since we took last week off from nrw, i decided we’d go for something indulgent this wednesday, and indulge we did! leon’s full service in decatur was the pick of the week, and considering i’d only heard good things, i was excited that we were finally giving it a try ourselves.
the idea here at leon’s is that you are going to have the best part of your day at their tables and that you will be itching to come back again. they strive to provide only the best service and hospitality in addition to a great meal and equally as great drinks. after beginning brick store pub nearly 15 years ago, mike, dave, and tom took a new turn when they started leon’s in february 2009. since then, chef eric ottensmeyer and sous chef robert lupo have been bringing “fun and seasonal aspects to neighborhood pub cuisine.” the menu has a varied yet modest menu that should hopefully tickle your taste buds in some fashion. we were a hungry crew that night, as always, so we were ready to dig in!
after slipping into a spot off the church street deck, i bolted across ponce to the warm reprieve of leon’s indoor seating. the hostess greeted me immediately and was just as charming as could be. she was able to seat me right away, a lucky thing considering they don’t take reservations, even for large groups like ours; there were six of us that night. the only downside? it was kind of in the center of the restaurant, which is close to both entry doors. yeaaahhhh….it was a bit chilly as folks swept in and out of there. i definitely needed ‘dem layers that night!
i was the first to arrive (a bit of a surprise, actually, seeing as how i am usually fashionably late), and our amiable waitress emily promptly filled my water glass and took my drink order. i had the 2012 bernier chardonnay from loire valley, france. it was a little sweeter than i wanted that night, and i wish i had specifically requested a selection that was a little on the drier side. with that being said, i sipped that glass like a champ throughout the evening, not letting a drop go to waste.
they also have an entire winter cocktail menu for all things in-season, which is pretty neat. maybe next time i’ll go for the mezcal when, you know, i don’t have to go to work and be productive the next day. isn’t that what weekends are for anyway? that’s right, i thought i heard you say “yes!”
the rest of the crew arrived shortly thereafter, cozying up to the strong industrial table. the mood here at leon’s is a bit more upscale than i expected it to be. i think i pictured something a little more relaxed and casual. i mean, feel free to come in your jeans, but maybe leave your ratty band t-shirt at home and throw on a sweater or button-up instead. just a suggestion.
there are a couple of other things i noticed about leon’s as we carried on into the night. first, it is quite dim. i had to hold the menus right up to my face to read everything, which might not be so bad for a twentysomething, but if you’re an older diner, be prepared to bust out those reading specs! next, although i wouldn’t describe leon’s as a loud place, per say, i will admit, as did everyone else, that it was incredibly difficult to hear anyone who wasn’t only a seat away from me. i had to ask nathan and sarah to repeat themselves several times, and even then i still had to crane my neck just to understand a snippet of the conversation. leon’s can easily accommodate a large group, but perhaps it’s best to come here with a smaller party of 2-4 folks. you’ll be perfectly nuzzled into a corner or cranny, all hidden away from the rest of the patrons. i paint quite the picture, yes?
most of us had the munchies that night, so we started with a couple bowlfuls of the lug nuts, which were tossed in a fennel dijon coating that day. these little nuggets were lightly flavored and not overly salty. alison and nathan said they were “interesting” as a fancy bar snack, not a bad choice for a few bucks. i was particularly fond of them, as was kyle. something a little different but not too filling before your meal. give ’em a try, if you care to!
alison thought so much on the menu looked so good – how was a girl supposed to make just one choice? easy! make more than one choice! alison started out her dinner with the gentleman’s breakfast, a pine st. speck croissant served with whipped camembert and brie, huckleberry jam, and local honey. individually, each component was spectacular. i mean, look at that rich jar of brie and honey. i could just die and go to cheese heaven, i swear! i suspect that is prosciutto in the middle of the board, which if it was, i’d be pretty satisfied with it as well. alison loved the honey. her only “negative” comment is that everything, when eaten together, was almost too rich. great ingredients and lovely presentation, though, only help boost the review.
the gentleman’s breakfast wasn’t quite enough to make a meal, so alison also had the zucchini and sharp cheddar casserole with sweet onion gravy, arugula, and olive oil. very simply, alison said it was “stupid good. every bite was amazing.” well, dang! i might have to try it next time!
like alison, i also had a hard time deciding what i wanted. so much of the menu sounded very tempting, but true to form, i had the scallops. they were served with soy-glazed pork belly, baby bok choy, beech mushrooms, and radish in a bacon-ginger dashi. it just sounds incredible, yes? the scallops were cooked just as they should have been, seared and browned to perfection. i’ll say, though, that the seasoning on the scallops themselves was a little overpowering. flavorful, but overpowering. the first bite of that fatty pork belly was rich and decadent, an unexpected but excellent pairing. the tiny beech mushrooms were another favorite part of this dish. there were so many different textures in this dish that each bite is something new. the bok choy was tender, and i loved the savory dark broth. a killer dish that i would gladly eat again.
nathan kept it new american with the brasstown beef burger, topped with tillamook cheddar cheese, housemade catsup, mustard, b&b pickles (whatever those are), and baby iceberg lettuce. “it was quite good,” he said, although he did think it was going to be a bit larger. he ate the pickles on the side, actually, and really liked them that way. on the nathan scale, he would eat it again.
nathan also got to enjoy some fries alongside his burger. he had requested the leon’s bbq sauce, which he felt was a little strong. he was glad that they accidentally brought him a side of the goat cheese fondue, a lighter, softer, and more subtle taste to balance out the bbq sauce. he was pleasantly surprised with the happy mix-up!
kyle and greg were a hungry duo, i mean hungry, so the slow roasted beef brisket with black peppercorn gravy and fried onions was the obvious choice. seriously, take a look at those big plates covered with big food. the brisket wasn’t dry at all, very tender and moist atop that thick piece of bread. it was true man food with true man responses, as greg said it was “superb” and that he would eat it again. if you have a man-sized appetite, look no further.
the brisket comes with the pub frites, which kyle and greg both liked. kyle had the mango catsup which was very good, kind of like a sweet’n’sour sauce but better, something he would definitely have again. greg had his with both the garlic aioli and leon’s bbq, per the waitress’ recommendation. in his opinion, it was the perfect mix of sauces. they both are great on their own, but they’re much better together.
speaking of being together, have you seen the android “be together. not the same” video? oh my gosh, it’s the most adorable thing ever. here, watch it. don’t you dare read on until you’ve seen it.
you watched it? okay, good, let’s continue!
sarah had the pork belly starter, and with her sitting at the other end of the table, i unfortunately didn’t get her specific opinion. however, she did proclaim at the end of the meal to “give my compliments to the chef!” and i think by the looks of this empty dish here, she was pretty satisfied.
dessert was, of course, a must for us ladies, so sarah started us out by ordering the banana croissant bread pudding with spiced chocolate donut glaze. how amazing does that sound, right?! it was just as delicious as we thought it would be. the croissant itself was perfectly spongy without being soggy. it was just a hint of banana, enough to hit the middle of your tongue right as you finish the bite. the chocolate glaze was pretty typical, a little bittersweet and possibly unnecessary, but that’s just my opinion. perhaps next time i’ll order it without the glaze and devour it all in a few bites. ah, wouldn’t that be ladylike?
alison was craving something sweet, too, so she went with the creme fraiche ice cream. before i snagged a spoonful, she warned me that it was like frozen greek yogurt, not sweet at all, more tart than anything. after tasting it myself, i’d agree. if you want something traditionally sweet, this creme fraiche ice cream is not your best bet. if you want something light and refreshing, then this ice cream is the perfect choice. alison liked it more with each bite she took, but i’d be lying if i said we scraped the dish clean.
with the last bites of pudding and ice cream, our checks arrived and the fun came to a close, at least for the time being. leon’s full service proved to be an excellent nrw choice for our crew that night. the portions are generous and the service is on-point, quickly getting our larger group through on a busy night. the food is thought through and technical without being too unusual or foreign. i would gladly make my way back here for a date night if decatur was my destination. this part of town has a lot of good going on for it, and leon’s seems like it is a staple that is here to stay.