Bigger, better…and the same tavern prices

As I’ve mentioned in the past,  we live very close to the Pineville Tavern. It’s our local place (where everyone knows our name, etc.). We’ve gotten to know the owners, the Abruzzeses (Andrew, Mary Lou, Drew and Phillip, and now Juliet!), and a lot of nice people – including bartenders, servers and customers – sitting at the Pineville.

So the last 4-5 months have been tough. With the help of Jim Hamilton (of Hamilton’s Grill Room) as designer, a ton of local contractors, and a lot of sweat and antacids, the Abruzzeses have been accomplishing something almost unheard of in this economy. They have been expanding.

Despite the huge signs shouting, “We’re Open During Renovation,” lots of people seem to think the Pineville has been closed for a few months. Not so. On a limited menu, yes, but not closed. But now that’s all over.

What has happened is quite amazing. First to come down was the old, tight kitchen which limited the menu in many ways (more on that later). Razed down to the foundation, and rebuilt up, including more refrigeration and storage space on the lower level, a separate take-out location, and a shiny, new kitchen almost triple the size of the old one. On the side and back of the building (facing the parking lot), is the entrance to a new dining room, complete with a seven-seat bar and seating for 30-35 patrons. Oh, and a deck that seats 25-30, with direct access to the kitchen.

So what does this mean for you and me? I sat down with Drew and Phillip Abruzzese and asked them to translate all this into what will be different – and the same – at the Pineville.

New kitchen. Let’s start with the infrared broiler – the “same exact kind used at Peter Luger Steakhouse,” says Drew. (“Except they have seven, we’ll only have one,” he adds, a little wistfully.) And why is that good? I ask, knowing full well the steakhouse’s famous reputation. It gets up to 1500°, says Phillip, so steaks – which the Pineville is already known for – cook better, in less time, with less loss of moisture and juices. While we talking steaks, the new walk-in fridge has twin high-velocity dryers so they will be able to dry-age their own steaks. (I think my husband is going to be a very happy man.)

A forty-gallon steam kettle. And, that’s good? I ask again. Oh yeah. It’s going to allow the kitchen to make completely homemade stocks, producing soups with more body and taste. So, if you were crazy about the snapper soup before, watch out. That big ole steam kettle will also come in handy for making sauces, which you’ll be able to buy to take home, along with soups, the full menu and beer, at the take-out space to the side of the kitchen. No more standing at the bar, waiting for your take-out order (“But you are still welcome to come in for a drink!” add Drew and Phillip.).

Three “real” convection ovens. And? “If you loved our meatballs before, you are not going to believe they could get better,” says Drew. “And the ribs…” adds Phillip sighing, which apparently were one of the hottest dishes when the kitchen reopened this past Friday. Did I mention I hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast when I had this conversation? This was not easy.

The bottom line is that the new kitchen and storage space will allow the Abruzzeses to do what they have been yearning to do for years – take ingredients to a new level, and produce exceptional food – at tavern prices. Yes, you heard me right. The idea is to just get better, not more expensive.

New dining room. The kitchen I understood completely, but why the new dining space?  The Pineville is so, well, the Pineville. Warm, friendly, comfortable and casual. “We wanted to create a distinct atmosphere to different parts of the restaurant,” explains Drew. The new dining area is quite…special. (I can’t say more, I’m sworn to secrecy.) Let’s just say it’s fancier than the older dining room. Not better, just a bit classier. Along with it’s own bar, and atrium, it creates a different feel than the other spaces at the Pineville.

How’s it going to work? I ask, a little confused myself which entrances to use after they gave me a walk-thru of the new space. The new dining room entrance, on the side of the building, will be for guests who wish to eat in either of the dining rooms – the new or the older one (behind the present bar/tavern room). Patrons who prefer the bar and tavern dining area at the front of the building can use the same entrance we’ve all been using for years. It is all still physically connected, but also separate. Quite an accomplishment for a building that got its start in the 18th century. The menu, however, will be the same wherever you sit.

When’s it all happening? The new kitchen is already open and pumping out everyone’s old favorites from the full menu. The new dining room, bar and deck is due to open at the beginning of October, 2010. Stay tuned to the Pineville’s Facebook page for up-to-date information.

And there’s more. “When the dust settles, and we get comfortable in the new kitchen, look for changes to the menu,” says Phillip, with a glint in his eye. They won’t say more, but I can see the two of them are bursting. Alas, we’ll just have to wait.

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  1. So happy to see the Pineville will be fully operational now. We always enjoy our visits, whether dinner at the bar or at table. The past season has presented us with challenges to find substitutes when we wanted Pineville. We gave up during construction because of limited menu and lack of ambiance. WELCOME BACK.

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