The legacy of The Pine Room lives on with new ownership and modern decor
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos provided by The Pine Room
Legacy is something that can have infinite power if you give it the chance but can also be daunting and a bit of a challenge. For Augusta Brown Holland, the developer and urban planner of the newly revived Pine Room, when presented with the challenge of revitalizing an old Harrods Creek gem, she gladly accepted the challenge.
Although the original Pine Room was destroyed in a fire in 1977, the restaurant’s legacy has floated through Louisville as only a memory until Holland stepped onto the scene. “The original establishment wasn’t a part of my generation, but as far as I can tell, it was a serious gathering spot for a prior generation [before it burned down]. When you mention it to people, they came from far and wide to enjoy the original Pine room. It felt like this iconic place that many people had fond memories of,” Holland explained. Holland and Steven Ton, The Pine Room’s general manager, described the original Pine Room as a place for the residents of Harrods Creek to gather, enjoy live piano music and lounge in the bar on the red velvet upholstery that filled its interior.
“It’s a sense of nostalgia. Augusta’s Dad used to go to the original Pine Room when he was younger. I’ve heard a million stories about the original place and how much people loved it,” said Ton. “Our vision was not to copy the original concept but to bring back a sense of nostalgia and create our own version of it. It’s worked out well and people have really embraced it. I was fearful that people would compare the new concept to the original and complain that it’s nothing like it, but that’s not the case. People think it’s so cool that we revived something that people [of the past] really enjoyed.”
The new Pine Room is two doors down from where the original stood in Harrods Creek. “I am still, and was very, excited about Harrods Creek in particular. It feels like it’s such a unique little pocket of our city. It’s tiny in geography but has an old history. So the fact that there was this iconic Pine Room that people talked about and were willing to drive to, was neat. It was a real gathering spot and I love the idea and spirit of that, and so when we were thinking about opening a restaurant, it felt like an appropriate thing to try and bring back the spirit of,” explained Ton.
The Pine Room reopened its doors in 2019 with some similarities to the original space and many differences. Holland wanted to keep the neighborhood-type restaurant feel but strayed away from the dark, red velvet interior of the original. The new Pine Room is bright, happy and “upscale casual” as Ton referred to it. “It’s upscale in terms of the execution of the food and the service, but it’s done in a way that is not intimidating and is casual at the same time. When you’re inside, it’s very welcoming. We made it nice, but not fancy. We didn’t want to exclude anyone. We wanted to make sure families could come eat, or a date night could happen or grandma and grandpa could come,” Ton explained. The Pine Room features a piano player six nights a week with three different musicians rotating through. Having live piano music is a nod to the original Pine Room whose piano player, Mabel, was an icon, so much so they named a drink after her. It’s a rendition of a traditional Old Fashioned and is Holland’s favorite cocktail on the menu. “We have a lot of nods to the past, but at the same time, we have a vision too,” Ton said. “We have a mural on the side of the restaurant that says ‘quality food and cocktails.’ It’s like back in the day when restaurants and bars used to advertise on the side of the building. When you walk inside, you feel transported and this is not just me saying this, guests have said this multiple times. They feel like they aren’t in Louisville and are out of town. It has that vibe inside. The way I like to describe it is, when you go on vacation and you go to that one restaurant that everyone goes to, it feels like that restaurant. There’s a sense of place here, being in Harrods Creek gives it that ‘it’ factor.”
The Pine Room also has a covered porch for outdoor seating and picnic tables with umbrellas on the front lawn. Not sure what to order? Try Holland’s favorites, the mushroom tacos, nachos or french fries. Ton prefers the fried chicken, the burger or the Caesar salad. The menus are seasonal, with a new menu released in the fall and the spring. Ton assured me that fan favorites, like the fried chicken, aren’t leaving the menu when changes are made, but the vegetables or other accompanying sides could change depending on what’s in season. The Pine Room’s Executive Chef, Joe Flesia, is the mastermind behind all of these wonderful creations. “He has been a critical member of The Pine Room team for a long time now and we love him. I especially love when we are all crafting a new menu together. He is so creative and his culinary flair always leaves diners happy and excited to return to The Pine Room,” Holland explained.
Holland wants to help restore Harrods Creek to its former glory and she’s hoping that The Pine Room will help achieve that goal. “We’re not that far from town. In Louisville, everyone is used to everything being so close by which is one of the great things about our city. We’re really only 15 minutes from any one neighborhood so give us a try; we’re not that far away. Hopefully, it’s welcoming and has fun energy when you come.”
The Pine Room’s dining room is open, and they’re offering curbside orders as well on toasttab.com/pine-room.
The Pine Room
6325 River Road
Harrods Creek, KY 40027