Louisville is a culinary hotspot on the rise, and there are always new restaurants emerging on the scene. Whether you prefer fresh-caught seafood or a well-marbled steak, it’s always fun to have a new dining experience in town. Sometimes, however, nostalgia’s on the menu, and you really want a taste of the past. And with the reopening of The Pine Room, a Louisville classic that was lost to fire nearly 40 years ago, you can now have both.
Located in the historic Harrods Creek neighborhood, The Pine Room was a getaway for locals who wanted to hang out, sip a cool cocktail and dine on some country cooking. Unfortunately, the restaurant’s run came to an end in the late ’70s when a fire broke out, causing smoke and water damage, while also gutting the bar. Before the building could be restored, a second fire broke out two weeks later and destroyed the remainder of the structure.
Although The Pine Room was physically gone, its memory remained in the hearts of locals. Now The Pine Room lives again, thanks to the vision of urban developer and new owner Augusta Holland. Situated just two doors down from the original location, a new Pine Room has been erected with a modern feel and a fresh, updated menu.
Although her background is more related to buildings than burgers, Augusta had a clear vision of how her new iteration of the legendary restaurant would play out — specifically, she placed a strong emphasis on variety.
“I am a vegetarian, and there aren’t too many places you can go that have a wide variety of vegetarian dishes,” she explains. “We wanted a place where families and couples — everyone — can discover something to their taste on the menu. We wanted to have really good, decadent hamburgers, and steak and French fries. But we also wanted to offer healthier and gluten-free options. We wanted to cast a wider net.”
As a savvy businesswoman, Augusta knew it was crucial to hire a staff with extensive restaurant experience, so she brought in some of the best for The Pine Room. Her first goal was to find an exceptional general manager. In restaurateur Steven Ton, she found someone whose resume includes Doc Crow’s, one of the best BBQ joints in town, and the now-closed 732 Social.
The Pine Room’s first executive chef, Coby Ming, worked with Augusta and Steven to develop the menu; then Chef James Moran took the helm. James’s culinary experience includes serving as executive chef at 8UP and chef de cuisine at Seviche.
The Pine Room’s menu is filled with an array of yummy appetizers, main courses, delicious desserts and signature cocktails. One of Augusta’s favorites is The Pine Room nachos. “It’s a shared, large plate with corn tortillas, cotija cheese, grilled hearts of palm, green onions, pickled cabbage, pickled jalapenos and tomatillo guacamole,” she explains. “I find it delicious, and it’s one of our best sellers.”
Other apps include pan-fried dumplings, curry-spiced Shishito peppers and chicken liver toast. “It’s chicken liver mousse with crispy chicken livers and Stilton blue cheese on toasted bread from Blue Dog Bakery,” Augusta says.
Delving into dinner, The Pine Room satisfies in a number of ways. The Pine Room Burger is bursting with flavor, topped with Kenny’s Kentucky nena cheese, dijonnaise, onion jam and Habagardil spicy pickles, all on a buttered potato bun.
For that true Southern flair, sink your teeth into the juicy buttermilk fried chicken served with black pepper pan biscuits, creamy mashed potatoes, braised greens, happy sprouts and honey hot sauce.
Vegetarians will swoon for The Pine Room grain bowl, filled with vegetable quinoa, kimchi, jicama relish and seasonal veggies.
There are many choices for the sweet tooth, including bread pudding topped with vanilla bean ice cream, oat streusel, candied nuts and miso caramel. Cinnamon sugar donut bites and apple crisp also round out the delectable dessert menu.
If you’re interested in a cocktail, you can’t go wrong with any of the options, but our favorite is “The Mabel,” made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Benedictine, Vya sweet vermouth, Angostura and Regan’s No. 6 bitter. “The drink was named after a woman named Mabel who worked at The Pine Room and played piano,” Augusta says. “It’s a delicious interpretation of an Old Fashioned.”
The Pine Room recently began brunch service from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, serving up a host of breakfast and lunch mainstays along with some creative takes on the tried-and-true. “There’s avocado toast and poached eggs; a pancake we make gluten-free; a breakfast burrito; traditional bacon, eggs and toast; and something we call the California plate, which is steamed spinach, avocado and eggs. It’s all delicious,” Augusta says.
The restaurant’s décor has been updated with warm whites, a softer color palette and lots of windows to let in natural light. But a bit of vintage is on display in the form of matchbooks from the original restaurant. Augusta also added a modern flair by displaying art from local artists including Kate Mattingly and Monica Mahoney, whose hand-painted topography maps adorn the restroom walls.
The Pine Room is open Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1:30 pm for brunch. Live music is available at the restaurant on Thursdays and Saturdays from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Come see The Pine Room at 6325 River Road in Harrods Creek, Kentucky. Reservations can be made by calling (502) 528-4422.
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