Photo Credit: Savannah Cole
Pub on Main
BUSINESS MINDED: Generally speaking, it’s better to be the second restaurant in a building than the first, because your total cost before opening is likely to be significantly lower. Pub on Main (22 N. Main St., in Watkinsville, 706-310-4450), which moved smoothly into what had previously been Pour, is in exactly that situation.
Owned and operated by SP2 Hospitality—Scott Parrish and Sachin Patel, also responsible for The Pine, The Root, The 11th Pin and Five Points’ forthcoming El Barrio—Pub on Main not only benefits from the nice job the previous tenant did turning the former government building into a restaurant, but it also compensates for Pour’s weaknesses, reading its audience much better. Where Pour banned kids, Pub on Main welcomes them with a foosball table, lawn games outside and a kiddie menu. Where Pour tried to do upscale, instituting a dress code, Pub on Main gets that a big portion of Watkinsville’s population just wants a good plate of food and a well-crafted drink.
You could say Pub on Main is unambitious, but it’s more accurate to say that it’s focused on pleasing people, and the people appear to be quite pleased. The drinks menu is, unsurprisingly—Patel co-owns Five Points Bottle Shop—deep and smart, with cocktails that are both fun and on the strong side (a frilly pink frosé with plenty of vodka, plus grapefruit and lemon juices; a whiskey sour made with Buffalo Trace bourbon), a truly impressive whiskey selection and beers categorized by things like “light/easy” and “hoppy/floral.” The bar is about as big as the indoor seating area, although there’s plenty of outdoor seating, too.
Photo Credit: Savannah Cole
Menu-wise, the sandwiches are better than the entrees available at dinner, with the stuffed meatloaf—what it’s stuffed with changes daily—made with meat that has been too finely ground and the parmesan-crusted rainbow trout with collard-green chimichurri not bad but also not super exciting. On the other hand, the hot fish sandwich, made with Terrapin-battered cod, good and thinly sliced housemade pickles, a dill aioli slaw and house hot sauce, is right on, balancing crisp, hot, sour and creamy in just the right proportions. It is a bit of a mess to eat, but it’s right in the “new American” wheelhouse of SP2. You could get essentially the same fish and aioli as fish and chips, but then you’d miss the hot sauce, which would be a shame.
The pulled pork sandwich is even messier, also served with pickles and coleslaw, but also well done, if a touch sweet for my taste. The salmon burger isn’t as good, with a mushy texture and not as much going on, flavor-wise, and some of the sides really aren’t very interesting (bland cheddar grits, potato salad that’s nothing to write home about). The Cuban sandwich incorporates a whole split sausage—shades of JB—and, while departing from tradition, is really tasty.
The snacks section of the menu, well-keyed to the bar but available anywhere, has some fun stuff, like crisp-fried brussels sprouts with a house hot mustard that will wake you up and Cajun deviled eggs that incorporate a lot of pepper and are too cold but otherwise nicely done. There are also good salads with a ton of ingredients and desserts that work well family-style.
The whole restaurant is customer-focused but not too corporate. It’s a great fit for its area, which still needs more options. Pub on Main is open for lunch daily, dinner Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch, with biscuits and pancakes.
STRAIGHTFORWARD: When Sonny’s BBQ corporate pulled the franchise license of the location on Atlanta Highway, the restaurant didn’t really miss much of a beat. It shifted quickly to a new format—cafeteria-style Southern—and a new name: Malinda’s Country Kitchen and Catering (3755 Atlanta Hwy., 706-546-0385). Now an independently owned business, it offers about six main-dish meats and eight vegetable sides daily, plus sandwiches made to order, a salad bar and some kids meals. Grab a plate or a styrofoam box, ladle into it whatever you desire, and you can be eating in a few short minutes.
Some things do just fine on the steam table: a broccoli casserole rich with rice and cheese; good field peas; soft, salty turnip greens; squash casserole; Southern-style green beans. Others—first and foremost the fried green tomatoes—don’t hold up so well, not being well suited to the format. The fried chicken is decent but not stellar.
The cube steak with gravy, on the other hand, is A-plus, and although the topping on the chicken pot pie gets a little soggy and is a little thick, the gooey contents are stomach warming. The meatloaf tops that available at Pub on Main, despite (because of?) being simpler. Slices of plastic-wrapped cake on plates are worth your time, made by a local and including a peanut-butter layer cake and a classic chocolate cake with intense boiled chocolate icing.
The last thing Malinda’s is is fancy, but neither is it aiming to be. It’s open from 11 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, and although the drive-through is closed for the moment, it should open back up at some point.