Wednesday, July 27, 2005
REVIEW: The Historic Pine Tavern
Revamped menu worth a ****1/2 rating
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The Pine Tavern Restaurant.
The picturesque setting of the Historic Pine Tavern is bound to have caught your eye if you've ever taken U.S. 221 through Floyd County. With its beautiful landscaping and lush pine trees, the tavern and adjacent lodge of quaint white cottages have beckoned travelers since the 1920s. Recently reopened under new management, the tavern features a revamped menu, brighter interior and plenty of hospitality.
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The Historic Pine Tavern bills itself as serving traditional Blue Ridge Mountain cuisine like your grandma used to make - quite a gutsy claim. If it's down-home cooking, it better be fresh, made from scratch, full of flavor and there better be heaps of it.
Adelle Nichols serves customers at The
Owners Reed and Jane Embrey and their staff make good on their claim, dishing up authentic Southern food that tastes, well, just like my grandmother used to make.
The Historic Pine Tavern serves meals family-style, with platters of meats and bowls of vegetables, side dishes and gravy. For $11, adults can get fried chicken and their choice of country ham or roast beef along with mashed potatoes, green beans, pinto beans, dumplings and a choice of cole slaw or tossed salad. Buttermilk biscuits, beverage and fruit cobbler are included in the price, plus the fruit or vegetable of the day. For an extra buck, you can get all three meat entrees. Kids ages 8 to 11 eat for $6, ages 4 to 7 are $4 and kids under 4 eat free.
Best of all, there's no need to fight over the last biscuit or remaining piece of chicken. If you run out of anything, they'll bring you more.
Diners can also enjoy non-family-style meals such as fried catfish ($8), meatloaf ($7) or country ham steak ($9) that come with a choice of two side dishes and biscuits.
Dinner: We came to the Historic Pine Tavern for Sunday dinner, armed with hearty appetites and more than a little skepticism. Authentic home-style cooking? It better not come out of a can.
From the first dish that touched the tabletop - a plate of steaming biscuits - we knew we were in for the real deal. Made-from-scratch mashed potatoes, crisp fried chicken, wonderfully flavored green beans, genuine coleslaw, all of it from recipes by Reed Embrey's grandmother Mama Nell.
The vegetable of the day, squash casserole, was filled with fresh zucchini and yellow squash, baked to just the right amount of tenderness. Other offerings-of-the-day include baby carrots, broccoli casserole, baked Granny Smith apples and fresh peas.
Embrey loves to talk about his recipes (except he won't divulge the secret ingredient in his pinto beans) as much as he likes to fix them. He said he's still tinkering with how to translate some of the recipes into the large quantities needed - he worries that the potatoes could be fluffier, for example - and he openly solicits suggestions from diners.
His side dishes are vegetarian, except for the pinto beans and the gravy, and he takes particular pride in the great flavor of the green beans despite not using fatback or bacon.
And, just like at grandma's, when you think you couldn't possibly eat any more, out comes the steaming fruit cobbler. And somehow you manage to find room.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Grab your family, pack up your out-of-town guests and make the scenic drive to Floyd. Let the Historic Pine Tavern fill you and your loved ones with down-home food that showcases the best in Southern cooking.
Restaurateur Reed Embrey was one of the owners of Billy's Ritz when it first opened on the Roanoke City Market. He went on to open various Shakers restaurants and managed Cracker Barrels before persuading his wife, Jane, that they should buy the Historic Pine Tavern. On a typical day, you'll find not only Reed and Jane Embrey working in the restaurant, but also their daughter, Sallie, 18, who works as a server, and their son, Reilly, 14, who washes dishes.
The Pine Tavern has an adjacent pavilion that seats 150. In addition to renting it for weddings, receptions and reunions, the Embreys plan to offer concerts and other special events.
The Historic Pine Tavern
Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)
Do you agree with this rating? Add your own review.
Price range: Adults: $11 for family-style which includes two meat entrees, six side dishes, dessert, biscuits and beverage. Or, order off the menu, $7-$9.
Where: 611 Floyd Highway North (U.S. 221), Floyd
Hours: 4:30-9 p.m. Thursday; 4:30-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Soda products: Pepsi
Adult beverages? Beer and wine
Homemade desserts? Fruit cobblers (strawberry, peach, blueberry and blackberry), Mama Nell's apple pie, chocolate cobbler and chocolate sundaes
Plastic? All major credit cards accepted
Smoking? In Tavern Room
Live music? Special events are being planned.
What the stars mean
***** Excellent. A one-of-a-kind experience.
**** Very good. Memorable menus accompanied by exciting environs and/or savvy service.
*** Good. Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking.
** Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending: A view, a single dish, friendly service, lively scene.
* Poor. Don't waste your money here.