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.
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.
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.
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
Food: Southern inspired small plates and meat-and-twoService: 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