First Look: The Imperial, Oakhurst

From the moment the Imperial softly opened in Oakhurst last week, neighbors were packing the casual pub, taking advantage of the free-for-all seating policy and bargain-priced food and drink. It probably doesn’t hurt that popular Atlanta bartender and trivia master Robert Holland and his partners, Matt Hanes, Jeff Bowie and Ken Rogers, are all old friends and area residents.

The look: Located in a small building on West College Avenue, the brick walled space includes two dining areas with a variety of nooks, tables and booths defined by quirky woodwork, plus a neat front patio. But a sprawling angled bar fashioned from reclaimed wood is the focal point.

The scene: One recent evening, Holland was working the crowd, pointing out tables that were about to turn to an anxious couple and cheerfully dispensing drinks to a group that seemed content to hang out near the front door. Around the bar, everyone looked as though they’d landed in the catbird seat.

The food: A.J. Thompson’s menu of bar food staples features Southern and Asian touches. Appetizers include “Filipino-style” fried veggie spring rolls ($5), and black-eyed pea dip with pita and pickled okra ($7.50). A charred broccoli salad is mixed with arugula, pickled beets, grilled apple and dried cranberry ($7). Spicy chicken wings ($5.50/$10) are left whole with the drum and flat attached. Among the bigger bites, served with one side, there are a dressed roast beef po’ boy on a Lee’s Bakery French roll ($9) and the “Southern Living” burger with pimento cheese and bacon ($8).

The drinks: There’s a rotating selection of craft beers on draft priced in the $4 to $6 range. Recently, Wrecking Bar Jemmy Stout and Ding the English Bitter, Victory Prima Pils and Founders Porter were on tap. The concise wine list includes a half dozen reds and a couple of whites by the bottle or glass ($7-$35).

The extras: Look for Holland to host a new trivia night at the Imperial soon. And look for daytime hours, beginning 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 4.

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