Atlanta Orders In: Leon’s Full Service in Decatur still serving the community

Leon’s fried chickpeas with Moroccan spice make a great snack for cocktail time. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND
Leon’s fried chickpeas with Moroccan spice make a great snack for cocktail time. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

In 1997, three former University of Georgia friends, Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore, opened Brick Store Pub, and soon turned the Decatur Square storefront into a top-rated beer drinker’s destination.

In 2009, Blanchard, Gallagher and Moore opened a second, more sophisticated drinking and dining spot, Leon’s Full Service, located just around the corner from the Brick Store on East Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Eventually, the two places became so intertwined that it wasn’t uncommon for visitors to visit one, then the other, during a trip to Decatur.

Leon’s steelhead trout plate features local summer squash, peas, heirloom tomatoes, corn, okra and jalapeño chimichurri. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND
Leon’s steelhead trout plate features local summer squash, peas, heirloom tomatoes, corn, okra and jalapeño chimichurri. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

That symbiosis particularly was evident when the pandemic hit in March. The Brick Store became a soup kitchen, serving the community. And, Leon’s immediately began offering curbside to-go service, to satisfy the longings of regular customers.

“One for commerce, one for community was the thinking,” Gallagher said. “The curbside at Leon’s was great. It gave us something to do, and the opportunity to still serve the community and make a little bit of money. It lagged for a bit, when more restaurants reopened recently. And, then, this past week, to-go started bouncing back again, when there was another spike in the numbers.”

Now, both Brick Store and Leon’s are offering to-go menus, and limited, socially distanced outdoor dining. “Opening up the patio at Leon’s helped a lot,” Gallagher said. “It’s certainly helped financially, and it helped us bring more employees back onboard, which was very important to us. But, maybe the best thing was hearing laughter in our spaces again, and knowing people were enjoying themselves.”

Leon’s candy bar is made with dark chocolate, banana caramel, peanut butter shortbread cookie and sea salt. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND
Leon’s candy bar is made with dark chocolate, banana caramel, peanut butter shortbread cookie and sea salt. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

Still, Gallagher said it was most important to develop protocols to keep both employees and customers safe.

“We studied the guidelines, we posted the rules on our website, and we felt pretty confident,” he said. “I can tell you, we’re going through a lot of masks and gloves and sanitizer.”

Though it’s a longtime favorite, I hadn’t been to Leon’s since before March. But, last week, I tried out the curbside to-go menu. It turned out to be nearly identical to the dine-in menu, with plenty of fresh entrees, in addition to staples like the Leon’s Burger, and buckets of frites with sauces.

Leon’s panzanella salad features heirloom tomatoes, focaccia croutons, Tucker Farms greens and Pearson Farm peach vinaigrette. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND
Leon’s panzanella salad features heirloom tomatoes, focaccia croutons, Tucker Farms greens and Pearson Farm peach vinaigrette. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

Right now, chef Jeff Sellers and sous chef Rachel Wright are making the most of local summer produce — including heirloom tomatoes, corn, okra and summer squash — using the produce to create a generous veggie plate, and pairing it with entrees like steelhead trout and a bone-in pork chop.

“When we make a seasonal change, people get really excited,” Gallagher said. “Our seasonal veggie plate has been super popular. If you’re doing it right, it should be one of the most flavorful items on the menu, and I think ours is.”

LEON’S FULL SERVICE

Menu: full dinner menu available six days a week for dine-in or takeout, with starters, snacks, mains, charcuterie and cheese plates, and desserts

Alcohol: beer and wine to go; full bar for dine-in

What I ordered: crispy fried chickpeas with Moroccan spice; panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes, focaccia croutons, Tucker Farms greens and Pearson Farm peach vinaigrette; steelhead trout plate, with local summer squash, peas, heirloom tomatoes, corn, okra and jalapeño chimichurri; candy bar, with dark chocolate, banana caramel, peanut butter shortbread cookie and sea salt. I was surprised at the quality of the sourcing, and the deft cooking, especially during a pandemic. The salad and the trout used seasonal produce to create fresh depths of flavor. The trout was perfectly cooked, tender and juicy inside, with crispy, rendered skin. The candy was a dark chocolate lover's dream, decadently rich — and fun, too.

Service options: order via website for takeout; order on-site for dining on the covered patios; QR codes for menus

Safety protocols: following standard CDC protocols; enhanced cleaning procedures; all employees wear face masks; masks required for guests upon entry and during trips to the restrooms; dining rules posted online

Address, phone: 131 E. Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur; 404-687-0500

Hours: pickup, 4:30-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; dine-in 4-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 12:30-9 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Website:leonsfullservice.com

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