Josh Habiger, formally of the Catbird Seat, heads up this sparkling gem for the folks at Strategic Hospitality. Chef Habiger definitely knows what he is doing, trading in haute cuisine for his take on comfort foods. The menu reads like Sunday dinner options at Mom's house. But while the menu might be a new take on traditional food, the decor is nothing less than clean, modern and absolutely stunning.
The cocktail list is comprehensive and enticing, with plenty of good-looking drinks to make your decision a difficult one. After consulting with the very talented head bartender, I decided to go with one of his favorites, The Bitter Wife. It contained gin, arrack, lemon and sparkling water. This cocktail tasted like spring. Mildly floral with a hint of citrus. It was light and refreshing and the bubbles were a nice touch. Everything in this cocktail was nicely balanced and not one flavor obscured the other. Steve chose the Marathon Manhattan with triple smoke whiskey, rye and bitters. This drink was manly, but had a nice sweet molasses like finish. Despite its strength, it was really easy to drink.
The appetizer list had a lot of good options, but when I saw the cheese curds my mind was made up. I hardly ever find these delicious tidbits anywhere, and when I do I jump on the chance to shove them in my mouth. They were freshly breaded and crisp, but not so hot that you burned your mouth. The creamy pepper aioli was a nice touch. I felt kind of guilty eating a food that's just terrible for you, but damn, these things are worth it. Perhaps I should move to Wisconsin…..
For my entree I chose the New York Strip Steak because meat + potatoes = my comfort food. I asked for the steak medium rare and it was cooked perfectly. It was really red and juicy on the inside just the way I like it. Also, the portion was massive. There was no way I could finish this steak in one sitting, which was perfect because it guaranteed me a delicious lunch the next day. I have to give a big thumbs up for the béarnaise sauce for being so thick and decadent. It was a perfect accompaniment to the steak. The only disappointment to me were the side dishes. The spinach was way too salty for me to eat. I'll be the first to admit that I'm really sensitive to salt and don't like it to be too present, but even Steve agreed that the greens were just too salty. Needless to say, they remained on the plate. While the bread pudding was savory and nice, it was also too salty for me. This could be a result of having the spinach first, but nevertheless, it wasn't my thing. Steve, on the other hand, LOVED the bread pudding and was happy to take it off my plate and devour it himself.
Steve went for the grilled pork chop with bok choy and sugar snap peas. The pork chop was expertly cooked and really tender. It was clearly marinated in such a way that it soaked up all the flavor and the red onion sauce was a perfect blend of sweet and tart. Personally, I wish they hadn't cleaned the bone. I know it looks nicer, but I love sucking off all the fat from the bone on a chop. Total personal preference there. The sugar snap peas were really tasty and added a nice crisp pop to the otherwise heavy dish.
For a side we went with roasted brussels sprouts. They had a nice smokey flavor which was probably from the bacon bits we found hiding at the bottom. The inside of the sprout was still crisp and green while the outside was nicely charred.
When I asked to see the dessert menu and was told they don't have one, but they do have some pies available, I was intrigued. We went for a lemon and lavender pie, with lemon curd on the bottom and a lavender cream on top. The pies are made by local baker Dozen and are really worth the splurge. The tartness of the curd and the light floral sweetness of the cream were absolutely perfect for my palate after the salt overload. The crust was flaky and clearly homemade with love.
I must note that the service we received was impeccable. The place is run like a well-oiled machine with a tremendous amount of staff. And it has to be, because Pinewood is huge and open for three meals a day plus late night. I was very impressed with how the whole place worked.
I now fully understand the appeal of Pinewood Social. The space and atmosphere is magnificent and you can tell this is a cool place to be. The staff is courteous, attentive and helpful while at the same time being unobtrusive. The cocktails are top notch and I'll probably be coming back soon just to sit at the bar. While I didn't really enjoy my sides (next time I'll ask for no salt), the food overall was solid. And after seeing how lovely their bowling lanes are, I'll have to come back just to throw a bunch of fancy gutter balls.