—as they are affectionately known—“a group of about six or eight unbelievable families who have gathered every Friday night for six years (and several other times a week).”
He says these families have been supporting the business since day one, and he could never repay their loyalty and support.
“I am personally so appreciative of this crazy group of people! These are the people who say, ‘Hey Chef, can you make us something different next week,’ and I make them a special menu. I have always said, this is their restaurant I’m just lucky enough to be able to guide the ship.”
Hebron Grille serves lunch and dinner seven days a week, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Harris also owns Arthur’s Bistro on the Green at the Golf Club, 1911 Golf Club Drive, in Burlington.
Hebron Grille Contact Info
Owners Daren and Amy Harris
1960 North Bend Rd, Hebron, KY 41048
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-12 a.m.