Decatur isn’t a place I visit very often, simply because it’s a solid 25-minute drive from Buckhead, and I don’t particularly enjoy driving. However, after Saturday’s Brick Store Pub-Iberian Pig combo outing, I’m thinking I might have to reconsider. Both restaurants are located in downtown Decatur’s charming square, which is filled with tons of hidden gems in terms of eating and drinking.
We started the evening by perusing the draught beer list at the Brick Store Pub. Every table was pretty much packed by the time we arrived, so we followed some other patrons (who had clearly been there before) upstairs to what we later found out was called the ‘Belgian Bar.’ Already off to a good start, I love Belgian beers. Eventually, we snagged seats at the bar and got some recommendations from the knowledgeable-looking bartender.
We stuck around long enough for two rounds, so between the three of us, we tried six new beers. Not bad for an hour’s time. Round 1: Caracole Saxo, Petrus Aged Red & Dogfish Head Aprihop.
Round 2: Stone Enjoy by 4-1-13, Ayinger Brau Weisse, & Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau.
The Caracole Saxo (a strong pale Belgian ale) was by far my favorite of them all. The only one I really didn’t enjoy was the Kasteel – dark beers aren’t my thing.
Although I much prefer beers on tap, I was thoroughly impressed by the seemingly limitless selection of bottled beers. Given our dinner plans, we didn’t taste any of the ‘fine pub fare’ that Brick Store had to offer, but those Bavarian pretzels were certainly tempting-sounding enough to warrant a return visit.
Upon venturing across the square, we spent the latter part of the evening sampling delicious Spanish tapas at The Iberian Pig. Aside from one or two minor exceptions, we enjoyed nearly everything we tasted.
The first plate to arrive was that of the B.W.D., aka bacon wrapped dates. The dates were stuffed with manchego cheese and walnuts, wrapped in crispy bacon, and finished with a romesco glaze. These components together created the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
The Paleta Ibérico de Bellota (cured pork shoulder) was surprisingly one of the least interesting dishes we tried. The pork was very thinly sliced, to the extent that the flavor of the meat got somewhat lost in the bread that accompanied it.
As if someone was reading our minds (or perhaps our server was eavesdropping as we discussed the mediocrity of the pork shoulder), the pork cheek tacos suddenly appeared on our table. One bite later, and any trace of doubt we had developed about the meal thus far immediately disappeared. I’m pretty confident that these were among the best tacos I’ve ever tasted.
The shells were just-out-of-the-fryer golden and crispy. The flavorful and juicy pork was topped with fire-roasted corn salsa, arugula, and a drizzle of avocado cream sauce. BY FAR my favorite part of the meal.
We originally ordered the mushroom flatbread, and were disappointed to learn that they were fresh out of flatbreads (I’m not entirely sure how that happens). Our server suggested the morcilla & mushroom toast as an alternative, so we took her up on the offer. The oversized “rustic bread” was toasted, and topped with melted manchego, sausage, roasted mushrooms, and a blackberry-port gastrique. The elements came together into another tasty sweet and savory combination, with a nice textural balance.
The albondigas were the only item that we collectively agreed we could have done without. They sounded deceivingly appetizing on the menu – wild boar sausage meatballs stuffed with piquillo peppers, dates, and roasted tomatoes.
Although it would appear as though the meatballs were so delicious that we nearly finished them off before remembering a picture, this was not quite the case. There were actually only two meatballs to begin with, which were under-seasoned and had a crumbly, unpleasant texture.
On the contrary, we did actually initially forget to photograph the manchego mac ‘n’ cheese because it looked so irresistible. The manchego-pork belly cream sauce was ultra-rich and highlighted the distinctive flavor of the manchego. I loved the addition of the toasted panko crumbs on top to add a little bit of crunch. Had the skillet not been so hot, one of us might have considered licking it clean.
We ended the meal on a high note with the lomo di cerdo – the only main plate we tried all evening. The pork tenderloin was cooked beautifully – nicely seared on the outside with a cherry demi glaze, and perfectly pink throughout the center. The pork was accompanied by a unique combination of spinach, toasted chickpeas, pearl onions, morcilla sausage, candied walnuts, and crispy shallots. Listed all together, it sounds like an accompaniment-overload, but it worked, in quite a delectable way.
After writing it all down, it seems like we tried a little bit of everything. In reality, there was so much that we didn’t try that I left the restaurant with a solid list of everything I want to order next time around. Like I said, I’m thinking I’ll have to find a chauffeur and venture back to Decatur very soon.