The sign on the front door looks cheap, but it gets the job done. Spelled out with those gold-and-black stick-on letters you see at hardware and building-supply stores, it says: “L-L-O-Y-D-S.”
The clever owners of LLoyd’s Restaurant and Lounge on DeKalb Avenue want to fake you out with irony. They want you to think you’ve entered a dive bar that’s been around for years, that you’ve time-traveled back to a blue-collar watering hole and meat-and-three from another age. (It’s hard to say precisely which, but I’m thinking eight-track tapes, Burt Reynolds movies, Thousand Island dressing, and Watergate.)
I knew I was in a different orb, far from the usual craft-cocktail scene, the afternoon I perched myself on a stool, asked for a Ketel One martini and was politely informed that LLoyd’s doesn’t stock premium liquor. I was, however, just in time for weekday happy hour, when martinis, vespers and Manhattans are a measly five bucks. I’ll drink to that.
Striking a happy medium between, say, Manuel’s Tavern and the Colonnade, this 3-month-old Victory Brands venture has quickly won my heart with its lack of poser pretense and devotion to the kind of restaurant and cafeteria food I grew up with. Just as Victory’s S.O.S. Tiki Bar runs on rum drinks and alohas, just as its Little Trouble evokes the age of “Blade Runner” and Depeche Mode, LLoyd’s celebrates a time when prime rib, wedge salads and Whiskey Sours were the essence of supper-club class.
With its knotty-pine paneling, velvet paintings, and eBay-worthy collection of liquor and beer memorabilia (when’s the last time you saw a Seagram’s 7 table lamp?), LLoyd’s has a suavely manufactured retro vibe. It’s what we expect from the Victory team, which just unveiled in this same development a coffee shop called DeKalb Athletic Club, an in-joke that’s sure to confuse some and tickle others.
LLoyd’s chef James Kitchens (formerly sous chef at Lure) puts food together with this same purposeful silliness, from fried bologna sandwiches to spinach dip served with Ruffles potato chips. He serves a proper shrimp cocktail; grilled meatloaf with all-you-can-eat mashed potatoes; and nightly blue plates celebrating “land or sea or air.” To the uninitiated, this just means a rotating choice of meat, fish or chicken. One night it’s bavette steak with chimichurri, chicken schnitzel, and trout amandine. Next time: pork chops, chicken piccata, scallops.
It’s a pleasure to find such solid, competently executed grub in what is basically a tavern.
Other places can have their nachos and wings; I’m here for the Wednesday-night, family-style fried chicken and biscuits. The bird is wonderfully seasoned, with a nice crackly mahogany crust; the biscuits impressively flaky and plump, though I’d like them better if they were presented with a dab of butter and jam. While I had no qualms with my chicken-night sides of mac and cheese and braised greens with pork, the next time I tried the greens, they were salted to the point of inedibility.
I’d recommend that shrimp cocktail, served in a martini glass with cocktail sauce that packs a bit of horseradish kick, and the wedge, a half head of frigid iceberg sloshed over with an irresistible mess of blue cheese, bacon crumbles and cherry tomatoes. If you are looking for something to nibble while you chug, Ruffles and spinach dip with the flavor of packaged French onion soup mix isn’t a horrible idea.
I’m pretty crazy about the fried bologna sammie, on white bread with American cheese and garlic mustard, and the cheeseburger, a towering double-patty Big Mac knockoff.
Slices of solid, ketchup-glazed meatloaf are flipped on the griddle, a technique that feels like an afterthought and probably adds more visual panache than sizzle. Even better to me was the pan-fried trout amandine, crispy-skinned yet amply sauced with butter and lemon and showered with a handful of delicate, brittle-like almond crumbles.
Some of these dishes may seem dated and old-fashioned, but back in the ’60s and 70s, they passed for fancy. LLoyd’s treats them with such love and respect that they are more delicious than ever to me.
Perhaps the ultimate homey touch: The chef’s wife, Shavonne, is in charge of biscuits and pie. Though I missed out on the apple pie she baked for fall, I hear it was killer. Lately, I’ve taken a shine to the Atlantic Beach Pie, essentially a classic lemon icebox confection with a saltine crust.
In short order, LLoyd’s has won a top spot on my list of go-to neighborhood bars with solid victuals. From the frosty, $3 mugs of Miller High Life to the spunky-friendly attitude, it’s a welcome throwback to the golden age of lounge culture.
LLOYD’S RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE
5 p.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Sundays. 900 DeKalb Ave., Atlanta. 404-228-7227, lloydsatl.com.
Recommended dishes: Wedge salad. Shrimp cocktail. Fried bologna sandwich. Cheeseburger. Wednesday-night fried chicken. Blue-plate specials: trout amandine and chicken piccata.
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