Back in the late 2000s, 1992 Hosea Williams Drive was home to the quintessential Kirkwood bar, Aces Bar & Grill. Representative of the influx of young gentrifiers, the smoky dive bar served the local 20-somethings well. But times change and 20-somethings grow up. Enter The Pullman.
Partners and Kirkwood locals Heidi Shonkwiler and Dan Wingate set out to open a community-centric gastropub to match the evolving demographic of Kirkwood. When the pair learned that Aces was going under “after a weeks-long stint as the kid-friendly Jak’s All In,” they saw their opportunity to build the pub the neighborhood needed. No longer an adults-only dive bar, The Pullman aims to offer a place to share a few pints with friends, as well as a place to park your stroller while you do it.
The Pullman walks that 30-something line between family-friendly enough to bring the kids along for dinner, but young enough to draw the crowd back in for drinks once the little ones are in bed. Wingate and Shonkwiler teamed up with chef Lotinza Clark from Radial Cafe to create a sampling of seasonal pub grub, offering a late-night menu most nights until midnight or later.
Unlike many self-declared gastropubs, shareable small plates are not the focus here, concentrating instead on sandwiches and entrees. The Oh George ($10), the house burger, comes with a man-sized half-pound patty of local beef, thick bacon slices, manchego cheese and a remarkably fresh yet mild jalapeno mayo. I’m pleasantly surprised by the special of the day: a fried chicken sandwich ($10) on toast, topped with tomato and mixed greens, oozing on all sides with melted pimento cheese.
Among the appetizers, a plate of the Sriracha wings ($8) makes for a great starter to split with friends. The sweet and spicy glazed wings keep just enough of the unmistakable kick of the rooster sauce, tempered just enough to satisfy heat lovers without alienating more timid palates. I was more than happy to hog most of our plate of chicken livers ($6), enjoying the light, flash-fried batter dusted with fresh herbs.
You’ll hear no complaints of small portions when the server airlifts the barbecue short ribs ($13) to your table. This impossibly large slab of slow-roasted beef arrives slathered with peach barbecue sauce atop a sweet potato and plantain hash, and can easily feed two adults. At seeing the shocked look in my eyes my server swears, almost apologetically, that I received the largest rib she’d seen them serve. This eats almost like a moist, braised brisket. Taken in human-sized portions, each bite is excellent, but I couldn’t help but picture some starving child across the world as I returned a plate with 2 pounds of meat still on it.
For a place claiming the gastropub title, I wish the beer selection was a little more extensive, currently offering 12 draft beers and a handful of bottles. However, half of the taps are dedicated to local breweries, and the rest offer a rotating selection of some more obscure beers that should keep most craft brew-heads interested.
Cocktails also get the seasonal treatment, and regularly change. The current menu offers multiple light libations, like the Palace ($8), a summery mix of gin, St. Germain and ginger ale, perfect for sipping on a warm afternoon. Or, spice things up a bit with the tequila-based Lightning Slinger ($8), mixed with pineapple juice, ginger liqueur and a dash of coarse ground black pepper.
A few missteps hint that the crew is still getting their feet under them . The blue cheese mayo is noticeably absent from my blackened chicken sandwich ($9) when I peel back the bun, and a bowl of spinach, artichoke and smoked gouda dip ($7) begs for a few more shakes of salt.
While the service is consistently attentive, I couldn’t help but notice the kitchen fall behind at seemingly odd times. One crowded Sunday brunch, I had no trouble getting my plate of peppered steak and eggs ($12), but on a slow Tuesday evening with only a handful of occupied tables, a plate of falafel and hummus ($7) arrives as we pay our check (for which our repentant server did not charge us.)
The Pullman aims to be the pub where all walks of the community can gather, and at that, they surely succeed. Shonkwiler and Wingate know their neighbors well, and have crafted a cozy little neighborhood tavern that everyone in the Kirkwood area should check out.THE PULLMAN 1992 Hosea Williams Drive N.E., Kirkwood, 404-371-1115
Food: Seasonal pub grub
Service: Friendly, but still working out the kinks
Best dishes: Oh George and Sriracha wings
Vegetarian selections: Most appetizers and salads, and many can be made veggie by request
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard and Discover
Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-
3 a.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-midnight Sundays.
Children: more than welcome
Parking: technically, street parking only and can get very tight.
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: moderate to loud