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Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012

Gut Reaction for Aug. 23, 2012

There’s nothing droopy about revamped pub’s menu

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Pine Lakes Tavern is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily until football season starts, and then it will open at 11 a.m. Saturdays and noon on Sundays. The number is (843) 449-4758.

Setting the Table

This restaurant and bar at 5201 N. Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach was Droopy’s for 17 years but in early May, after a thorough renovation, partners Tom Jordan and Anderson Knott opened as Pine Lakes Tavern, a cozy gastropub with much to like.

The remodel kept the building’s handsome wood floors and quirky architectural charm and enhanced it with a thorough cleaning, new dining areas, a longer bar and an extremely pretty gazebo out back with televisions, plants and a lake view.

Bar seating is some of the comfiest I’ve seen – they’re like plush computer chairs – and a big room to the far right has foosball and table shuffleboard. A new intimate dining nook has four tables, each with its own television.

The ambiance is that of a nice neighborhood pub with excellent food that doesn’t try to be pretentious and definitely is not overpriced.

Down the Hatch

Chef Bryan Bodle and general manager Luke Vallese are making customers feel comfortable with laid-back friendliness, prompt service and a pleasant menu that’s well executed. The chef’s skill in the Grand Strand area is well known, with experience at Collectors Café, The Dunes Golf and Beach Club and SeaBlue.

The Pine Lakes menu lists two pages of casual foods with upscale twists priced at $5 to $18, with most choices less than $10.

A friend and I started with Traditional She Crab Soup, which was some of the best I’ve tasted. The liquid part is thick, smooth and creamy with a balanced flavor profile that provides a tiny spicy kick. Minced vegetables were in there along with a generous amount of crabmeat.

We also had Vietnamese Spring Rolls that contain Napa cabbage, shrimp, carrots and herbs and come with a sweet, dark and sticky dipping sauce. The rolls were crunchy and delicious, but even more I liked the cold side dishes of seaweed salad, with a sesame flavor, and cucumber/onion salad with a sweet vinegar dressing.

Creamy Crab Dip was extravagantly creamy and luscious, and came with grilled pita bread.

A few more menu items are house-made Pimento Cheese, Classic Caesar Salad, Colossal Hoisin Wings, Carolina Pulled Pork Wrap with red chili vinegar, Shrimp ‘n’ Grits and Grilled Southwestern Fish Burrito with pico de gallo, avocado, achiote rice, safrito beans and cilantro sour cream.

A daily chalkboard menu has more dishes, such as fresh fish from Murrells Inlet. We tried grouper tempura that was presented over a julienne of vegetables in a sweet Asian glaze. The flavors in that dish were amazing, and leftovers reheated the next day in a conventional oven were still succulent.

Check, Please

Pine Lakes Tavern is true to its gastropub label with 15 draft beers listed on a chalkboard over the bar, and Vallese says the selections are rotated. A few offered the day we visited were Hoegaarden, Coney Island, Peroni, Son of a Peach and Victory Prima.

Happy hour is 4-7 p.m. daily with $3.25 well drinks, $2.50 domestic beers and 50-cent discount on everything else.

Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.
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