Chef Jeff Burris of Polaris Grill talks about the American bistro and his early days in the kitchen.

Polaris Grill stands testimony to the classic American bistro.

Executive chef Jeff Burris sees to that.

Burris, now a Food & Wine contributor, was one of four founding chefs when Polaris Grill, part of the defunct 55 Restaurant Group, opened in 1997.

That was back when there was a destination entertainment venue, Polaris Amphitheater, and before Polaris Fashion Place and the explosion of retail across the parkway.

The restaurant is at 1835 Polaris Parkway, on the east side of I-71, nestled in a cluster of hotels.

"But we're also surrounded by hundreds of restaurants," Burris said, with a bit of hyperbole. "Luckily, we were one of the first ones here, so we have a loyal clientele."

Burris started working as a dishwasher in 1979 at the Marion Country Club and quickly ascended to line cook. About a decade later, he was hired with the 55 Restaurant Group, which later sold the grill to Darren
Green and Cliff Madden.

Burris was named executive chef in 1998.

There's a core menu of Polaris Grill favorites - a bevy of chops, wild mushroom soup, crab cakes and the classic "55" salad - that will never go off the menu, he said. Meanwhile, a portion of the menu is dedicated to new offerings. Currently, the restaurant is featuring its New Orleans menu, complete with jambalaya and Louisiana bread pudding.

He gives much praise to the chefs before him, such as Jeff Hollenback.

"He taught me a lot," Burris said.