Wheelhouse Craft Pub, opening next week, hopes to create sense of community in Decatur

When Ian Macken and his wife, Kathryn and Ian’s brother, Robert and his wife Stef, decided to open a bar together, there were some non-negotiables.

They wanted it to be close to their homes in Decatur. They wanted it to highlight local beers and creative food. They also wanted it to create a sense of community.

“We’ve often said that if we weren’t doing it, we would hope that someone else would be doing this concept,” Ian said.

The Macken brothers, natives of Dublin, and their American-born spouses found the location they were looking for at 1479 Scott Blvd., the former home of several dining concepts, including Maddy’s BBQ in the 2000s and Old Hickory Inn BBQ in the 1950s.

The couples had long been interested in the space, which had been empty for nearly a decade, and befriended the building’s owner, Karl Jaeger, who supported the idea of a neighborhood tavern. After Jaeger’s death in 2006, his wife Lizzie encouraged the foursome to forge ahead with their plans.

The result, delayed by several months due to COVID-19, is Wheelhouse Craft Pub and Kitchen, slated to open Aug. 31.

The goal is for Wheelhouse to become a true community spot for the diverse group that lives and works in the area, from Emory University students to Emory Hospital employees to young families.

The something-for-everybody philosophy extends to Wheelhouse’s menu, which has meat and potato-style dishes for people looking for traditional pub fare, as well as creative, farm-to-table options prepared from locally-sourced ingredients. The restaurant will open with a small core menu that will expand as pandemic restrictions are lifted.

For now, the menu is divided into Sharables like Macken Cheese Balls made with elbow pasta, cheese, panko and black truffle sauce; Soups and Salads including a Chopped Wedge Salad; All Hands, sandwiches including the Wheelhouse Burger, Fish Tacos and a Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich; heartier Knife and Fork options like Pan-Seared Salmon and Guinness Beef Stew; and Spud Corner, offering several kinds of baked potatoes. Additional sides include Crispy Brussels and Parmesan Cauliflower Mash.

A full bar offers a 16-tap draft system that will feature a rotating list of locally and regionally-brewed beers, as well as wine and cocktails.

The Wheelhouse space “is nicer than your typical pub — it’s cozy and cool,” Kathryn said, complete with a variety of seating arrangements including booths, couches, low-tops and high-tops, as well as a bar and outdoor seating that can accommodate about 10 tables.

Ian Macken said that while he and his brother are from Ireland, they don’t want Wheelhouse to have over-the-top Irish influences.

“We want to be very careful to straddle the Irish line,” he said. “You’ll see a thread of Irish.”

Ultimately, they see Wheelhouse as an extension of their own living rooms.

“A living room with a bar,” he said.

When Wheelhouse debuts, it will be open from noon-midnight daily for dine-in and carryout; hours will likely be adjusted based on demand.

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