Betsy Oblack, James Oblack and Jody Bonifield.
photo by Jeff Tryon

Pine Room Tavern
New Familiar Owners

by Jeff Tryon

Here’s the good news about the new owners of the Pine Room Tavern: They get it. They understand the Pine Room Tavern’s provenance and place as the (some would say legendary) local bar for many generations in Nashville—for locals and visitors alike. And they want everyone to feel welcome in a new Pine Room that will feature slightly more up-market meals along with classic favorites like the famous Pine Room burger.

“I’ve lived here quite a while, 20 years, but of course that’s not very long in Brown County,” laughed new part-owner Betsy Oblack. “The Pine Room has been in operation since 1949. It’s sort of an iconic place in the county. It’s one of the few truly local bars,” she said. “There’s not too many. The places that serve alcohol here tend to be attached to restaurants or hotels. It’s always been a cool place as well as being part of the roots and the history of Brown County. It’s been through its ups and downs like any place….”

The venerable beer and wine bar, now located in Salt Creek Plaza, will retain the more recent menu and beverage changes that raised it a step above your average. “It’s turned into a really nice restaurant, and we’re planning to keep it that way,” she said. “We’re tweaking and we’ve changed some minor things. We’re going to change a few things, but the menu will stay basically the same” said Betsy. “We’ve just changed to our spring and summer menu, with somewhat lighter fare.”

The Pine Room serves organic Fischer Farms beef and the fish is supplied by Blue Fin.

“We have some suppliers that lean a little more toward the upscale,” Oblack said. “We want to continue that kind of upscale swing, but at the same time keep the basic burger and the fried fish. But there will also be some higher end dinners.

“We’re trying to make it so everybody can come. It’s a great place for locals and people from out of town are welcome, too. If you’ve been mowing the lawn and you’re in shorts and a T-shirt, you’re welcome, and if its date night on Friday night, you’re welcome. We want to keep it so you feel welcome whether you order your beer and burger or you order a three course meal with a 100 dollar bottle of wine—actually, I don’t know if we have any of those, but, something nice, anyway.”

Along with “all the regular beers” the Pine Room will retain its extensive beer menu, rife with the most desirable imports and the products of top-end micro-breweries from all parts of this country. (Anchor Steam? Yes. Stella Artois? Yes. Guiness Foreign Extra Stout? Yes.)

If you want to know what’s in store for the iconic tavern, look no further than the Muddy Boots Café, down in the old newspaper building on North Van Buren Street. Betsy and husband James Oblack bought the Muddy Boots a few years back, “…just because we loved the place and we wanted to keep it going. We were regulars there. We decided to give it a go.”

When the Pine Room came up for sale early this year, the couple along with their manager Jody Bonifield, joined to purchase the Nashville tavern.

“We’ve really, really enjoyed running the Muddy Boots and we loved the feeling there and the music and now we wanted to kind of continue the same idea with the Pine room,” Betsy said. “We thought it could be what it is and more.”

They’re in the process of putting in a stage and a sound system “so the music has a place to play” and there are even plans to have outdoor seating—a couple of tables, some plants, and pots and trellises—alfresco dining, with a spectacular view of the Snyder Farm.

Another development which will be particularly welcome for folks hereabouts is the return of the Pine Room lunch. “We’re going to expand it again,” Betsy said. “We’ll start doing lunch in May and eventually we’re going to have regular Friday night music. “It’s always been a place where people went for lunch. We’ll probably simplify the menu a little bit so we can get people in and out for the famous Pine Room burger and a beer, or the fried fish.” New lunch hours will be from Tuesday through Saturday 11 to 2. The Pine Room is open for dinners Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. Plans are to continue having jazz on Sunday nights.