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The Pinewood Tippling Room restaurant review, Decatur

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We live in a glorious time to be a cocktail drinker in Atlanta. And things just got a little better in Decatur.

Located in the cozy corner spot recently vacated by Cakes & Ale, The Pinewood Tippling Room is Decatur’s newest watering hole for the serious cocktail drinker, courtesy of partners T. Fable Jeon and Cloud Brooks. The slightly rustic, warm dining room centers on an impressive pinewood topped bar and wood framed chalkboards line the walls.

Review by Jon Watson

Review by Jon Watson

The Pinewood is very much about the love of the cocktail. Jeon, the mixologist about town formerly with Sound Table and the Lawrence, is head barkeep and mastermind behind the impressive drink program. His selection of signature cocktails, complete with a bevy of house-made bitters, syrups and sodas, dwarfs the comparatively tight dinner menu. He does some fantastic work behind the stick and a trip to Pinewood without a cocktail or two is a wasted one.

Jump right in with a Hibiscus Fizz ($14), with hibiscus infused gin, lemon, lime, peach preserves, tupelo honey syrup, orange flower water, cream and egg white. The flowery sweetness balances out the frothiness of the egg white, making for a surprisingly light and refreshing sip on a hot summer’s day.

Whiskey lovers are in luck, as Jeon is a kindred spirit. The Goodwood Julep ($13), a twist on the mint julep with bourbon, Averna, Cynar and tarragon, arrives in a dainty frosted silver cup with a rich herbal nose and sweet finish. I’ll have a hard time ordering anything other than the Day That I Die ($11), a rye cocktail with lemon juice, buckwheat honey syrup and roasted Georgia pecan tincture.

Now that's a bologna sandwich (photos by Becky Stein)

Now that's a bologna sandwich (photos by Becky Stein)

Those without the patience for the more complex cocktails should opt for the Pinewood Old Fashioned ($10), kegged and available on tap. If you prefer to go old school, Jeon puts just as much love into the classics. A Moscow Mule ($9), mixed with house-made ginger soda, is as good as any I’ve had.

I always visit a restaurant at least twice before a review, but the Pinewood required a third trip, as details of my first meal remain a little … fuzzy … after so much exploration of the cocktail selection.

The dinner menu, the brainchild of consulting chef Julia LeRoy with a smattering of Cloud’s and Jeon’s family recipes, brings strong Southern influences to the gastro-pub format. It lends itself well to sharing, with small plates, sides and sliders, as well as a meat-and-two format for entrees.

With thick-cut slices of crisped Pine Street Market bologna, a slice of fried green tomato and a dollop of spicy egg salad, the Fried Bologna Sandwich ($8) erases any memory of the mystery meat of my childhood. My only gripe is the “spicy” egg salad lacks any real heat, but I’m not sure this actually needs it. Similarly, the Blackened Shrimp Tamales ($12) could use a re-write. Cheese grits stand in for the masa and what arrives is an order of shrimp and grits plated on a corn husk. I wish I wasn’t distracted by the misnomer, focusing instead on the well-seasoned shrimp and smooth, cheesy grits.

Sliders: the perfect bar bites

Sliders: the perfect bar bites

Rather than choose between the four sliders ($3.50 each), order one each of the Bacon Burger, Fried Pork Chop with gravy, Fried Green Tomato with remoulade and the Po’ Baby. If you must choose, the lightly fried shrimp and black pepper slaw on the Po’ Baby is the standout.

An order of Chicken Tickers ($8) shows no hint of toughness, though the light batter can take a backseat to the Valentina dipping sauce. And the schnitzel-style Buttermilk Chicken that arrives with my meat-and-two Pinewood Plate ($14) comes in a crunchy butter cracker and panko crust, popping with flavor and surprisingly moist. Paired with a side of slightly sour collard greens and the white corn and bacon succotash, this is Southern fried bliss.

If there are kinks left to work out in the kitchen, they are few, but the same cannot be said about the service. It is apparent the green staff is still learning to cope with the overwhelming crowds. Cocktails, which admittedly are more complex than a Jack and Coke, can take 20-plus minutes to arrive and on one visit, more than one small plate was mixed up with a nearby table’s. Until they have a few more months under their belt, I recommend a little patience and another cocktail.

Service issues aside, the Pinewood hits all of the marks that they aim for — a fantastic neighborhood place for a well-made cocktail and some modern Southern cuisine to wash them down with. With a little more tweaking of the menu and some practice with the wait staff, this is primed to become a destination spot in no time.

The Pinewood Tippling Room – Decatur
254 West Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, 404-373-5507
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Food: Southern inspired small plates and meat-and-two

Service: Friendly, but still green and can get flustered
Best dishes: Fried bologna sandwich, chicken tickers, crunchy buttermilk chicken
Vegetarian selections: Multiple veggies, but about half are Southern style and made with meat
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover
Hours: 6 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Thursdays, 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Children: Not so much
Parking: It is Decatur, so you may have to walk a bit, but you should find a spot
Reservations: No
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderate to loud
Patio: No
Takeout: Yes
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19 comments Add your comment

sansho1

July 12th, 2012
6:50 am

I still mourn the passing of Viet Chateau in that spot. I guess the rents in downtown Decatur have increased to the point where a humble pho joint can’t make a go of it there. Ah well. Those Decaturites who would elevate drinking from an inherently democratic social lubricant to a fetishistic activity unto itself are rejoicing once again. I’m more of an “order a beer and receive it then” kind of bar patron myself, so I’m not the target audience for this (preciously named) new establishment, but that’s okay. Good on them for using Pine Street Market products.

Hungry Gringo

July 12th, 2012
9:03 am

Sounds great! Can’t wait to stumble home!

FM Fats

July 12th, 2012
9:06 am

Why oh why won’t this place take a reservation? And it was near chaos in that joint a couple of Saturday nights ago. Anyone tried brunch there yet?

david c

July 12th, 2012
9:50 am

Another trendy spot for Republic of Decatur denizens to use up and throw away. Although, that Fried Bologna Sandwich with a Moscow Mule sounds very tempting.

Katie

July 12th, 2012
11:00 am

I just was at the Pinewood last night, and they have changed the menu and removed the Pinewood Plate. It sounded awesome- a good deal and a better amount of food, than what they offer now, which is just a main and a side for roughly the same price. Bring it back!

Sophie's Choice

July 12th, 2012
11:43 am

Cocktails are stroooong! (But that’s a plus, IMHO.) And oh, those house-made cheese straws– I salivate just thinking about them. There are certainly better places to go have dinner, but for drinks & apps, Pinewood’s THE place!

Ed Advocate

July 13th, 2012
7:15 am

@sansho1: I miss Viet Chateau too. It was my first Vietnamese food. Yum.

Kessler’s review is spot on. My friends and I has the same thoughts re: the tamales (i.e. shrimp and grits) and agreed that the po boy is the best of the slider bunch. Would also recommend the funnel cake.

The cocktails are really very good, but the Pinewood has got to smooth out the service. Have visited the establishment on two occasions and encountered the uneven service both times. Servers seem well intentioned and hard working, but they don’t bring drinks on time and check on the tables often enough. Cocktails at the Pinewood are so good that the place could sell a lot more of them if they solve the service problems!

Thomas

July 13th, 2012
7:29 am

I ate there on Fathers Day. My trip had mixed reviews. Service was good, from a nice young lady. Food was somewhat disappointing. They were out of pork, so two of the three of us were disappointed.We tried an appetizer each, including the sliders(Mix), shrimp tamale. Sliders disappointed, as they looked great, but the bread was heavy, and we didn’t enjoy them. The tamales were excellent, and I do agree that they are mis named. The chesse grits were excellent and shrimp cooked very well.The fried chicken was good, and the herbed chicken was seasoned nicely, but portion size for this was meager. We were also somewhat disappointed by the sides.The spicy egg salad had no heat at all? The Greens were good, and the peppered slaw somewhat disappointing. We all had wished we ordered the cheese grits as a side. Although I am not into the cocktail scene, it did seem to bring some interest to people at the bar with the showmanship.
I was a little disappointed, but I will try again, as I do understand that it takes awhile to get a new resturant hitting on all cylinders.

Chzaal

July 13th, 2012
8:45 am

Their website said they were open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. So we went on a Saturday and guess what? They’re not open for brunch on Saturdays. But they did have a paper sign on the window with their hours printed that said they were open on Sundays for brunch so I guess that makes it ok.

I’m in no hurry to go here after the review of service here as well as the bad service review I got from a friend who went there recently. There are plenty of awesome spots in Decatur who know what they’re doing.

John Kessler

July 13th, 2012
10:23 am

Ed: you mean Jon Watson’s review is spot on. :)

Ed Advocate

July 13th, 2012
4:53 pm

Oops! Apologies Jon (and John).

Lou Simon

July 13th, 2012
10:07 pm

I stoped in about 2 weeks ago on a Sat. about 6:45pm. I sat at the bar. Was greeted with a glass of water and told the bartender would take my order. There were a total of 14 people in the place. After 10 mins of waiting during which time the bartender never acknowledge my presence I left. I might as well have been transparent. For a Sat. night early there was no reason for this kind of treatment or lack of. I may give them a 2nd chance but I kind of doubt it.

Lou Simon

July 13th, 2012
10:14 pm

P.S. Why would anyone in their right mind wait 20 mins. for a drink. Nothing is worth that much time for a drink.

Bill W.

July 14th, 2012
5:11 pm

I’ll wait days for a drank……………..

Neppy

July 15th, 2012
3:50 pm

On a recent Friday night, I ate on the patio of a restaurant across the street from the backdoor of The Pinewood and observed one employee who twice during my relatively short dining period take a cigarette break behind the restaurant. Perhaps nicotine addiction explains some of the problem with service.

misha

July 16th, 2012
11:48 am

We went for brunch and were deeply disappointed. The service was, to put it politely, confused. We are not high-maintenance people, but there were so many things that went wrong we lost count after a while. (My husband was a server for 15 years and is usually very tolerant and understanding of service issues, but even he was amazed at how bad it was.) While the pancakes were excellent, the rest of the food was bland and pointless. The biscuits were literally burnt (not just overcooked, but actually black on the bottom). My husband was amazed that they tried to serve them. We won’t be going back.

Kristi

July 16th, 2012
2:53 pm

We had a Scoutmob deal and enjoyed our food and drinks, but the staff was overwhelmed and flustered at the Saturday night crowd. My biggest complaint though was the noise level–the building’s construction does nothing to help with this either. At an intimate table for two, my date and I had a very difficult time hearing each other.

Mike T.

July 16th, 2012
3:15 pm

Went there after reading the paper. My wife and I anticipated to be patient with drinks and service but we were pleasantly suprised. Fifteen minute wait for a table, not too bad, with drinks in hand from the bar after about five. Our waitress was friendly and efficient, the fried chicken was incredibly tender and the shrimp tamales were well spiced. The feature of the night were the drinks, notibly the Day That I Die and the Brosynia. The drinks do run around ten to fifteen dollars a pop but from the care put into them, the price is merited. The acoustics of the room make it a little loud but the place was packed out. Oveall it’s a nice addition the the decatur dining scene. We will definitely be back to work our way through the rest of the drink menu.

Jim

July 16th, 2012
4:27 pm

Enjoyed the food, drink, and atmosphere. I really liked this place alot.
My only complaint is the acoustics. When there are alot of people in there it gets LOUD. Almost too loud to talk with friends. I have the same problem with the restaurant down the street…246. Way too loud. These place should try putting up some sort of tapestries or something to absorb the sound. I really like both places but questioning whether I will go back to either because of the noise level.