Photo Credit: Jessica Silverman
The 11th Pin
A STEAL: Let it never be said that Mimi Maumus didn’t learn anything from her former employer, Five & Ten. It’s been a while, but the chef/owner of home.made (1072 Baxter St., 706-206-9216) is in many ways creating a throwback to the earlier days of Hugh Acheson’s flagship restaurant. The most recent addition is a bargain-priced prix-fixe menu available between 5:30–6:30 p.m., as part of which you get an appetizer and an entree for a mere $15.
Unlike the Five & Ten version of same, which made you pick menu A or B, with no substitutions, Maumus lets you pick which app (choice of two) and which main (ditto) you want, but the idea is otherwise very much the same and very welcome. It goes by the name of Supper Club, which is what she used to call her occasional pop-up dinners in the space before it transitioned to full-time dinner, and runs Tuesday through Saturday.
The offerings change weekly, depending on what’s seasonal or intriguing or fun to play around with, and you can add wine pairings for an additional $15. Pop in on a Wednesday, and you’ll also get half off bottles of wine, which can make it a truly excellent deal. As is, even on any other day, it’s quite a steal. There aren’t many restaurants in town where you can get two courses for $15, especially two well-conceived, beautifully executed courses.
A recent week featured appetizers of a delicate parsnip and leek soup with chived chevre, roasted ribbons of carrots and coriander (not over-reliant on cream, but wintry with hints of eventual spring) and its virtual opposite, Buffalo cheese curds (as in fried cheese curds with Buffalo sauce) with celery and a pepper-jelly ranch dipping sauce. The former was more sophisticated, but the latter was fun as hell—bar food made smart without losing its fundamental appeal.
The entrees available were amazingly tender coffee-braised beef shoulder (with rutabaga purée, a tomato demi-glace and pretty darn good tangy collard greens) and a lovely shrimp and grits with andouille and tomato sauce in which the toppings were good but the plain grits were truly special. Dessert isn’t part of the prix-fixe, but is still reasonably priced enough to add on without hurting your wallet. A peppermint icebox pie with a graham cracker crust (smooth and minty like the plant, not like a candy cane) is only $5 and can easily be split.
Parking is still rather hard to come by, and folks driving down Baxter don’t necessarily stop even if you push the button that makes the lights flash at the crosswalk, so step lively and be wary, but Supper Club is a great way to elevate your weekly date night without bankrupting you.
A SILK PURSE: That’s what you could say Showtime Bowl managed to make out of a sow’s ear, taking the opportunity presented by a major roof collapse to renovate its interior completely and, recently, add better food options, plus beer, in the form of The 11th Pin (555 Macon Hwy., 706-308-2008). How a bowling alley existed sans beer for so long in Athens is a bit of a mystery, but it’s making up for lost time.
The folks behind the restaurant are the same ones who brought you The Pine and its lower-level bar, The Root, in Five Points, as well as Five Points Bottle Shop, which means its offerings go far beyond Bud Light. You can get a $22 bucket of five beers that includes Dale’s Pale Ale, Cigar City Jai Alai IPA and Mother Earth Sin Tax Imperial Peanut Butter Stout, for example.
The food is nothing fancy (burgers, fries, tots, hot dogs, pizza), but it is better than what it was, and it is totally acceptable. Prepared by an enthusiastic dude who also takes your order and appears to be the only person in the kitchen—he also leaps over the counter rather than take the long way around—it will keep you at the bowling alley longer, make your kids consume calories and provide you with a solid base for all that beer.
The hand-breaded fried chicken sandwich, which includes lettuce, tomato, pickle and honey mustard, is a step up from fast food, and the kids’ menu offers fruit as a side. The burger isn’t very exciting, but it also does the job just fine, and the baskets of loaded fries, tots or tortilla chips can be topped with Buffalo sauce and ranch dressing, cheese sauce and jalapeños, chili or marinara, Mozzarella and pepperoni.
There are a lot of bars in town that serve this kind of food, which usually comes straight from Sysco, and they don’t do so very successfully, but the 11th Pin is trying harder than it needs to, and its offerings fit in well with the styling new light fixtures and the generally enhanced environs. It’s open Monday through Wednesday from 4 p.m.–midnight, Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m.–1 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.–1 a.m., with the kitchen closing a few hours before the bar.